A Painted House

Dear James: Month Five

Posted on: January 5, 2011

Note:  Readers from my former blog will be familiar with the monthly letters I write to my babies for the first two years of their lives.   As each new letter will be posted here I will be moving over all previous letters to my archives for continuity.  Thanks for your patience as I work on all this administrative stuff!

Original post date: September 16, 2008

Dear James

Today you turn five months old.  Your five-month birthday comes at the end of a harrowing weekend where our neighbor’s house caught on fire twice, your Dad lost his pager right before a 24-hour shift, and the remnants of a hurricane blew through our area and knocked out our power.  To top it all off, you’ve been sick for about a week now with a wracking cough that’s not improving nearly fast enough for your father’s and my likings.  I hope you never say that your childhood was boring, James, but should you choose to remember it as dull I’ll remind you of this weekend, when six fire trucks lined up end-to-end down our street to try and prevent us from celebrating your first five months of life by toasting marshmallows over the remnants of our possessions.

As to your illness, we took you to the doctor yesterday and confirmed that you have bronchitis.  This translates in everyday life to sounding like you’ve been smoking three packs a day since the development of your lungs, in utero.  Which we all know isn’t true, we’ve limited you to one pack per day.  But we wanted to let your doctor know that you’ve been sick, in case we need to call them and ask for a prescription when we’re away this weekend visiting your grandparents.  Your Grandma and Grandpa Pierce are so excited to see you, by the way, that they’re practically turning inside out. I’m a little afraid that by the time we finally make it there on Thursday they’ll look like two chickens set out to thaw. Anyway, we were able to bring home some medicine to help break up the congestion in your chest.  The same medicine, incidentally, of which I took the grown-up version when I was pregnant with you and which resulted in your completing a double pirouette, triple somersault, and round-off back handspring within the confines of my body.  It could make you a bit hyper, they warned us.  I’ve already removed most of the breakables from our shelves because taking into consideration the rate at which you kick your legs when you’re not on uppers, I’m fairly certain you might take off and circle the room a couple of times.  Or perhaps you’ll make a visit to your faithful friend and mentor, the ceiling fan.  Should you do so, please dust it while you’re up there, your Daddy keeps reminding me that it appears to be growing a sweater.

I’m sure your cough wasn’t helped by the repeated instances of standing outside in the rain and smoke-filled air on Friday night, as the house next door burned.  If you were a little older you would have found the fire trucks and firemen fascinating, the flashing lights and cool crane and huge hoses gushing water.  But as you’re only five months old, you mostly found it loud and disruptive to your bedtime.  I mentioned earlier that the house caught on fire twice – the first time during the day and the second after you’d already been put to bed.  Your Dad detected the rekindled fire and rushed in to tell me to get you and head across the street to the safety of the neighbor’s house while he dialed 911.  I didn’t even stop to put on shoes, I just grabbed you out of your crib, wrapped you in a blanket, and carried you across the street, all the while murmuring both words of comfort to you and a prayer to Jesus, to please protect our home.  I think I’d like to submit my request now that you don’t become a fireman, James.  Firemen have an awfully dangerous job, as we saw first-hand, and I’m not sure I could handle knowing you were in that kind of danger on a daily basis. I didn’t sleep hardly at all the rest of that night, afraid that despite the thorough efforts of the firemen and the pouring rain, that the fire could somehow outlast it all and once again, spring to life and threaten your safety.  Should you really feel the need to wear the fire-fighting gear, I’m sure we can come up with some Wellington rain boots, gardening gloves, a swimming face mask, those rubber trout-fishing pants with the suspenders, and I can tack a plastic mud flap to the back of your dad’s wide-brimmed gardening hat.  That will work, won’t it?

In reality, you slept through the whole ordeal, completely unconcerned.  It’s amazing to me that all you require to feel safe is the presence of your parents, to be held in our arms.  In your mind we can protect you from anything, just as when we were kids we placed our complete trust in our parents’ ability to protect us.  It’s a sobering, humbling thought, James, because I know that I’m not capable of shielding you from every hurt and harm, though I’d give anything to do so.  My love for you, though endless, is not enough to keep you safe from all this world throws at us.  But Jesus’ love is.  There’s a security and a peace in being a child of God, James, which I could never provide.  It’s my prayer that as you grow up you’ll come to know this for yourself, recognize your need for a relationship with your Creator, the great Healer, the source of true Light when you feel plunged into darkness, the One who controls the fires that rage in our lives.  His arms are truly the only place where you can truly rest without worry, no matter how the lights flash or the flames rise.

Love,  Mama

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