Letter to My Niece

My dear Niece,

An Empty CribI am writing this letter to you on the day prior to your birth while sitting in your grandparents’ kitchen. This June 17 is perhaps an unremarkable day in many respects: the sun is inconsistent, I can hear the birds singing to each other in a high pitched tone out in the yard. The multitude of flowers that your grandparents have planted in their garden are in full bloom, a riot of purple, orange, pale pink, yellow and red. The rich smell of freshly baked scones is wafting from the oven; your grandmother is now preparing chicken for dinner, the sharp scents of lemon and soy sauce indicative of it being ready to roast in the oven.

Earlier, your grandparents and I went out and found that this neighbourhood is just as much at peace as this house. The trees along this road are in full leaf, adding a softness to the houses they shelter. A neighbour across the way said hello and wished your mother well for tomorrow. Another neighbour walked his dog, albeit the fluffy white and brown puppy was more preoccupied with something buried in the deep green grass than taking a constitutional. Overall, this is a quiet, friendly town. I cannot imagine a better place for your first experience of home: it’s tranquil here and you will be surrounded by people who love you.

As I write this, your mother is lying upstairs, sleeping. We talked about you last night while sitting around the same kitchen table at which I type this letter: we remarked how simultaneously wonderful and strange it is that soon, so soon, there will be a whole new person in our lives, a member of the cast who will just appear on stage and alter the entire course of the play. We’ve all tried to prepare for it: yesterday, your mother and father demonstrated for me a new toy that you’ll shortly be receiving. It is a soft purple mat adorned with smiling planets and stars. Above it enfold two padded arcs from which friendly shapes dangle. Pull a switch, and active music will play, to encourage you to reach for the heavens. Pull the switch the other way, and you will get soft tunes which will tell you the stars and night sky are there to shelter and protect you as you sleep.

But these and other preparations are for nought: the assembly of the crib, the careful folding of infant clothes, the stuffed animals with shiny glass eyes that await your little arms to enfold them are all well and good, but your arrival is an event that becomes ever more profound the more that we reflect upon it. Everything is about to change.

Perhaps it’s because your father, mother, grandparents and myself have all been working towards the vague goal of making the world better for the future. We saw waste, inefficiency, mendacity and ignorance and took them on. But what was the future for which we struggled? We all had a notion that the future and children were somehow equivalent: you, my dear niece, give it true form. And from here on in, when your mother works hard to spread education and your father builds solutions which make technology perform better than previously thought possible, and your grandparents add to the world through their charitable works and I set my virtual pen to electronic paper, our collective focus will be much clearer. We want a world that is fit for you.

I look out onto the yard again: the outside environment that your grandparents have created serves as a strong reminder of the seasons. When winter comes, the front of the house will be decorated with lights and garlands. You will get your first whiff of pine and peanut butter cookies at Christmas. What will you make of the tree in the living room, I wonder, adorned with coloured glass baubles and its base covered in brightly wrapped presents? Will it be the most beautiful and magical thing you have seen hitherto?

Conductor and BatonThe seasons will cycle around and you will be back at Spring again. You will say your first words, take your first steps and with your parents’ firm but gentle guidance, be set onto the path of knowledge. Your father and mother will do their utmost to fill your life with learning: your grandparents and I will add to the rich store they have to offer. I hope that soon we will converse, and that “stories from Uncle Christian” will be a feature of your life. I am already ready to tell you tales about talkative cats and teddy bears that are passing brave; I will introduce you to Mozart and Dvorak, and perhaps my awkward attempts to use a chopstick as a conductor’s baton will be a funny story that will linger in your memory.

The seasons will cycle many times around. In my mind’s eye, I have vague sight of your first day at school, the prizes you will win, the triumphs you will have, the hopes that will arise so you can and will be everything that you wish to become. Your parents, grandparents and I will all be on hand to help you in whatever way we can, offering the benefit of what we know, assistance when it’s possible, and always, always, love.

The day is just turning a corner now, and the sun is beginning its long trek into night. Soon we will sit down to dinner around the long table in the dining room; your grandfather will sit at one end, your grandmother at the other. We will say a quiet thank you to God. Then your mother, father, grandparents and I will quietly celebrate this day which may seem ordinary to some, but to us will ever have a profound significance. Tomorrow morning, we will all go to the hospital. Your mother and father will likely hold hands, a gesture of the profound love they share which I assure you will always be your comfort. The doctors will do their work, and then you will be here.

Though I won’t be the first to welcome you, my dear niece, to this life and all that it has to offer, I will be among the first. Right now, as your mother lies sleeping, you perhaps have a dim sense that your time as a passenger on a journey to this family is near an end. Tomorrow, you join us. Tomorrow, we will say hello. Tomorrow is just the beginning.


Your Uncle Christian

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