Athena’s six today. Here’s what I wrote when she was born.

Christmas Eve, 1998 —

Dear Athena:

When you were born, God decided that it should snow. Not much, just enough to cover the ground with a powdery white crust that terrified drivers. Snow! They said. I better drive five miles an hour! And they did, somehow still managing to tip their minivans and sport utility vehicles into light poles, highway medians, mail boxes, and each other. It took me the better part of an hour to drive the five miles home from the hospital in which you were born, watching grown men and women slip and slide in their vehicles in front of me. I of course, drove perfectly. As you grow, Athena, you will discover that I do everything perfectly. Do not listen to those who would tell you your dad is a raging doofus. They are sad, sad people, even though most of them are among my best of friends.

You can’t blame most of those people for being upset with the snow on the ground, Athena. They didn’t know what it meant. You see, when you were born, the world was changed, permanently, forever. One minute you were not in this world, the next you were. This was a momentus occassion, one that should have been marked. God, being God, decided to note it in the appropriate way: Changing the world. One minute there was no snow on the ground, the next there was (well, technically, it accumulated. But it did so while your mother was laboring to bring you into this world. By the time you arrived, it covered as far as the eye could see).

I think God’s choice was an appropriate one. Sure, he could have gone and done something flashy. Like a star in the sky. But he’s already done that. And by all reports you have to actually be a blood relation for Him to make that sort of effort. But the snow was right: It was the first snow of the season, so it was new. It doesn’t snow here often, so it was unusual, remarkable. There was just a little, so it was fragile. And as it blanketed the ground to the edges of the horizon, it was beautiful. It made everything else beautiful. It was, in short, like you.

You were not pleased to be brought into this world, Athena. From the moment you hit the air, you loudly complained to everyone in earshot. Hey, you said. I was comfortable in there! No one told me about this. I was not consulted. I was pleased to hear it. Both sides of your family tree have a strong sense of self, Athena, that is frequently confused with stubbornness. Your displeasure about being out of the loop on this whole birth thing is a good indication that the family traits are well in evidence. It won’t make raising you easy, I’m sure. But it will make it interesting, which, in the end, is a better state of affairs.

Besides, Athena, take it from me: It’s really not such a bad place. Yes, yes, it has wars, and hunger, and pain, and bad TV. But that’s why you have parents. We’re going to do what we can to protect you from those things (ironically, it’ll be the bad TV that’s going to be the hardest to save you from. If I’m lucky, the first you’ll hear of the Teletubbies, Barney and Rugrats will be when you’re a teenager). But it’s also a place where wonderful things can and do happen, best evidenced by your own birth. I think you’ll be happy here. We’re going to try to make you happy.

Athena, I’m just rambling. It’s been less than a full day since your birth, and still my emotions are so jumbled I hardly know what to do with myself. Writing is how I try to sort them out, but they’re resisting. All I feel, all I have felt since you’ve been born, is an enduring sense of joy. After you were born, the nurses wisked you to your birthing station, where they did the things they had to do: Put air in your face so you would pink up (you were born a rather striking shade of magenta), put the band on you so you wouldn’t be confused with one of the five other babies who shared your birthday, inked your feet for footprints, and so on. After they were done with that, they wrapped you tight in three blankets (which prompted me to turn to your mother and say, Congratulations, you’ve given birth to a burrito). And then you were handed to me.

Oh, Athena. Words don’t come for what I felt then. Here you were. Here you are — my daughter, the work of mine and your mother’s conjoined souls. All I could do was cry, cry and hold my head against your mother’s hand. It was overwhelming. It still is. I try to find the words that express everything I felt — that I am feeling, even as I write this — and I fail. I fail spectacularly. It doesn’t translate in the world of words. None fit. Except for these: Athena Marie. Your name. And the word: Welcome.

Welcome, Athena. Welcome to this world, to our home, to our love. Welcome to everything. Your mother and I are so happy to see you. We’re so happy. I thank God and your mother for you. The snow on the ground only told us what we already knew: Everything is changed. Welcome Athena. Welcome.



Ringing the Bell for Christ and the ACLU

The other day I asked Christians who were also ACLU lawyers to come forward to disprove a correspondent’s mouth-gaping belief that there were no Christian lawyers at the ACLU. This morning someone came forward who was close enough for my purposes: A law student actively involved with the ACLU in Kentucky, and who (as entirely expected) can speak first-hand of ACLU lawyers who are also Christian. He also posts an excellent and cogent explanation of why one who is Christian might also choose the ideals of the ACLU, and I commend it to you all; read the full comment here (you’ll need to scroll down; it was written 12/23 at 9:24am). A particularly good point I’ll note here:

In the same vein, as a man of faith I am profoundly offended by the sanctimonious would-be demagogues who treat Christianity as if it were some kind of virus that spreads on mere contact. What has a Bible verse read over a school intercom to do with the teaching of Christ’s love? We are told by the Bible to be fishers of men; finders of converts. It never commands us to do it stupidly. The best (and in my experience, the only) way to truly gain converts is to exemplify Christian ideals. Be kind to others. Help those who are most in need of help (without any proselytization involved). Strive to better yourself whilst leaving the judgment of others to God. Then when asked why you do these things that so few others do, you explain how you are driven by faith. Those who would have forced prayer in every classroom and the Ten Commandments on every public wall seem to be interested more in publicity and theocratic clout than in actually winning people’s souls.

Amen to that.

To my mind this comment post presents the evidence I need to disprove my correspondent’s assertion, so that means, as promised, the ACLU now gets $50 of my money, to help continue their efforts to safeguard the constitutional rights of all Americans. Rock on, ACLU! Rock on, US Constitution!


Winter Wonderland — The Day After

Another foot of snow overnight, and now my front porch looks like this. Contrast this with the picture from the same place on my porch yesterday, and you realize this whole snow thing has gotten out of hand. In fact, we’re in a Level 3 situation in our county, which means no one is allowed to drive unless what you’re driving is a cop car, a fire engine or an ambulance.

For another perspective on the snow, here’s the back porch:

I realize that none of this will impress those of you in, say Minnesota, Alaska or Canada. But jeez, for someone raised in Southern California, this is pretty serious stuff.

Here Athena and Krissy confer on the snow, which you can see piled up at the window. That’s a second story window, incidentally. Fortunately, we are reasonably well stocked for the day, and should make it through until the snow plows come later this afternoon, after it’s stopped snowing. And if it gets any worse, well, we’ll eat Rex first. He’s old and lived a good life.

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