"You will be carrying a lantern
as you enter the world crying,
and I cry to hear you cry.
A moment that, even now,
I carry in my body."
You didn't enter the world crying, as I'm sure you know. You entered the world silently--reverent and purple as a bad bruise. The midwife unfolded you, like a blossom...like a bird's wing--but she didn't give you to me, though the cord between us held. She kept you at the foot of the bed with the other nurse and gave you life for the second time that morning. Again and again, I asked if you were alive and though she repeated, "Yes"--I wasn't sure until you actually did take a good breath and cry, then I cried and you were on me, under a soft quilt, curled around the cradle of my skin as you'd always been. I carry that delayed cry in my body even now, seven years later today.
Yours was a long pregnancy...partial bed rest for many months until you decided to take root once and for all, a long-long-long two day birthing...the cord that kept you alive wrapped around your neck so many times at birth you were breathless...we all were breathless...I breathe in so deeply as I write these words to you now just to chase those old fears off. You are here, after all. And, at the time, I swore I'd never ask another thing of life but to accomplish this.
It's no secret how I feel about the "fragile boy syndrome"...no real surprise, given my family history that I worried so intensely once about ever raising you to be a man. At five, when you were felled with illness and they suspected for several horrible days that it was a tumor--something in me shattered. I will carry the weight in my chest for the rest of my life of how it felt to pick up the telephone in the middle of the children's recovery ward--while you raged and reacted badly to the sedatives they gave you for one of your MRI's, listening for the doctor to tell me whether or not your brain was clear. My tears were of gratitude, but your father couldn't have known this as he tried to keep you from thrashing in your bed. The weight of that moment is his to carry. I caught the gaze of a woman whose adolescent daughter recovered two curtains away from you from her procedure. Tears streamed and I didn't try to wipe them away. The woman nodded in some sort of mute recognition, but I felt guilty--we didn't know what was wrong yet, but we knew it wasn't cancer...and her girl's head was as bald as a newborn baby's. When you recovered from the meningitis, to me--this was your third birth.
These shadow thoughts aren't the ones I want to give you today, but birth and death are so inexorably linked. I am actually grateful for that splintering, because I know such gratitude now--I never would have been able to contain it unless you had cracked me open. You are a wonder of a boy. You work hard...play harder. You have taught me about selflessness. You share everything you have readily with your older sister. You don't pummel your little sister, even when she really-really-really kind of deserves it. You confide to your father that he is your best friend. You tell me you love me "more than a pyramid on top of a mountain". You say "life" when you mean "wife" and this makes me smile...you want to know how old the moon is and how we all got here and what we're all made up of. I know the answer for you, Boy-o...you got here by sheer willpower...by the determination that set you breathing and has kept you...you are made up of "water and stars"--yes, you may be...but you are also made up of heart, joy, and my best dreams for the future. I wish you another year of adventure and magic. You have my heart.