When you entered the world this morning near five o’clock, I was asleep and wholly unaware of your arrival. You showed up ten days early and you exited the warm place quickly, in only a couple of hours.
Fat, bright red, and hungry, you latched on and drank yourself to slumber. The first I saw of you was a photograph as you lay content, warm, snuggled, asleep.
I won’t see you for a few days yet, but I thought about you all day, and you know what I thought? I thought that everyone should have a written welcome into the world. Here’s yours.
From time immemorial the birth of a child had meaning, but what that meaning was people had to divine from the natural world around them. Some divined it from the stars, some divined it from special marks, and some divined it from the wild creatures. I wanted to know the meaning of your birth so I got on my bicycle and rode up a long, dirt road. A bicycle is a toy; you will someday have one. Dirt is also a toy, you will come to love it. Roads? They are things that we all follow whether we will or no.
As I rode I looked up in the sky and saw a hawk. A hawk is a large and fierce bird, and this one had a red tail. I have seen many hawks like this along this road, but today I saw something rare: The one hawk, as it floated on the wind, was accompanied by another. I have never before seen two such hawks flying together, so I watched them because I knew they were the sign, the omen that I had been seeking that would tell me the meaning of your birth. Unfortunately, no matter how long I looked I couldn’t figure it out. “Maybe,” I thought, “they are just hawks.”
So instead I will welcome you in another way, shorn of superstition but warm and loving as I can make it nonetheless.
You have been born into a world that is no better and no worse than any other world of any other time. It is filled with happiness and sadness, with good luck and bad, with surprises and boredom, with obviousness and mystery. Most importantly for you, it is a world filled with love. You have a mother and father who love you mightily, grandparents who love you mightily, and two older brothers who are going to love you mightily though they may not know it just yet. You have uncles and aunts who adore you, and even great-grandparents in great number. You have been born under a roof that will keep you warm in winter and cool in summer. When you are hungry you will be fed. When you are sad you will be entertained. When you are happy you will be surrounded by people who share your mirth. When you are sick you will be succored and when you are healthy and running fast your brothers and friends will run with you. When it is your birthday you will receive Hot Wheels, new ones, not the used and banged-up ones handed down by your brothers.
As you grow up you will see that the world is complex. Things that seemed one way will seem another. People who spoke one way will speak another. Places that felt one way will feel another. And the you that you thought you knew will one day become someone quite different but at the same time will be unchanged. Also, you will one day have to wear pants and use a potty. I told you life is filled with sadness.
Your job? Learn to use the potty. And, to never let us forget that you are here to teach us. To remind us that if we fail you we have failed everyone. To be our inspiration to make things better so that you, when it is your turn, will have something left to pass on.
You have more jobs than that. You must learn to laugh deeply and to cry openly. The crying part you appear to have already learned. You must learn that all people are, oddly enough, people. It’s a dumb world where you’d have to learn such an obvious thing, but you’ll find that grown-ups needlessly complicate and dumb-up the simplest things. Since I’m your grandpa, which is a person impossibly ancient and old, you will have to accept that some old people are utterly ridiculous. You will have to learn how to play “Bal-ti-mo,” how to watch Ultraman episodes 1-500 in a tent, and how to rip out an old man’s beard by the roots. You will have learn to infuriate your older brothers and how to tattletale when they are mean to you. You will have to learn this mathematical equation: Grandpa = Gummy Bears + Unlimited Cartoons.
The good news is that for now all you have to do, you’re already doing. Eat. Sleep. Poop. Repeat. You will be snuggled and loved, loved and snuggled, dandled and kissed, kissed and dandled until you’re so sick of it that you will learn to sit up, then crawl, then walk, then run. Some day, with legs stern and stout, you will run far from me to places that time will place beyond my reach. Carry me in your heart then, even if it’s only a little bit, when you do.
All my love plus gummy bears,
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