You turn three today, Vera. We’re going to celebrate. Your other grandparents will be here, too. As will your Aunt Elaine and Uncle Matt. I hope you have a good time.
We’re going to have water balloons, and I’ve been informed by your grandmother that I’m going to be the target. We’ll see how your arm has developed. We’ll also see if your grandmother can manage to stay dry!
You are the light of the world, Vera. There is nothing quite like you. Not in our corner of the world. You are interesting, amazing, and astonishing. Love dances with joy when your world encompasses ours.
It was that way with your dad and uncle when they were your age. I suppose there is something about little kids. Their innocence. Purity. Zest for life.
And then the world beats you up. And the flame doesn’t burn as bright. And sometimes it’s but a flicker. And the light grows dim.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Not entirely. And it isn’t always. But often.
Sometimes I think our sole purpose in life is to keep the flame alive. And to be the light of the world.
It doesn’t sound like much. But the older I get, it seems like a lot. It might be enough. More than enough.
Within the flame are goodness and life. It’s akin, in theological terms, to the breath of God. I used to think the breath of God resides in all persons. I’m no longer so sure of that, but I’m still pretty certain there is something within us that’s good. And that makes it all worthwhile.
When the flame burns bright, everything seems right with the world. Joy and grace are words that come to mind. The flame makes adversity and suffering less threatening. Less powerful.
The flame illuminates. The heart. You have that power. So long as you protect the flame.
My world lights up when you enter the room. All is well. My heart feels warm. The way it was intended to feel.
Keep shining, Vera. Not for me. For yourself.
And Happy Birthday!
P.S. In an unexpected surprise, you stayed over with us last night. Inexplicably, you got up early (a little after 6) and, as usual, you were smiling. I never saw anyone so happy first thing in the morning. After breakfast, we’ll walk down to the farmers market to get some things for the birthday party, which will be at our place later today, despite your insistence this morning that your birthday is tomorrow and not today. You were unpersuaded by my personal testimony that I was there on July 7 when you were born. One of the things I adore about you is that, at this early age, you have your own mind. Hold onto that! The world will try to co-opt your thoughts, opinions, and beliefs. But you have the power to be your own person. To preserve the flame that makes you so special.