Letter to Abe, age 11 1/2

Dear Aberhammer,

How many nicknames do we have for you, anyway? I think it started when we got you home from the hospital and realized we could call you Abey-Baby. Then there was Aber-Baber and Hammie and Baby Hammer (and we ended up buying you a baby hammer, in fact, but it was Sebby who really loved it most, and we all know how that turned out). Pretty soon your nicknames started to proliferate until they bore almost no relation to your actual name (Abalone? Hamalot?)---but that's neither here nor there.

It's fun to write a letter to you that I know you'll read. I guess I know all of you kids will read my letters to you, eventually, but you'll read this one soon---maybe next time you log on to the computer to write on your own blog. Have I mentioned lately how much I like your blog? I like it because it reminds me of you. You're always changing the fonts (half the time I can't read the darn thing), changing the layouts, adding gadgets (---and let me just interject that it's all true, that stuff about how You Kids are better than your parents with technology. I always used to hear people say that and I thought it only applied once the parents were sort of . . . you know, doddering . . . but I consider myself pretty tech-savvy and you still pick up things and learn tricks I haven't even heard of!---)and so forth. You're kind of silly---okay, very silly---at times, but your blog is fun and surprising, just like you. I love seeing your pictures and reading your thoughts (and correcting your spelling . . . which is what mothers are for, right?).

Anyway, there's something so awesome about seeing you become a Real Person (which YOU thought you were from the time you were about 6 months old, but it took me awhile longer to grudgingly admit that you were one). And not just Any Person, but a Person who has good ideas and makes interesting points and makes me laugh out of not just politeness, but genuine surprise and delight. The other day when we were driving along (and have I told you how much I like having you old enough to ride beside me, instead of behind me, in the car? It's great having a navigator and entertainer right there in the passenger seat!) you saw a billboard that urged, somewhat sappily, HELP US SAVE THE CHILDREN! You looked at it and said right off, totally straight-faced, "Okay then, I'll give you some sound advice: stop doing a million abortions a year." It surprised me and made me laugh at the same time. I feel so lucky to have a son who I just love to spend time with, no matter what we're doing!

Even though I know you're a Person now, I like thinking back to those days when you weren't one. Did you know you're the only one of my babies who has had any hair, to speak of? It's true. It wasn't much by some standards, but I used to rub lotion on my hands and then pull up a little curl on top so you looked like a little cherub. I even entered a picture of you in a contest (Ivory Soap, I think?) and was totally flabbergasted when you didn't win. What WERE the judges thinking? Because you were so clearly the very cutest baby in the universe. And I still like your hair, come to think of it: it's so thick and so blond. I never could have imagined it, way back then. Looking back on your baby pictures now, I see YOU looking back at me, but at the time, I looked and saw only glimpses of what you'd be someday: thoughtful, steady, brave.
Speaking of brave, as I write this we have just gotten back from the doctor, where you had to sit still yet again and have the warts on your hands frozen off. It hurts like crazy, the doctor assured me, and I had to believe him, from the way I saw your back muscles tense and your eyes tighten while he blasted away at your fingers. Those were my only clues, though, since your posture remained straight and your voice steady as you counted for him through the pain: "One, two, three, four."

"He's a total stud," the doctor murmured to me on our way out. "You should hear the screams I usually get from kids." I smiled at him and patted you approvingly on the back, but what I was thinking as we walked out to the car is how he didn't know the half of it. No one does, really, because your true stud-liness is so humble and unassuming that most people miss it.
Dissecting a sheep's brain. No big deal.
Not that they miss it completely, of course. Your teachers like you. Your classmates like you. We ALL like you; we just can't help it! I think everyone you meet feels something of your kindness and your dependability. But it's the extent of it they don't realize, and since no one (including you) likes parents who brag about their offspring---well, when people compliment me on my fine oldest son, I try not to go on and on about you.

