Well, I never planned to travel across the world to get you a highly contagious parasite for your birthday. But, as our friend said, wear it like a badge of honor. Not many people on this side of the pond have experienced what you have this week.
I think it says a lot, actually, about who you are, my firstborn son.
I still remember how you arrived, a surprise line on a pregnancy test just one month before we planned to start trying for our second child. Even then you were determined to arrive on your own time, in your own way. I remember how joyful it felt to receive the gift of you. How, right away, your spirit spoke to me. And your spirit was full of the joy of life, fun, laughter, adventure, courage and empathy.
You changed my life forever right from that very first moment.
I have so many beautiful memories of your first twelve years. Your birth, a quick six hours after my big dose of castor oil. You, born in your sack, a lucky child they said. The midwife had waited years to see a child born in the caul, and then you came. You arrived into a hot tub and you didn’t cry at all for the first hour. Your beautiful peace filled the room and I can remember what it felt to hold you in my arms. How you were heavy and tender.
You surprised me. And in those first few hours I was convinced we should, for some strange reason, name you “Tucker”, a name we had never considered. It took us two days to finally pick your name – you, with your deep double dimples showing up whenever you cried or sleep-smiled. And then we chose “Quinn,” meaning wisdom, and we knew it was just right.
You moved across country for the first time at only six weeks and you lived in four different houses during your first six months. When we settled into Annapolis, your first few years were all wild and rough and tumble. All balls and bats and toys with wheels and mostly technology of any kind. You broke your first computer when you were only nine months old and you managed to accomplish things with a keyboard even your dad didn’t know how to do. You made us laugh and laugh and laugh.
And when life picked up us and moved us to Africa, it was you who shined brightest. The locals renamed you “Magezi” which also means wisdom, and you were the one everyone asked about, the one everyone wanted to see. You were the hero of our story there. And what could be better for a wild boy of 4,5, 6 years old then to live in a jungle, climb mango trees and eat their fruit, and kill snakes in his very own front yard?
And there, you conquered the greatest of evil. And there, we partnered with you and made you safe. It was a beautiful life, wasn’t it? And also a very difficult one. There you walked through the things most Americans have never had to look at. And you looked and looked again, and your heart broke open wide, and you were changed.
At eight when you returned to America and to your very first school experience, everything was new and surprising and sometimes difficult. You didn’t want to wear shoes, you didn’t understand vacuums or washing machines or stores. You struggled to make sense of where the world you loved had gone. But you held us tight.
And now, oh now you have thrived. Excelling at the top of your class. Making the best of friends. Loving on your two cats. Establishing your territory in this beautiful wilderness of Northern California. Finding new interests, new frontiers.
You make us proud, so proud. Here you are, just thirteen years old, and the things you have conquered would have made a smaller man cower. You though, my tender hearted warrior, you have cried and cried. And you have laughed and laughed. You have grown into a big-hearted protector. You are my strength and my song. And after all the chaos of a move to Africa and back; then we brought you Asia, in the form of a prickly little girl and a defiant little boy. And they have taken so much from you, and the cost to love them has been so high. And you have let love win anyway. You have let them in to the thing you have treasured most, the one safe place, your family. And your heart has stretched wider still.
You are a treasure. A man who will walk alongside the powerful and care for the powerless. You carry the ability to make and steward wealth and to influence the influencers. You will spend your life to make the broken-hearted glad. And you will enjoy life too. You will thrive and be gifted with the generosity of others and you will give more away than most dream of touching.
From that first moment when you slipped into the world, still in your caul, you were special, anointed, lucky. You have never changed. Everywhere we have gone your charisma has shone around you like the sun – attracting all within sight. Everywhere we have lived those in influence have approached me to tell me that you have a great destiny before you.
Each day I step into the work of raising you with the kind of fear that is born of awe. For you, my child, are not like the others. You are a biblical David, a man after God’s own heart. Prone to restless indecision and impulsiveness, birthed to make history.