He’s six feet tall now, with arms and legs madly off in many directions, a big smile, a stubborn spirit, floppy hair, and arguments that seem to never end. He drives me nuts, but he’s also smart and talented and funny as hell. It was fun to look back at how I saw him as a wee one. There were clues right from the beginning, and I’m not just talking about the messes he leaves behind. This is why baby pictures are so lovely, so necessary.
Dear Goonybird, Stinkerbomb, Punky Poobler, SammerBammer, my honey bunny boy,
Today you have six teeth, four consonants, and one candle on your cake. You delight the heart of a Dad who thought his diapering days were behind him. You love your little purple and orange basketball, and your peek-a-boo skills are splendid. “Clap, clap, hooray!” we say as you grin and applaud the wonders tumbling about you. With two deep dimples and the softest of skin and hair, you are a shameless magnet for kisses.
And I get to thinking about three bigger boys that I’ve hugged and smackerooed, probably a Dad’n’Lad world record, and wonder when did I stop kissing your gigantic brothers? They are rather more elusive targets, and two of them are bigger than me now, but young men can still benefit from a whisker rub now and then. Thank-you for reminding me how my chest explodes when I hold my sons.
You were due, li’l chuckler, at the end of the month, just after your Grandma’s 80th birthday, but you wanted to make darn sure you were on time for the party. (You must take after your mother in this; your brothers, children of two tardy parents, were all born past their due dates.) Your Mummy and I went to bed, a year ago last night, at about 11:30, but by one in the morning she was shaking me awake.
“Honey, I think I wet the bed!” We quickly established that this was no urinary crisis, and Mummy’s eyes grew wide. “Oh, my God!” And there we went, a first-time mother and a four-time winner playing the father position.
We weren’t quite ready for you. My obsessive and wildly creative list of names was only getting longer. (You dodged Darius and Frederick.) Mummy hadn’t paid that much attention to names, and none for a little boy. All the psychic girlfriends and both of my dreams had predicted a girl; there’s intuition for you! We were all set to welcome you at home with our midwife, but your early entrance meant that it was hospital-time.
Mummy laboured at pushing you out — it’s hard work — and along about 5:20 that afternoon, one final squeeze did the trick. Headfirst you came, and came and came, for you were the coniest of coneheads after a long time in the tunnel. The next thing that caught my eye was what your Nan calls the “outdoor plumbing”; a girl would have been wonderful, but I was thrilled to welcome Another Fine Young Man. BoysRUs! You were long and lean, with spidery limbs and mighty feet. You weren’t eager to get on with breathing and other Big World Bothers, so we were relieved by your first kittenish protests over suction and other annoyances. And then you were at Mummy’s breast, and the world was good.
Then came your brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, who for some reason wanted to call you something other than Frodo, our name for you when you were just a tummy-bump. Their patience was stretched thin as we winnowed the list down, looking for the one that was Just Right. And we found it, deep and simple. (Your brothers held out for Dexter Blaze and Max Payne, more nametag bullets and bullies dodged…).
Your given name means “asked of God”, “an answered prayer”, and as for your middle name, well, “the best beloved of all things in my sight is Justice”, the Man said, and there was no argument from us. You now have thighs of thunder, and are heavily cheeked and chinned. Your chuckles delight our ears, and your smiles are the solace of our eyes. We live in a little town where your brothers all went to school, and where your Daddy is a teacher and a basketball coach. I work at the same high school where I was as a student, and there are still two teachers left that taught me. Our house is just a few blocks away from where I grew up, on the other side of the river. You are home, deeply home, although we hope that you will feel the whole planet is your playground and your refuge. Home is how you feel there, wherever there may be.
The world is big and full of wonders and chances and things that will strain your brain and train your heart. We pray that life will be kind to you, but know that it will also bring you sadness and difficulty along with the laughter and the learning. That’s just how it works: shadows teach us about sunlight, pressure speaks of relief, and every bellowing trouble also whispers of joy, opportunity, triumph. So here’s to you, my wonderful son, and all the things you will make and do and be. If all your world is a stage, I’ll be there in the front row. I’ll be the one with the proud smile, a box of “attaboys” in one hand and a suitcase full of suggestions in the other.
Love and hopefulness,