But I could, you know. Your brilliant mind deserves a paragraph of its own. I remember sitting in math class in high school, listening to the boys who sat in the back row talk about some number riddle they'd heard in a movie. "I immediately knew it wasn't right because an even plus an odd is always an odd," I remember one of them saying, and I thought, "Who THINKS like that?" Well, you do, it turns out. And let me remind you, I'm good at math! I went through calculus and I got A's, but I just don't have a mind that sorts logically through the universe, classifying it. But you! You find patterns in things I haven't even thought about. You think spatially (and not just with your Rubik's Cube, though you are the Rubik's Master). You make intuitive leaps. And, most wonderful of all, you delight in learning. It's not just math, it's not just science: it's the WORLD. It's LIFE that you love. The way it fits together, what things are called, what they mean. Every single time I introduce a new school unit to you---and I mean EVERY time, from Nuclear Power to Bunnies to the Civil War, you say, "Hooray! I can't wait!" And you mean it. I can picture you doing anything---writing books, making furniture, teaching school, inventing new technology, governing the country. You amaze me.
But you know what is maybe the coolest thing about you?---you know, if I were going to brag about you, which I'm not because it might be embarrassing for you. I think it's the way you treat other people. You're one of THE MOST considerate people I know, which is saying something, since your Dad is pretty amazing in that area himself. You change diapers. You unload groceries. You say, "Sit down, Mommy! I'll do the cleanup!" (What 11-year-old DOES that??) You entertain your siblings and make them speechless with laughter. You thank people. You spend hours creating presents and cards. You shovel the neighbors' snow. You scrub toilets. You say, "What can I do to help?"
And you know what? I don't think you were just born that way, although I do think you have been sensitive to others' feelings since you were a little boy. But I think you've worked at it, bit by bit, because you WANT to be that type of person. I've seen you reading your scriptures quietly in your room when you think no one is watching, and I've seen you writing down goals in your book: "No yelling." "Think of a fun game to play with Daisy." You've worked at being patient and keeping your temper, and you've worked at always apologizing when you're wrong, and now those are just things that are part of you, like your hair or your eyes. When Abe hurts someone he says he's sorry. When Abe makes a mess he cleans it up. Those are things I can just count on, and it's about the coolest feeling I've ever had as a parent, to see my son not just improving, but trying to improve---improving because he MEANS to, because he WANTS to. Do you know why that makes me so happy? It's because I know it's going to make your life happy. It's going to ensure that you have good friends and fulfilling relationships. No one can guarantee that good things are going to happen to you (though I wish I could!)---but when you're willing to always be making yourself into a better person, you can't help but bring happiness to yourself and others, no matter what hard things come your way. I love it that you are already realizing this and working hard to make yourself better all the time.
As I finish this post, you're starting up the dinner for me. (Crepes. Yum.) And I just keep thinking how lucky I am to be your mommy. To be honest, I didn't really know if I would like being a mom very much. I mean, I was pretty sure I'd find it fulfilling or satisfying or some other such noble-sounding word, but when I babysat other peoples' kids, even though they were funny and cute sometimes, I was always quite ready to be rid of them after a few hours. I wasn't sure how I'd do when I had a Totally Permanent baby of my own. But you made me into a Believer, Abe. You showed me that being a Mommy was the most challenging, interesting, absorbing, amazing job in the world, and I've never looked back. You were so darling, so sweet, so fun, that Daddy and I decided being parents was the greatest thing ever, and we threw ourselves into it with Great Enthusiasm (as shown by the five bouncing babies that followed our First Attempt). I don't think I can take much credit for you, but I sure am glad I have you. Thanks for being my Boy of Boys, Über-Abe. I love you most, most, most!



  1. Why yes! Clearly it is absurd that we have both gone along existing not knowing of one another's existence. How crazy that we even have half our kids with the same names! My oldest Abe I've always said "simply came good -- independent of anything I've done or made him" . . . it sounds like you even have that same situation with your own oldest child Abe!

    When I came over, I immediately clicked on your birth stories on the sidebar (funny how being pregnant makes some things rise high in their interest level -- I've been thinking about labor and birth with this one A LOT though). I must say, I am terribly jealous of your home births. That's a funny thing for me to say because it wasn't until AFTER having my 6th that it even occurred to me that home birth was a sane option. I'd never even thought of it before, but then two friends did it after my last, and the whole idea sounded so incredibly wonderful to me that I immediately began researching. Sadly, my husband is 100% uncomfortable with it. It goes far beyond any article I could show him about the complications caused by many hospital procedures and far beyond any article I could read him about safety. I think it might be rooted in his co-worker (and good friend) having had his wife die right after giving birth to their 4th. (Though, it wasn't as if it was a home birth issue -- she died in a hospital -- some terribly fluke that nobody caught. If it had happened at home, I'm sure that would be blamed however.)Anyway . . . I'm rambling. This pregnancy feels like it isn't just me. It's us. Me and my Mike, and it wouldn't work having him so opposed to it, so I'm moving on and letting go and hoping to still find the greater experience I am after regardless of where it all occurs. BUT, reading your stories made me think again of how beautiful a birth in one's own comforts and surroundings would be. Sigh.

    Glad to have come across you in this land of blog. Looking forward to learning from you (and your mothering of a troop of children) better!

  2. P.S. Ever since reading your Farjeon lyrics at the top of one of your birth stories, I've had "Morning has broken" in Cat Stevens' voice singing its way over and over through my head. Funny. I'd forgotten that song existed -- haven't heard it in probably 15 plus years. It doesn't take much to whip some memories back, does it!

  3. He is definitely a very special soul. I knew that the moment I heard him bear his testimony in church at a very young age. It wasn't your typical little kid testimony. He spoke the words of a faithful adult and I was touched.


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