Antonia Boyette - A Birthday Letter
For me, the beginning of July feels fraught with the pernicious anniversaries of events ranging from downright painful to whimsical to profound - in a particularly fucked up way. With each of the questionable events occurring from July 1 - 8 (including my own wedding anniversary), each July 9th, my wayward, downcast thoughts get redirected as all my energy focuses on one of the most profound shifts in my life: the day I became a mother.
Now, the temptation in dispatching birthday greetings to you my Son, is to thank you for making my dream of motherhood come true. We both know that would be a bit, shall we say… misguided. True, it is your arrival which catapulted me into the one role I wanted to fulfill since my earliest memories (yeah, I know….that being the case, you’d think I may have been more, what the experts call organized about the whole endeavor, yes?) The fact of the matter is, dude, without me, there is no you.
There it is.
Had to be said.
Don’t get it twisted. Raising you (and your sister!!) has been the honor and straight up joy I always knew it would be from before Day One. Even as I endured several months of the world’s most nauseated pregnancy where I could not eat anything beyond yogurt in the morning for a solid two and half months (while I wasted away, you, according to the straightforward, no-sugarcoating, give-it-to-me-straight-doc obstetricians and midwives, you continued to absolutely thrive in utero while I lost 12 pounds by the fifth month) an immeasurable blend of excitement and readiness coursed through my being every single day, even while taking the porcelain bus for an thrice daily spin.
Seriously - the poignant visits with families all sides, biological and logical, the laugh-riot moments, terrifying trips to the ER (which grew routine enough over the course of one overwhelming long weekend when you were bout two years old, that the third time in as many days that I carried you through the doors the attending staff greeted us, half-seriously with “good afternoon! Would you like your regular triage cubicle?” I told you, a laugh-riot.) There were times of conjoined pride and sorrow, like your Bar Mitzvah, while I mourned the absence of my own parents and your paternal Grandpa Marc, you kept us all rooted as you rocked the Torah reading like a learned rabbinical scholar and delivered a speech that moved all in attendance. There have been unimaginable highs and predictable lows but not a single rock-bottom. You weathered a couple of cross country moves, strived to be a comfort to your little sister (now younger sister aka COO of the family) during challenging times and repeatedly proved, your prowess academically, athletically, intellectually and on occasion, when you really cut loose - creatively.
While it is true, without me there is no you (a truth that obviously stretches back generations to the beginning of time. One very important reason to take the time and make the effort to remember those who came before us) there is a compelling corollary screaming for acknowledgment:
There is no me without you.
Because you entered our lives exactly when you did (five days late in case anyone’s keeping track!) I made lifelong friends with whom, and it chills me to acknowledge this truth, I most likely would not have connected were it not for you. Think about it: my inner sanctum - Nicole, Pearl, Barbara, and Reena (although we met independently of our nearly identical boys, you and Ami were the starter that gave rise to the growing relationship between our two families).
Within you exists qualities great and not-so-great (a reflection of contemporary and ancestral influences) blended with your unique perspective and way of moving through this life; your presence is a gift, a challenge, an inspiration, a comfort and most of all, for your mother - a connection to all that was and all that can be. (Yes, your sister Mia provides a similar connection, amazingly - or not - it seems to reach very different ethereal aspects. Too deep? Let’s continue).
Thirteen years ago, our extended community gathered to witness you follow in the footsteps of those who came before you with a definitively multi-cultural rite of passage (who could forget the Soul Food Bar Mitzvah?!). Thirteen years before that, we waited with bated breath for you to reluctantly make your grand entrance into this life.
(Hoo boy, I am so wanting to share the saga of your birth right now. This is me showing restraint. You’re welcome.).
Today I celebrate you Son, with a certain sense of self-satisfied pride, but mostly, mostly, with a heart full of gratitude, joy and blessings for all things fabulous in your future.
Happy 26th Birthday Isaiah!
Antonia Boyette is a fairly new empty-nester, former caterer, who lives for the thrill of connecting with all kinds of folks - especially over a meal - ready to start the next chapter of my life as I split time between LA and Maryland. As a Black woman, born in Italy, who converted to Judaism it would be an understatement to say my relationship with time is a bit dysfunctional. Running late is practically a second religion from which I hope to stray - for now, it’s just part of my charm. After too many years of subjugation at the hands of self and society, my long-hidden superpower - writing - refuses to remain in the shadows. This is me doing me. Enjoy. Or don’t.