Dear Iman

Dear Iman,

You don’t know it yet, but you are turning 1 today. Let me tell you a little about yourself at this age, since you probably won’t remember:

You’re a happy baby with a wild mop of curly hair. You are inexplicably fascinated by the dishwasher and would probably live inside it if you could. You love playing with doorstoppers, routers, power cords and lots of other hazardous things in my home. You get mad when your mom feeds you mashed bananas, even when she tries to hide them in the yogurt you love. You cling to your mommy like a little starfish and cackle with laughter when your daddy throws you in the air.

Your mommy has put her globe-trotting life and impressive career on hold to give you all the time and attention she can. Your daddy is working long days in his new home, but he still finds time to take you to music class on Tuesdays (you play the tambourine) and dreams about the day he can take you to India in the summer to feel the warm breeze he remembers so vividly. Your mom and I have known each other for over 15 years and our friendship has spanned oceans and continents but we now live 1 block from each other and it has been a gift for us all. I get to see you every few days and we all get together for a big, delicious dinner about once a week.

We can’t believe how fast you’re growing. I remember the week you discovered your toes, and the day you learned how to point, and the first time you clapped. You could literally lift one finger and we would consider it a miracle. Sometimes we get impatient though – we’re dying for you to speak. We want to know what you’re thinking, and who you want to be, and how you really feel about those statement onesies we make you wear.

Let me also tell you a little bit about what the world was like this year since you probably won’t remember:

This year we elected an unqualified, delusional narcissist to the highest office in government. He resembles the insecure, immature bullies you will encounter on the schoolyard someday. The ones who lash out over the slightest threat to their ego. (Remember, Iman, that when anyone hurts you, this is a reflection of their own small heart, not yours.) Much of what he says amounts to a thinly-veiled insult to every contribution your parents and grandparents (and millions of other immigrants) have made to this country over the last 30 years. I hope this is not the only America you know.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the globe, there are atrocities happening in Syria that you should not even attempt to Google until you are 16 or older. And when you finally do learn all the terrible things that transpired you will wonder how we lived through this time and just carried on complaining about the weather and drinking $4 iced lattes. And when you have this horrified feeling, Iman, hold on to it – it’s called perspective and it’s impossible to hold on to for long these days.

Speaking of the weather, the year you were born it rained more than it ever has in our lives. For months this was a drag, but now the hills that surround us are lush and green. The deserts are literally blooming with flowers. Just think about how amazing that is, Iman. I hope you look for the flowers blooming in your heart’s desert after every drought and downpour in your life.

A few other things happened this year that I don’t want to forget to tell you – a low budget film called ‘Moonlight’ won Best Picture at the Oscars. I hope you see it someday when you are old enough, and I hope it moves you like it moved me. Adele’s 25 won Album of the Year, but if you ask me, Beyonce was robbed.

Don’t worry, I will teach you all about Beyonce.

What I want you to know most about this time and this year is what effect you’ve had on us all. The first time I saw you a year ago, you were impossibly tiny and red-faced with eye lashes for days. I was just emerging from three taxing years of medical training where I felt surrounded by death and dying. I had skipped a mandatory lecture that morning to come see you. (Worth it.) I hadn’t held a baby in years, let alone one that I already loved. You cried the entire time you were in my arms so we don’t have any good pictures from that day, but I remember it well. You were the start of a new life – your own of course, but also for your parents and also for me.

You remind us all that we have to do better and be better. That soft, squishy, delicate little creatures like you are going to grow up in this world and we have to make it a good one. That we have to watch less TV and eat more vegetables and take more walks because your little eyes are watching us now. You make us accountable. You make us grown-ups. I have to tell you, Iman, I have taken care of an ICU full of critically ill patients, but babysitting you for a few hours felt like a much bigger accomplishment. You are by far the most precious thing I have ever felt responsible for. The hospital made me feel like life was a losing battle, but the sound of your laugh is proof that the world is still good and we should work to make it better.

I told your mom I was writing you this letter and she asked me not to use any big words. Unfortunately I have used many. (I recognize the absurdity of me writing to you about the geopolitical climate when you are still wearing diapers and working on your fine motor skills.) My hope is that this letter will serve as a time capsule of your first year on earth. I hope you read it from time to time throughout your life, and perhaps each time you will understand more. At the very least I want you to know this: You are so loved. Your little life is a blessing for us all. You are a shinning light in the dark. Happy birthday.


Sonia Massi

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