It’s not like I haven’t engaged in some pretty in depth conversations with my kids. I certainly have. I do feel though, that there’s something special about the sense of safety inherent in the written word. There, you’re free to speak your mind, knowing that each word will be heard and measured with great care, even reviewed from time to time.
Birthdays and holidays were always auspicious times for writing letters to my kids, but there were other times too, when a conversation couldn’t quite convey a feeling properly. Perhaps when there was too much commotion in the house, or maybe when the things I wanted to say went just beyond everyone’s (my own included) comfort level.
It’s the same way with a song. You can pretty much say anything you like behind the duckblind of rhythm and melody. Here are a few letters that could just as easily have been songs. I wrote them to my children, who, along with my wise and beautiful wife, are my most precious gifts by far.
Note: There are a few words in Hebrew and Yiddish in these letters that you might not recognize.
- Tatty – is father in Yiddish, it’s what my kids call me.
- Nachas, is one of the many Hebrew words for joy. Just as the Inuits have many different words for snow, we Jews have several words for expressing joy. Nachas is the opposite of schadenfreude. It’s the joy one gets from the accomplishments and successes of a loved one.
- Pesach is the Hebrew word for the holiday of Passover.
- Shabbos is the Hebrew word for Sabbath
- K”H – this is something we write as an act of humility.
This is a short note to let you know that I’m in your corner and that I have nothing but pride for you, and faith in you. I know that this time seems very difficult… the end of one road and the beginning of another – and all that sort of rubbish.
The main thing to know is that you needn’t worry and you needn’t say that ‘things will work out well.’ The fact is, they are already working out well.
Honestly, M——- isn’t and never was any kind of answer for you.
You have a unique soul and a unique perspective. I believe that you can anticipate finding your place among the lemmings very difficult. So don’t even look there.
Like I’ve said to you repeatedly, (and never so urgently as now,) dream up what it is you long for, and calculate a plan to get there.
Remember the first (and most fun part) is the dreaming.
It has to be your dream though.
No one else’s.
Listen to: Laugh My Beloved
Dearest —–, my beautiful rare snowflake, and powdered sugar loveliness,
It’s really no surprise that your birthdays are often so fraught. As I think about it, even on the day you were born, you were pushing away sadness (I’ll fill you in on the exact details one day) and making room for the joy and the light that was yours to bring to the world. It’s a tough job though, but there’s nobody better qualified to do it than you.
Right now there’s a bit of talk about money and taxes and tuitions and all that at the homestead. I say; if there’s ever too much concern about all that, we must be totally missing the point. In my opinion, you are worth more than every cent that’s ever been made, more than all the diamonds that have ever been unearthed, more than all the gold, more than all the silver… even more than every scoop of peach ice cream that’s ever been scooped.
Whenever I’m with you I’m always in a good mood. You’re so funny and pretty k”h and smart and fun to be with.
My blessing for you is that you’ll be happy and healthy and inspired and taken care of and adored.
Seventeen’s a pretty old age. You’ll be leaving the nest soon. Gulp! And that’ll be bittersweet for sure. One thing to remember is that you come from a home where everyone loves everyone and that we have values and ideals. I love you adhesive tape! Now let’s eat some RFD!
“Taco o the town for me”
I love you,
Listen to: Sweet Tears of Joy
It’s time again for me to write you a birthday note. Notice I never send cards? One year I’ll surprise you with a Hallmark – Dad to Daughter card. It’ll say something like:
Happy birthday to my special gal!
I don’t make my own cards because I’m trying to save money (as if you didn’t know.) I do it because even I have trouble expressing how much love/nachas/pride I have for you; certainly some dork in a card company cubicle couldn’t do it for me.
I think of you like I do the most beautiful dream. A dream in which, I’ve been given the greatest gift in the world by God Himself. Not that I idealize you – my dream is all about you in reality. I love all the aspects of you, the wonderful things and even the ones that are… less so – if I could ever remember what those were.
It’s like my song for you was prescient in so many ways. May I quote my own song? Are you laughing that I’m quoting from my own song? I don’t care. I can be the brunt of jokes from you anywhere, anytime.
“There’s so little in this world that’s true, I have boundless dreams for you…”
And also… hysterically, (you’ll be laughing again, and soon) something I once said about you in an interview:
There are moments of great anguish that allow a person to see beyond themselves. To see the crooked reach of a tree branch and marvel at it’s asymmetrical balance, to miss someone so much that the longing takes on a physical dimension. To feel a grief that makes one lose sight of the passage of time. We pray for just such sensations of wonder. But our prayers are complicated because we need the means to be different. We want to arrive at that sense of awe through overwhelming joy. Raina is that joy. She’s both my prayer and G-d’s answer back to me.
It’s almost Shabbos and I can’t believe that last week we were all together. It seems like a much longer time.
What more can I share with you? You are my delight, you are my nachas.
May G-d bless you with health, happiness, and success and may you be blessed to know love like the love I have for you.
Listen to: Raina
I didn’t forget to write you a birthday letter. I simply chose to deliver it now on the auspicious day of Pesach. That my name is the same name as the holiday and that your entry into the world happened on the second Seder must not be a coincidence.
I know you think I read into things too deeply but I can’t help myself, here goes:
For me, you represent a liberation from the mundane things of the world, a sense of something that transcends the day-to-day and looks beyond, to something greater. “The hub son, never forget the hub.” I know you never do.
Thank you for slowly initiating me into the world of basketball. It’s a surprising universe that I couldn’t have stumbled into by myself. Thank you also for being such a beautiful young man – inside and out. The nachas I get from you overwhelms me.
I wish you health, happiness, and the fulfillment of all your dreams for good. You are my special one.
With much love,
Listen to: Josiah