You came into the world on a Monday afternoon at the end of winter. That winter felt like it had gone on as long as the pregnancy, days of rain and gloom and your mum perpetually sick. Wanting to bring you into the world was an act of hope on our part – yet it comes with the long anxious reality of waiting in uncertainty. Will you be okay? It doesn’t end now you’ve come out into the world; it’s only been intensified in these first nights of late-night television and islands of sleep. Oh, hope and fear usually go together – maybe by the time you read this, you’ll have started to understand that about the world.
I’m sorry we haven’t named you yet. You’re not aware of that, I know, but I am, and it would help me to think of you as a particular name. What a strange and impossible act naming is. The associations of names, the people we’ve known who carried them and formed our view of them. The beautiful name we both like which means ‘famous warrior’ – your pacifist parents couldn’t bestow that on you. But what about ‘princess’, in this age in which everyone thinks they are one? Or ‘healthy and wide’ in this age when those things don’t go together? In all likelihood your name will do two things once we give it to you. It will change, in our perception and those closest to you, into you – you will define it. And it will become invisible, a non-issue, not something you think about that much or other people talk about a lot. Unless, that is, we mark you forever with a name which stands out. If you regret having a popular name, I can only tell you we thought it wisest to stand out in the world for other reasons. And we’ve already given you an uncommon surname.
When I had to leave the hospital that first night of your life, I made sure I bought a newspaper at the service station on the way home. I did this so you could have a snapshot of what was happening in the world on the day you came into it. I did it because I’ve sometimes wished I had one from the day I was born. But you’re not going to grow up reading newspapers, they will not mean to you what they’ve meant to generations of us. And as to what was happening: not much and everything. You were born in the aftermath of a change of prime minister, near the end (hopefully) of a time of inaction in our country, as extreme capitalism continues to hurt us all. There is much tension in the air and a cultural rift. I wonder what you’ll make of that as you grow up; you’ll hear different voices even among your own clan.
We don’t have precise hopes for you in your life. We’re still working it out for ourselves. But may you live generously and grow wise. May you be sensitive to the many different voices in the world but not crippled by them. May you find a meaningful life and work out, in due course, what to make of God and mortality and tragedy, while celebrating all the good things of this world.
With all my love, Dad.