Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Little Man, Big Year

I know that some of you remember that a year ago I was wrapped up in the emotion, and the awe of having my first nephew born into the world. He came early. More than two months early, which gave us all a big scare.

As convincingly and stubbornly (a true Taurus, already?!) as he wanted to come into this world on his own terms, he has lived this year, also. As I also mentioned before, he went home way early from the maternity, only about three weeks after his birth, despite doctors’ predictions that he would be there to his full term, which meant almost two more months.

He showed us all that he was ready for life: he could do in seven months what others can do in nine. He breathed and learned to feed on his own sooner than expected. And fed he did. Around the clock and then some. He grew up fast, and grew up healthy. They tell you babies will run a fever after each routine shot. Growing up in a Canadian winter, he has almost never run a fever (until he got a stomach virus in a foreign land). By month three, he was the same size as babies born to term at that month. And he stayed caught up.

He’s taken on every challenge that life, and we, his family, have thrown at him with bravery and guts. And like a true little Romanian, with gusto, also. He was baptized just like every other “normal” baby, at three months old. Since they immerse the baby in water in our faith, I was afraid he was going to be too little for that, but he was fine. He has managed to handle a (small and close quarters) house full of guests at that age as well, for two whole months, keeping his sleeping and eating routine, despite the hectic to-and-fro of relatives and guests from Romania and the US.

Parents out there forgive me for my self-righteousness, but I have never believed in raising a baby in vacuumed bubble, away from the real life. And I am so grateful to my sister and brother in law for not raising him like that! They have raised him in real time, with real life challenges, and real environments, with real people all around, and he’s managed to handle them all so far, more or less cranky.

He took a road trip (and yes, you read right: “road” trip, as in driven!) from Montreal, Canada, to Greensboro, North Carolina when he was five and a half months old. Sure, he cried, he was cranky, but he made it fine, and he did great. He even started learning how to sit on that trip. He then took a trip to Germany, to see his paternal grandparents, when he was ten and a half months old. He took a trip from there to his parents’ home country of Romania, at eleven months. And now, that he’s one, he’ll go back to Canada, his home, finally.

Patrick and I in Romania, about a week or so ago

Through it all, he made it fine, as he learned new things, and progressed at his “normal” pace, as any baby would do. He ate everything he was supposed to, he is learning new words, and he’s finally not afraid of crawling, so he’s got that figured out now. He’s learned to warm up to people, not just his parents, he’s socialized and happy just to be held.

He’s still tiny, but that’s his charm! He cries when he needs something, but don’t we all?!

I am proud of his parents for giving him nurture, attention, and most of all, love. He’s a loved baby, for sure, and he will always be. I am grateful to his parents for bringing this miracle into our families, and making our lives a bit brighter and a bit more hopeful: now, we can see the face of our future. That is a priceless feeling, for which I thank them!

In Romania, we have this custom (more like a superstition, but it's like an unwritten law), when the baby turns one. We place a number of items from life on a silver platter (remember how your grandma told you that you had it all handed out on a silver platter?!). Each item symbolizes something that you might grow to like, or grow to make into a trade, or something that might possess you negatively, as a vice. We choose to place things like money (wealth) , rings (wealth and interest in jewelry, or coquetry) , hammers (for boys: handy-ness, industriousness, etc), thread and needles (for girls – same connotation), a book, a pen (signs of higher education, perhaps), a church item (an icon, a cross or candle, maybe) – as a symbol of spirituality; something technical (a cell phone, a mouse, etc), a musical instrument (if we want our child to be musically inclined?!), a glass of wine, a pack of cigarettes, to suggest vices; your imagination is the limit here.

We place these items on a platter, and we let the one year old baby choose three of them. They say, in old Romanian tradition, that what they choose will shape their destiny. Patrick chose a cross, a pen and a syringe. As he was choosing, the crowd of guests was gasping: “Will he be a priest?” “Will he be a doctor?”. The godmother is supposed to prepare this, so you can imagine the responsibility I felt (and I feel) for all this.

Patrick choosing the pen

All I can say is: I am not sure what Patrick will be, or what he’ll chose as a trade in life, but from the bottom of my heart, I would like to put on a virtual tray a huge amount of health, love, luck and happiness – and I want him to pick all of them with both of his little hands. That’s what I would destine him for, if I had a power to do so.

And I always want to assure him that he will forever find two big open arms to catch him when he needs to be caught, as long as I live.

Thanks for being in our family and bringing us together as you did, Little Man. And thanks for being you! Your smile makes my day, and your antics give me reason to look forward to tomorrow. You have been blessed since day one, and we through you, and may you always be that way!

Happy birthday from your Nana*, and much, much love!!

*Nana means godmother in Romanian.

One of my favorite pictures of Patrick. Go, show them, Little Guy!

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