17 years ago, I met you for the first time. Do you remember? Perhaps not, but I do. I was very excited. I liked being pregnant with you. So much promise contained in the roundness of my belly, the roundness that was your home for 9 months. There was an entire person in there! After we moved to Doylestown when you were about 5 months cooked and I was no longer working, I did a lot of nothing. Read books, cat on lap. Ate bananas and Tootsie Rolls. Painted your room purple. Got to know our new town. Commissioned custom shelves for your room to hold the growing pile of toys. Remember?
It took awhile to find the right name for you. I had a baby name book, and at night I’d call out likely candidates to your father. Hunter? Oscar? Jonathan? It wasn’t easy trying to figure out who you were.
Nathaniel was totally the right name. Your name.
The night before you were born, Daddy went flying. I knew you were coming and didn’t want him to go. He thought he could fly his mission and come back in plenty of time. I sat all evening, feeling contractions become stronger and closer together, until I couldn’t any more. There was a baby coming. I called the base. They said they’d get Daddy on the ground again and out of the airplane. They did, and he did, and when he got home we booked it over to the hospital. It was snowing. He never even changed out of his flight suit.
It was a popular night to be born. I think you were born in a closet (things look weird in the middle of the night). They gave me a drug and I could hardly wait for it to wear off, it made me feel so strange. The room was dark and quiet. I liked that. You entered the world gently. Quietly.
When you were bundled and snuggly Daddy gathered you in his large hands, looked into your eyes, and spoke to you in French. He sang a song.
Remember a couple of years later when you decided to take a train trip by yourself? You packed up your wee suitcase and went out the front door. I thought you were on the porch, pretending. What 2 year old gets on a train alone? I went out to check and nope, you were headed to the train station. I ran down the steps to the sidewalk. You were so far away, tiny, almost at the corner where there was a busy street. You had walked in the wrong direction but I didn’t tell you that, in case you ever wanted to take a train ride again.
But you were amazing at directions. We walked to the park every day, your little hand imperiously poking out from your stroller, pointing out the turns. Woe to the parent who goes a different way! When we were traveling in France, you helpfully pointed out the traffic lights when they turned green. Not sure we could have made it through France without your help.
Remember our trips? I feel so fortunate to have been able to travel as much as we did. France, Germany, the Bahamas, Finland, St. Maarten, Ottawa. AcapulcoMexico (you pronounced it like a single word). And Dallas. Remember the tortilla factory?
So many memories. Wanting to raise money to build a train so we wouldn’t have to drive to school. Finding all the chocolate foil-wrapped Santas. The cookie store downtown. Lion and Magic Boy. The animal game. The recipe book you made. Knitting. Jammie days. Remember?
And now, look! You’re 17 today. Parents say this and it’s so cliche, but my god. Where did those years go? 17 years ago you weighed 6 pounds, 8 ounces. 20 inches. 6 pounds, packed with potential. And now? Wow.
I think every parent wonders who their baby will be, all grown up. I still wonder that about you: what your life will be like, the people who share it with you, your dreams and hopes and wishes. I have wishes for you.
I hope you are kind. You have a great, enormous heart. You are smart and intuitive. You know a lot of things. Those qualities are amazing as standalones, but all together? With kindness? Outstanding. Hardly anyone combines kindness with smarts and intuition and heart. I think it’s part of your destiny.
I hope you take risks. I think life is better lived just slightly out of one’s comfort zone. That’s how we grow. I stayed safe a lot. I hope you walk with your fears instead of letting them rule you the way I did, and be daring.
I hope you love and are loved. I see how people take to you — I doubt you’ll have any trouble in this department. I think that loving someone and letting someone love you are probably the two most enduring and powerful ways to be human.
I hope you let your guard down. Yeah, you keep yourself inside some. I think it’s way more fun to let go. Scary as hell but oh so worth it.
I hope you see the world. It’s so big, and so amazingly beautiful. I suspect you’ve caught the travel bug already — after all, you’re in France for the second year now — and I hope that curiosity about the world is a trait you keep.
I hope you dream big. We get one shot to do this life thing. You can do and be whatever you want. Don’t let logistics stop you from dreaming big. Who cares if something seems impossible? Some people take that as a challenge. I hope you can too.
Big hugs. I love you so much.