Love’s blue skies: a letter from aunt to nephew

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Skylar,

I’m starting to warm up to your name in my ears and on my lips. It’s a good name. After all, we are made of bright little flecks of sky, right? You are here, and what they say is true, you’re a miracle. Welcome to Earth, Skylar.

I have only seen you once, and I can still feel your body in my arms. You were wrapped tight in a blanket, a creature stirring in its cocoon. Your head nestled where my bicep and forearm meet. This has been permanently impressed into my skin like a birthmark inked in the womb.

Last summer I cradled a stingray in my arms. Its slippery, cool, gel-like underside pressed against my palms. Its fins flapped over the water, but it remained flat as a board, resting and pressing its smooth skin against my hands, which were quivering against the waves just below the water’s surface. I tried to stay still so I could feel it breathe. And also so it wouldn’t sting me. The terror of being stung seized me, but I couldn’t help but be invigorated by the life I held in my hands. It was pure intimacy to be so close, to hold something so strange and beautiful that  inhabits the sea.

You are the most delicate thing I have ever held. You were heavier than I thought. Probably because the weight of knowing what could happen to you if you fell from my arms was unbearable.

After coming home from the hospital, I retraced your nose, eyes and cheeks in my head. I thought about your mouth sucking the air like a fish. I thought how every now and then, you’d open your eyes and look around, waywardly, almost drunkenly. That day was the first time you ever used your eyes. Your gaze was lost and trying to find your way. You were tired from the long trip, and your best bet was to close your pink, wary lids.

Your mom looked quizzical when I mumbled if I could hold you. “Of course you can,” she said and smiled warmly, despite how exhausted she felt. She stretched out her long, tattooed arms and shared her newborn baby. In your mother’s hospital room, your grandmother and father sat on either side of me. We looked down at you in my arms. It was a long time before we remembered that we, unlike you, had voices in our throats with words to say. Your dad spoke first with a joke to break a silence dominated by loud thoughts.

“I hope he’s good-looking,” he said.

“I hope he’s smart,” I said.

“I hope he has good health,” said your grandmother.

And there we sat and stared at you some more. I thought of the Wizard of Oz like gifts we wished for you. Later on, I went back in time in my mind to change my answer to include a whole list more.

Baby Skylar, please, please forgive me for this: truthfully, when I found out about you, I was sad. I was not on board. I was afraid you wouldn’t be able to get what you what you deserve.

But now that I’ve met you and seen how people on both sides of the family have flocked like birds to be in your life and support you, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude and positivity. I hope to be a part of your life. You have already affected mine, and I’ve been in a room with you for less than an hour so far.

Yes, your parents are young. But here’s the thing: plenty of young parents have given birth and successfully raised children throughout history. Even now, young parents have surprised many of the same ones wagging their fingers. Human nurturing is a powerful natural instinct that kicks into gear even during the darkest of times and direst of situations. And even more, people have the tendency to change, to grow like thirsty sunflowers when they know life has assigned them an essential worth-living kind of task.

It’s easy to be negative about young parents. It’s harder to look young parenthood in the face and accept it, embrace it.  It’s easy to turn a cheek instead of becoming another voice of support, another link to the chain that a young family can hold onto.

Your parents have each lived lives so far that they may or may not know exactly how to put into words. Now, your parents work together and make the best of what they have. I hope that you will help them come to terms with some of the tough times they’ve lived through and also remember the beautiful things about them that caused them to rise and move forward.

I hope you are the beginning of a strong, close family. I know how hard your mom fought to keep you, to make sure you arrived safely. I have a feeling she will fill you up with everything she has. You are not a bad decision. You are a living, breathing piece of new life.

For the first time in a long time, I have prayed. Not only for your safety coming into this world, but more importantly, finding happiness in it. What you don’t know because you are too young to know: life is really hard. Especially for those who don’t have much and at the same time are still struggling to figure themselves out. Sometimes when you don’t have much, you feel like you deserve nothing more, like you should stay right where you are. This is a circle that is hard to understand, but is not impossible to leave.

I’m not exactly sure what I believe anymore. When I was a little kid I loved learning about and loving God. Knowing that there is something big out there looking out for you and wishing you happiness is a powerful thing to hold inside you. It can carry you through.

But let me be clear, you can believe whatever you want to believe. I hope you at least believe in yourself. Because that was the other half of the equation for me; I also believed in my own goodness, and I found my own happiness. I found things excruciatingly funny, interesting, and moving. I gave and continue to give with all the love I have.

Skylar, never hold back on the love you feel. I know you will probably get a lot of advice from people throughout your life. It is your decision what you choose to accept and reject, but this is my best, and I hope you accept it. It has been said many times before: love and be loved.

I wish I could say it was as simple as that. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes you love people who don’t know how to love you back or won’t. But it’s never a waste. Don’t let painful experiences with love stop you from loving, seeking people who fully reflect love back, and things that bring love outside your body. One last thing, and certainly the hardest, love yourself. Don’t take that lightly. Please, please, please, love yourself. Make it routine. Brush teeth. Wash hands. Love yourself.

I need to share something very special with you. Do you see this man?

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He is the most solid proof I have for you to love and be loved. Your great-grandfather Anthony J. Cimarusti, passed away a little over a year ago. He was someone who made love look easy, that’s how much he fully incorporated it into his life.

He gave a tremendous amount to his family. He was not a rich man, but he was always available for support.  The times when he gave the most were at family gatherings, where he divided himself up, shared his warmth and time equally amongst us all. We gobbled him up.

He never turned anyone away, especially when they were filled with pain. Every single time I knocked on his door, he opened it, greeting me with a mischievous smile, wave of Old Spice, and a sweater stained in spaghetti sauce.

Up until I was 14, I held hands proudly with my grandfather in public, introduced him to strangers on the street. We walked a lot through parks. He showed me how to feed ducks, how to make the best turkey sandwiches, and how to swing on a swing. He taught me how to drive. He had warm, big tree bark hands that he used to fix things around the house, give big hugs, dance, and sift through books.

He loved movies with classically pretty girls. He loved history, learning about ancient peoples and wars. He loved his country. When I used to work at the library, he would come visit me. “Excuse me, Miss,” he’d joke and ask me for a book.

Then he’d sit at a table and read. I recall books on Lincoln, the Nazis. We would whisper to each other for a little in the book stacks, and then he would be on his way. He left a trail of admirers on his route out the door. “Sarah, I just saw your grandfather. He has such a kind, warm soul,” my co-workers would say. “I love that man,” I’d say.

Everyone he knew wanted in on his overflowing goblet of love that he drank from heartily. Even after my grandfather retired, he still worked as an in-house kind of electrician. People requested him for side jobs, and he continued to light up homes because he truly understood his life’s calling was such more than changing burnt bulbs.

My grandfather was married to your great-grandmother for 63 years. He freed her from a difficult family past. Then he made her happy. He took her to all her school dances. He even scrubbed her kitchen floor on his hands and knees. She took care of him too. One of my favorite memories I have of my grandmother is when she was bent over my grandfather’s hospital bed, and she was massaging lotion onto his feet.

63 years is a long time. It’s hard to understand what that feels like, to love someone after all that time. But it’s possible.

I have my fears about what kind of life you will have, what kind of person you will be. But you will soon realize that for the majority of your life, it is up to you.  I hope these feel like warm wishes, something to fall back on if you ever need it, rather than heavy expectations. This is letting you know that I’m here, and I will always care.

I’m beyond excited to know you, Skylar.

Love, love, love,

Auntie Sarah

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