ASHLAND — As families come together for the Thanksgiving holiday, one will be doing so for the first time.
"It was pretty difficult, especially when you have to talk to him through FaceTime calls and over the phone. He was barely three so he can't even talk. It felt like he was in prison almost," Matt Boudreaux said.
Boudreaux has been playing for the SOU football and basketball teams for the past three years. That entire time, his son Mason was halfway across the country.
Three-year-old Mason Boudreaux spent the first years of his life with his biological mom in New Orleans.
"She got busy with work, it was like well, 'You could come have Mason and have him for a few months then I'll come get him,' and I was just like 'Yeah, I'm okay with that, it's not a problem,'" he said.
In January of 2018, he and Matt reunited permanently in Oregon.
“Every time I go somewhere people ask 'Where's Mason?' Not 'What's up Matt? Where's Mason? We miss Mason, we want to see Mason,’" he said.
It's Matt and Mason's first holiday season together, and also the first with the woman Mason considers his actual mom.
Enter Toria Bradford, a former star on the SOU women's basketball team, who started dating Matt in May of 2017.
"I met her through the math lab, but I never really spoke words to her so I acted like I was struggling in math just so I could meet her," Boudreaux said.
Eight months into their relationship, the two became three and Toria's role pivoted from girlfriend to mother.
"You know when you already get attached to someone you haven't even met yet?" she said.
More so than being intimidated by the thought of suddenly being a parent, Toria said she was just worried Mason wouldn't like her.
"I love kids and I've never, knock on wood, had a kid not like me,” she said.
Those frets went out the window quickly.
“Every day I go home and as soon as I open the door, he's like "Mommy! You're home!" Gives me a huge hug,” she said. “He's just a little teddy bear that you get to love on."
Their story hasn’t been absent of struggles, and they recognize it’s an unlikely family of three.
"Matt sees Mason as our child and that I can help parent him in any way that I see fit," she said.
But on this Thanksgiving, Toria, Matt and Mason are growing, and they're doing it together.
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