On the day you were born, it was a Monday. December 5th, 2005. The Civil Partnership Act came into effect in the United Kingdom, and the first civil partnership was registered there. There was an earthquake at Lake Tanganikya, causing significant damage in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
My day seemed rather routine. I was thinking about Christmas, and what to buy everyone. I rose from my bed, showered, put on my clothes, and left for work. I rode the subway into Boston, took the elevator up to the sixth floor of the building, and started work at 8:30 in the morning. Just shy of twelve hours later, you would enter the world.
You asked me recently why I was not there when you were born, and I told you that the reason for that was that I did not know you were coming that day. No one in the family notified me. I cannot blame them, as your mom and I had not been close for many years.
You were a big baby, 10 lbs of red, squealing boy, with a mass of dark hair on your head. Not something that the males in our family are known for when they reach adulthood, but you might escape the hairline curse even though you share the name. Your cheeks were very full, your skin wrinkled from your difficult journey into the outside world from your mom’s belly, where you’d been growing for many months. Your eyes, though ebony and deep, were curious and seeking. So much to see in this new world…so much to explore and find.
You were swaddled in a blanket of white, with red, green, and yellow animals embedded into it. Your fingernails looked trim, as if you’d found some pre-natal manicurist to treat you to a spa day before you made your appearance….to put your best self forward. Your lips were pale, and your skin covered in veins, and yet you were perfect in every way.
It was nearly three weeks before I held you for the first time. A trip North for Christmas brought more of a present than I could have anticipated when I got to place you in my arms, so small and so frail, for the first time. Your mom brought you into your grandmother’s living room, and I had my first glimpse of you, sleeping in a car seat, warm and cozy. I spoke the first words to your mom that I had said in many years….wished her a Merry Christmas, and asked, simply, ‘Can I hold him?’ She agreed, and unbuckled you from your seat, lifting you, gently, from your bundle of blankets, and held you out to me. You did not cry when you were presented to me. As if somehow, some way, you knew that we were connected, and therefore you were safe in my care. You always have been, and always will be.
I looked down into your face that day, and made a silent promise to you that no matter what, no matter how….I would always love you, and protect you, and do everything in my power to be a part of your life. That would not, if history could be used as a barometer, be a simple feat. Times being what they were; it was not exactly the ideal to forge a new relationship between your mom and me. It would be more daunting than the Twelve Labors Of Hercules, but I determined to make it happen. ‘Sleep easy, my little love,’ I whispered softly to you, ‘I’ll be here for you, always.’
On the day you were born, I could not have known that a mere five months later Papa and I would make a phone call saying that we would take you into our home and our hearts. Neither of us had a child of our own. I had taken care of your cousins when they were babies, for a few days at a time, but that was all. We had, less than a year before, moved into a small house with a kitchen, living room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom and a half. We determined that our ‘guest room’ would from that point forward be your room. We knew the double bed and night stand had to go, to be replaced with more suitable furniture to hold a baby safe in slumber at night. We tell people now that it was the shortest pregnancy on record, a mere three days, to prepare for you. We hit the stores, and bought everything we felt we’d need to take good care of you. The guest room was no longer a guest room. It was your room, for as long as you needed it….it held a crib, a bookcase, toys, books, and a sofa to sit on and hold you when you needed comforting. It was full of ‘stuff’. But more importantly, it was full of love for you.
Your first night with us we had not yet finished putting your crib together, as we’d run out of time. We emptied out a laundry basket, something with high sides, lined it with soft bedding, and put you in it to sleep. Papa spent the night with his hand resting on you, to follow the rhythm of your breathing with his fingertips. You then moved to your crib, which was placed in our room, so that we were nearby to you in the night if you needed us. I would listen to you breathing, occasionally squeaking and moving….enraptured by the beautiful symphony you made just a few feet away.
Papa was attending law school, I had been laid off with my job being eliminated/relocated. I had begun looking for another job prior to that, but then changed my mind and decided to stop working for a while to get you settled and safe, and be available to you twenty four hours a day if needed. Papa kept working, but would race home at the end of the day just to hold you, and feed you, and perhaps bathe you if you needed it. Your needs were typical baby needs, and a pleasure to meet. Some days that summer you and I would sit outside on the patio, you in your stroller, me in a chair beside you reading, keeping my toes on the axel of the stroller to gently move it back and forth and lull you to sleep. Every paragraph or so I’d look up from my book to see your face, dreaming away…wondering what visions were dancing inside your head. I’d smile, stroke your cheek, and go back to my book.
On the day you were born, I had no notion that our lives would be so closely joined. I woke, showered, dressed, and went to work as I usually did. I came home later that day, had dinner with Papa, watched some television or read a book, and then went to bed at my usual time. There was, seemingly, nothing that extraordinary about the day. I was so very wrong. I did not yet know that on that day, the day your life began, my life, and the life I shared with Papa, would change so significantly and so poignantly. I did not yet know that the 10 lb baby boy, born at 8:05 pm on December 5th, 2005 would not only join my life, but fill it and complete it in a way I’d not yet known it was missing something. I would learn a kind of love, very different from romantic love, that is all encompassing and eternal. A love that will never diminish or disappear. I would learn, eventually, the true meaning of ‘fear’ when you would fall down or be sad. I would learn what it felt like to hold the most precious thing in the world in your hands. It wasn’t gold, or jewels…it had no price tag. I would once again believe in magic as I watched you explore and grow, and crawl and walk for the first time, and say your first words.
On the day you were born, you entered more than just a world which will make you laugh, and cry, and bring days of fear, and happiness, and disappointment and victories. You entered my heart. You have never left it. You never will.
Happy 8th Birthday, my little ‘Fire’….I love you more than I ever can express.