A few months ago, I received an e-mail from a woman in Chandler, Arizona – Tammy Wedeking. She wanted to relay a personal experience she and her son, Karsen, had with former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
It happened nearly eight years ago, but it made enough of an impression on Tammy and her son that she wanted to share it with someone nearly a decade later. I forwarded her e-mail to Donovan. With Sunday morning’s announcement that McNabb will officially retire as an Eagle on Monday, I thought I’d share her story with you.
Take it away Tammy:
“No snow was falling in sunny Chandler, Arizona in December of 2005 as I asked my six-year-old son, Karsen, what he wanted for Christmas. Sports-crazed as many young boys, he answered, “Donovan McNabb!” While he had always been an Eagles fan, compliments of his Philadelphia-born father, it was not an answer anyone could have expected. Christmas is a time for dreaming, and not wanting to disappoint, I tried to steer his wish list into something more reasonable. As the days went by, I would continue to ask this same question, always to receive the same reply. No matter how many times his father and I tried to tell him meeting Donovan wasn’t really something we could manage, he remained steadfast in his response.
“Finally, we realized that the Arizona Cardinals were playing the Philadelphia Eagles at home on Christmas Eve day. Could this be the answer we had been looking for? We hurriedly changed our plans so that we could get tickets to the game and let our son have a chance to see his favorite player. He was very excited as he left for the game donned in Eagles apparel, only to return disappointed and frustrated: Donovan was hurt so he didn’t play that day, and to add insult to injury the Eagles fell to the Cardinals 21-27. However, it was Christmas Eve, so we quickly tried to brighten the mood and had a wonderful evening and following day filled with fun and frolic. When things calmed down again, I asked my son if he had received everything he wanted for Christmas. He responded “yes” but then added “except for Donovan McNabb...” What is a mother to do?!!!
“In the following day or two we went out to eat at one of our favorite salad-bar restaurants, (Sweet Tomatoes, 4723 E. Ray Road in Ahwatukee) where everyone could get their favorite things. As we were walking out of the restaurant, my husband turned to Karsen and said, “I can’t believe you just walked by your favorite player!” I looked at Steve and asked, “Was that really him?” Steve replied that it was probably just someone that looked liked him, and kept walking to the car. Not wanting to potentially miss the opportunity, I looked down at Karsen who wasn’t quite sure what to think, grabbed his small hand and led him back inside.
“A large, muscular man in a Kansas State T-Shirt was maneuvering 2 trays through the salad bar and was just about at the check-out. I looked at him and then at Karsen, screwed up all of my courage and sheepishly asked the man, “Are you really Donovan?” The man broke into a wide smile and chuckled his assent. I truly didn’t want to interrupt his lunch, but really, what were the odds of running into him there! I rapidly explained to him how badly Karsen had wanted to meet him and that he had gone to the game, and could he please speak with my son if only for just a moment. Handing me one of his trays and carefully balancing the other himself, he spoke with my son for several glorious minutes. Karsen was so awestruck that he couldn’t get many words out himself. Donovan commented on Karsen’s Eagles baseball cap, which my son was proudly wearing and apologized for not winning the game several days prior.
“As Karsen was mesmerized by his words, I could not believe that here was a major sports figure apologizing to a kid for losing a game in which he could not even participate! He also promised to try his best to win the next one. Karsen’s smile continued to widen throughout the brief exchange. Before they parted, Donovan shook my son’s hand to complete a memory to last a lifetime. As we walked back to the car to catch up with the rest of the family, Karsen was joyfully savoring his meeting with his idol, Donovan McNabb. A few steps into our retreat, Karsen tugged on my sleeve. I looked down at my darling son and with his bright eyes twinkling with happiness, and his voice full of wonder and awe he said to me, “Mommy, Santa remembered.”
“Thank you Donovan McNabb for one of the best Christmas gifts ever!’’