The helium balloon section of Spotlight is a very happy place. It might, in fact, be my new very happy place. There are balloon dispensers which reach the ceiling, filled with every colour of the rainbow. People pick out balloon colours with smiles slapped on their faces, and as the whoop-woosh of the helium canister echoes through the store, we are promised JOY and CELEBRATION and the ordinary made extraordinary, just for one happy little day.
I bundled thirteen helium balloons home – twelve for Billy’s Naming Day and one for Ella – and as I fixed them to our fence, welcoming our village like the North Star, they set the bar high in marking one wonder-filled day where the sugary parts of our lives floated to the surface, like a dozen balloons in a bright blue sky, whipping in the breeze..
November the 9th was the day we dedicated to officially welcoming our boy. For those who aren’t familiar with Naming Days, they serve the purpose of blessing and honouring babies – sort of like a Christening except while God is welcome to take a seat in our circle, he is not the focus. We gather with the very closest members of our village and we welcome our babies, declaring wishes and blessings and love and responsibilities which come with the privilege of raising them and watching them grow.
There are a million different ways to honour new life. This is how we honoured Billy’s.
A very close family friend of ours — who is also a celebrant — guided the ceremony, talking briefly in the beginning about the importance of a village in raising a child. He talked about how universal having a child is, yet how utterly miraculous the entire experience is. He talked about how special Billy was to us, and that as he joins our family, he will teach us just as much as we will teach him.
We then had Billy’s four grandparents light a candle, and then light Billy’s candle off theirs, to symbolize the importance of family, of heritage, and of the love which is passed through each generation, as parents watch their own children have children.
We chose four readings – one for each set of grandparents, and one each for Joel and I.
Mary and Pete – Joel’s parents – began with the poem Welcome, by Selina Denton.
Welcome to sunlight
Welcome to the soft rain on your face
Welcome to the rush of the wind
Welcome to the hush of the sea
Welcome to much joy and a little sorrow
Welcome to birdsong
Welcome to music and laughter
Welcome to the leaves on the tree
Welcome to the miracle of words
Welcome to the whispering of rivers
Welcome to dreaming
Welcome to everything you can see and name
Welcome to your mother’s care
Welcome to your father’s smile
Welcome to the love of all here
Welcome to the world
My mum and dad then read A Poem For Parents.
There are little eyes upon you,
And they are watching night and day;
There are little ears that quickly
Take in every word you say.
There are little hands all eager
To do everything you do;
and a little boy who’s dreaming
Of the day he’ll be like you.
You’re the little fellow’s idol;
You’re the wisest of the wise;
In his little mind, about you
No suspicions ever rise.
He believes in you devotedly,
Holds that all you say and do,
He will say and do in your way
When he’s grown up like you.
There’s a wide-eyed little fellow
Who believes you’re always right;
And his ears are always open,
And he watches day and night.
You are setting an example
Every day in all you do;
For the little boy who’s waiting
To grow up to be just like you.
Joel then read If, by Rudyard Kipling.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
‘ Or walk with Kings – nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
And I read Desiderata, which might be one of my favourite pieces of prose of all time.
Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be critical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.
We cut his cake, popped some champagne, raised our glasses and toasted our beautiful boy, and I stopped my crying, because Lord help us all, why must I cry?
Those blue shoes? They were on the cake Renae made for his little baby shower/sprinkle, and I kept them to re-use for this very ocassion, because I knew my big old sentimental heart would want to reflect on the change from then to now, him once a dream, now actually in our arms.
We then passed out some question and answer cards I had made that morning for everybody to fill out and to keep in his keepsake box..
My personal favourites:
Most likely to be a: legend, a pirate, an adventurer, and a pro golfer when you grow up (the latter from my dad).
If there is one book you have to read it’s: Field Guide to Birds of Australia and Guide to Driving in QLD. (These made me laugh and I knew exactly who had written them.)
My one piece of advice: Your mother is always right, Never listen to Uncle Liam (submitted by Liam’s girlfriend Sophia aka wisest woman on earth), Be yourself, and Look after your big sister.
Cake was eaten and children played and drinks were drunk and children cried and parents soothed and conversation and laughter and love reverberated around the marquee walls like a symphony almost too good to bear. I felt so lucky to be standing where I was among so many good people. People we love.
There is an Irish proverb, “It is in the shelter of each other that people live.” As I looked around at the people gathered in our backyard on Sunday I felt enormous rush of emotions, and it wasn’t until later that night I realized why. As my boy travels through life, as he hurts and fails and trips and loses, and for all the times I will be the last person he will want to talk to, there is an entire force of people standing by, waiting to shelter him, waiting to give him a place to rest..
He is sheltered. And from there, he can soar.
Billy, wherever you go my precious boy, may you go with all your heart.
Love Forever and Always, Your Mama.