Thanks for yesterday. Lunch with you and your mom was fun. Getting your diaper changed with that irritated tookus was a drag, but you were a good sport. And holding you after nursing time was great. You were, as your mom put it, boob drunk. Congratulations and enjoy it while it lasts because the intoxication options of adulthood are a dead-end and won’t do your immune system any good.
You’re starting to track the people around you, which is a blessing you’ll understand decades from now, if you’re lucky. Today, January 9, 2014, is your fortieth day on earth. Your pastor grandfather can’t help thinking of the wilderness and Noah’s Ark.
Last night, when your grandmother and I stopped to see you, I believe you finished leaving the agape-nave of your mother’s womb. You awoke from the long om nap that gives life. You seemed to me for the first time genuinely, authentically awake, aware as I understand awareness.
And you looked at me for at least ten seconds—in infant time, this probably equals a week. I mean, you laid one on me. It was luscious. It was a twice- or thrice-in-a-chunky-man’s-life look. It was a Joe’s-Cheese-House-in-Marinette, Wisconsin-15-year-old-sharp-cheddar look. It was a four-days-on-the-schooner-Victory-Chimes look. It was a week-of-solitude-in-a-hermitage look. It was an everybody-in-the-family-is-doing-fine look. You get what I’m saying, Cole? You looked the wind out of Grandpa. That look could’ve raised the Titanic from the ocean floor. Powerful look. Amen! Hallelujah!
Or you may have been negotiating with a gas bubble or savoring Mom’s milk on the back of your tongue. If so, I’m glad to have been the object of your gaze, a visual mantra. But I don’t think so. I think you saw me and heard me. At this point, I suppose your mom, dad, grandparents, aunts, and uncle are all big-screen faces drifting in and out of focus and cartoon voices trying to tell you something.
This morning, little buddy, I figured out what we long for you to know. I had so much trouble getting out of bed that I prayed lying on my side. So tired, Lord. Some parts of life lately have been disappointing, persistently sad. So I opened myself to the Sacred Presence as best I could. A song from church when I was a teenager came into my head, so I let it play:
Restore unto me thy joy, thy free spirit. That was the prayer. Joy and freedom! Then I thought of you, thought of how many people are picking you up and staring at your eyelashes and speaking strange words and singing my-grown-up-heart-is-bursting-nonsense songs. And whispers. And kisses on your head—such a scent. And fingertips brushing your cheeks.
I’ll ask your mom and dad to save this letter for when you’re a teenager having a terrible day. You’ll feel like nobody understands you and the world is harsh. On that day, read this and hear what we’ve all been telling you. Hear these words that are so merciful and urgent that they get caught in our throats. We want to write them on your spirit before loveless authors line up to inform you that you’re a loser and your mother goes moo.
Hear these words today, Cole, that we mimed and rocked into you before you could hold up your own head: You are beloved! Sure, you’ll fail others, and they’ll return the favor. If you end up like me, pain and worry will sometimes make you want to find a remote cabin and disappear.
Close your eyes, buddy. Breathe. And trust me: our lips kissed you are beloved into your sweet head; our eyes stared you are beloved into your face as you slept; our hands anointed you are beloved on your pink bum with Desitin and on your neck with an old cloth diaper after a good burping; our hearts made you-are-beloved drum beats against your chest as we napped together.
Understand? When you blessed me with a long look last night, I blessed you back with the first and eternal truth of Cole Martin Thompson: You are beloved! Remember.