I look forward to ADDYs night every year. 2013 was no different.
Actually, I take that back. It was very different. As different as an annually recurring event could be. The ADDYs were supposed to be bigger this year.
A whole week of activity was planned around the show. We added an entire lineup of educational panels. We booked social gatherings on three of the nights. We brought back a printed book of winners. We made it a live presentation of awards instead of a reel. We created a microsite and some pretty extensive branding around the week and the show. The whole enchilada.
It was an all-in kind of approach, led by David Johnson, Jen Oertli, Jamie Keim and Ellen Legow, with the goal of revitalizing an event that had lost some luster in recent years. And I was part of the committee that helped pull it all together.
Up to that night, it seemed as though the week was going strong. We had great attendance and participation at the panels, and people seemed to enjoy the social events. All was going according to our hopes when we started planning the summer before.
Then, we got snow. And when St. Louis gets snow, everybody freaks out.
Should we postpone the show? Would the food keep for another week? Will the venue hold a slot for us? We didn’t want all of this preparation to fizzle because no one showed up to the main event.
Luckily, I didn’t have to make that decision, but the right one was made. And somehow all the stars aligned for the event to take place the following Thursday.
But we still needed the event to go off without a hitch. And we needed people, who may or may not have had other plans that following week, to actually show up.
Coolfire hosted a pre-show happy hour at Plush, the same venue that was hosting the actual presentation. And by the time my wife, Toni, and I got there, the place was pretty full.
I was relieved, yet still anxious.
This was my first full year of creative directing at HLK. I was proud of the work we had done and grateful to have had the chance to lead the teams who made it all happen. I thought it was award-worthy. But more importantly, I was glad we had a decent number of entries that made it into the show, and everyone from our department had a piece that won something. All of our clients were represented. And my boss, Joe Leahy, was his usual optimistic and supportive self.
Anything beyond that would be gravy.
First stop: the bar. Toni, my designated driver, was 8 months along and was deeply involved in a lot of the work that was entered. (We work together in case that last sentence seemed strange.) But as she always does, she seemed to keep things in a healthy perspective and made a joke about how I was the one who needed to take a deep breath.
She was right.
I introduced her to the first person I recognized, a former a coworker of mine from Rodgers Townsend. He quickly noticed that she was—we were—expecting. And at this point, he didn’t need to be careful about pointing it out. We were giddy and thrilled to tell people we weren’t finding out the sex. As if we were the first people to ever make such a non-traditional choice.
He was happy for us. Who isn’t when they see a happy couple on a happy night? We thanked him, grabbed our drinks off the bar and started to move toward the rest of the night.
But he wasn’t done. As a father himself, there was more ground to cover, and our conversation was just getting started. Our pleasantries quickly dissolved into a real conversation.
I’m paraphrasing, but I’m going to use quotes just because I can’t take credit for the next bit of wisdom that would come with a complimentary Anheuser-Busch product and a water with a lemon.
He said, “You know, a lot of people are going to tell you that your life will never be the same. They’ll tell you to ‘just wait.’
“Just wait until that baby comes. They’ll tell you to just wait until you’re up three times in the middle of the night. Oh, just wait. Wait until the baby starts crawling. You’ll have to baby proof everything. Just wait. Then they start talking. And they never stop. Just wait. Potty training is next.
“You’ll hear this all the way through. Just wait until they’re going to school. And the homework. And the practices. And just wait. Your life is over. It’s now their life. Just wait until they hit puberty. It goes on. People always want to tell you just how much things have changed. And that you should just wait. Just wait ‘til college. Just wait for the next phase. Just wait. You have no idea.”
I was listening. And all of this was ringing true. As one of the last holdouts among my friends to have a child, I had heard this very warning on several occasions. And, honestly, it kind of made me cringe a little each time.
Then, he said, “They’re right.”
He went on, “Your life won’t be the same. It has forever changed. But don’t just wait.
“Don’t dread what’s coming next. It’s all amazing and absolutely unique. Each stage comes fast. And afterwards, you’ll look back and see that it went by even faster. And the next phase will be right there, completely new and unexpected and incredible.”
We talked more about how I should record the sounds the baby makes while taking a bottle at 3am. Because soon he’ll be sleeping through the night. He warned me about growing out of onesies and when the first semblances of words finally arrive. (Dada is easier to say in case you were wondering.)
Now, I’m sure Erik Mathre isn’t the first person to feel this way. But he was the first to look me in the eye and know exactly where my mind was at that stage of father-to-be-hood. He may have wished someone else had told him that, going in. Maybe not.
I don’t know. He and I haven’t talked since that night. But I left that conversation with a verbal shot in the arm and even more confidence and excitement for the coming days, months and years.
I couldn’t wait.
Wesley Calvin Edinger with his mom last weekend, 9 months old. (Erik was right.)
If you’re interested, and since this is an advertising blog, here’s a Coke spot from Argentina captures what I think Erik was trying to tell me.