Sara Elizabeth,

I went to the laundromat this morning, with a sackful of bloody sheets and towels: the banners of your passage, stained by your mother as she bore you, with great, hoarse groans and a sweet groaning of the flesh, red waters, clear waters, carrying you here — from what distant shore I can only guess. It’s easier to imagine the pounding your small body took (wise men tell us dying is less difficult, and no wonder: it is not nearly so surprising an eviction, and from such innocence!) — those fierce contractions buffeting you, that narrow tunnel through, and that light at the end: heaven, or terror? Our tears and yours suggesting both.

Well, the laundromat was the same: no matter to anyone that you were boy or girl, born dead or alive. It was good to be with people who didn’t know, or care, about me: it properly reduced the miracle of your birth to a personal drama — one that can never mean as much to anyone as to your own parents. I’m old-fashioned, you see: New Age dictums about universal love impress me about as much as detergent commercials; to me, changing a diaper is more important than changing the world. I take that back: changing a diaper is changing the world, for of such small labors of love is the world created. No choir has sung more lusty tribute than your mother, crying with fire in her belly. No guru will tell me more about love than these sheets and towels, soiled with love’s issue. Did we grope on these same sheets to “make” you? No book on sex will illumine that breathless coupling more than your own quiet breathing.

Daughter, I’m only saying that if I love you “because you’re mine,” that is no sin, but a blessing. In the laundromat, I watched a young man folding a tee-shirt full of holes; clearly, it was his favorite, because it was his. I wanted him to love that shirt; no one else could. If we begin by loving what is ours, perhaps we’ll end by loving the world — having owned what is ours, and owning it fully. I stake my claim to the time it takes me to write this, wrested from a life too busy by half. I give these words to you, having made them mine; so may “my life” be a gift — though where it begins and ends only God knows. My own father, until the day he died, wondered what legacy he’d left me, imagining himself a failure in my eyes because he was a failure in his own. Perhaps, on leaving this world, he learned what I hope you come into it knowing: that we can only give who we are. In the depth of my own understanding, I meet you in timeless wonder. I have no conscious memories of our “other lifetimes” together. It doesn’t matter. Your mother, reaching for you, drawing you back to her, reaches across the aeons. Time is mother to us all, edging us towards independence, and eternity: but how we cling to her apron strings! A “Scorpio” we call you, knowing better; the soul, deathless and birthless, is not regimented by stars. The heavens are the boundless ceiling of our own starry mind; we are free to travel to stars more distant still.

But we start here. In a small house, on a small planet, a family — “nuclear” and glorious — with claims one upon the other. Cleaving to what we know; taking it one step at a time, trusting that, in time, we’ll learn the true dance: energy made flesh, whirling upon the rock of being — you and your sister, your mother and the rest, I mean everyone, born at last.

Your Dad