One decade ago I was in a hospital room. Catherine had come the day before with as many high caloric baked goods as she could find, in an attempt to fatten you up. She hung Buddha babies that looked like sumo wrestlers on the walls to provide fatness inspiration. Earlier, Adrianne came and made a salad, bedside, with fresh figs. Grandma made cinnamon rolls for the nurses. All of our attempts to keep you in a little bit longer failed, but I think the love behind it saved you anyway. Instead of spending time on my phone, researching IUGR baby or pre-eclampsia, or geriatric pregnancy failures, I stared at the Buddha babies and I played the song Ballerina on repeat (“I’ll never feel the weight of your hands inside mine like diamonds lace so fine ballerina
cupcake and my earthquake wakes me from my sleep that never comes, are you breathing waiting for me”). This is how I pray. It has some how rubbed off on you, my reiki master ten year old boy. Four months early, you were born, weighing 480 grams, 11″ long, the size of a chipmunk, with a dimple in your chin, kissed by angels on the way down. Nobody wants a Christmas birthday anyway (I mean, Jesus maybe, I don’t know).
I have been thinking about your birthday week all week because it reminds me that I have done really hard things in my life. This school year has been kicking my ass and I am only eight days in. Still, 2010 was the hardest semester of my life. Leaving you behind in that hospital room, walking down the hallway of shame, returning to students and three other children that I could not begin to focus on … that was harder. Somehow that is what is giving me hope now. What made that time period bearable was community.
People say you were born a fighter, but I think you were born a peacemaker. You are an artist through and through. Your bedroom walls filled with detailed, meticulous drawings. You love going to the crystal store to pick our rocks for reiki. You talk to Archangel Gabriel … all very sophisticated things for a boy who still calls the day after tomorrow “tomorrow tomorrow.” You have zero interest in learning to ride a bike, but are a master scooter rider. You eat a Trader Joes burrito for lunch every single day. You will not eat fruit of any kind, unless you count tomatoes. You don’t like juice or smoothies or yogurt, or candy (unless it is chocolate), but you do like tuna salad and black olives. You love Youtube, which if you ask me, is a character flaw. Despite your dislike of sports, you love gym at school. It is the thing you missed most during quarantine.
Speaking of quarantine, I often wonder how this pandemic will shape your point of view as you get older, You are already bummed that we could not go to Great Wolf Lodge (I am secretly joyful about this) during the summer. I can see your heightened sense of loneliness in the way you approach group dynamics. It is subtle, but it is there. Many years ago I asked you what your favorite emotion was and you replied, “lazy.” That side of you is there too. You are a cuddle bug, a lover of blankets, your bed, and sleeping in. You hate hair gel, toothpaste, medicine, mint, and the barber who shaved your neck with shaving cream. Regardless of my fears about our current state of the world, knowing that you chose to stay, knowing that you are a peacemaker, gives me a lot of hope. As you grow into this chaotic place remember to stand up for the underdog, to fight for what you believe in, to protest injustice, to only use “lazy” when you are really, really needing to. Look at the world from a lens that is outside of your own bubble. Peacemakers and artists have a responsibility to follow the lead of their hearts. You, dear one, will have no problem doing just that.
Tonight, like every night, I tucked you in and sang our song. Try not to get worried, try not to hang onto problems that upset you, Quinn, Don’t you know everything’s alright, yes everything‘s fine …” I asked you what the best part of being ten will be and you replied, “The Pink House,” (our secret dream plan) and then I asked what might be most challenging about ten and you replied, “forgetting nine.” Right there with you, kid. I will keep nine right inside my own heart and in the heart of this letter so that years after I am gone, you can still hear my voice singing our song.
I love you, I love you, I love you. Happy Birthday.