My own Santiago; I am sitting watching television when the light catches my eye shining on your Montessori graduation photo. It is one of those moments, like finding a white feather in an odd place that seems divinely inspired as the light gleams down on your angelic face in a particular way. Your photo is altar-like, framed by four shells collected from Gormonston beach after your moving crèche ceremony.
Only the hardest of hearts could not well up at 28 pre-schoolers singing ‘you can count on me like 1-2-3’ complete with actions.
All you wanted to do afterwards was go to the beach and so we did. You collected four shells – one for each of your family and we painted them when we got home. I only realise now, how fitting the shell is in this montage on the desk. The shell, the symbol of St James – Santiago.
You were always going to be ‘James’ from the moment you were conceived. From before I even had a scan. The sonographer said ‘how did you know?’
It was a physically and emotionally difficult pregnancy. Having already miscarried once and being nearly 40, the hospital tried to predict all kinds of medical dilemmas culminating in one rather unhelpful doctor telling me ‘but my dear, these tests are only odds, anything could go wrong between now and the birth’.
Your father left me in the middle of it all. Work was daily torture I was so tired. I also had a thesis due. And the third trimester trailed on endlessly through the heatwave of 2013. And I waited. Waited endlessly for the weather to break, the rain to come and something good to happen. You are being watched over by your very own saint.
I went into labour two weeks early on his feast day – 25th July. And you literally slipped into the world within minutes in what would become indicative of your impatient nature, surprising all around you. A healthy, screaming bundle of red-faced, beautiful, baby boy.
And if you look around your picture, the past and the present is around you as well as the promise of what I hope is your future. Underneath you is a picture of your great grandfather’s shop in Parnell Street which he proudly ran with your great grandmother before he tragically died in a plane crash in 1956 in Weston aerodrome.
Be enterprising. To your right, is a Royal Liver letter-holder. A commonplace item on the hall table in great granny’s house. My granny had lots of ‘penny policies’ as they were known in that time to cash in on, for a rainy day. Be penny-wise, not pound foolish. But remember it is easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.
To the left is a globe. Discover the world and the people on it. Find your own secrets of your heart but know that above all differences in skin colour and culture, we are really deep down all the same. We all want the best lives we can afford and the best for our children.
There’s a bottle of Quink ink and a pencil. Record your thoughts and your memories. Know that this too whatever ‘this’ is, shall pass. The good and the bad. Hold the good tight and let the bad fly away with the wind. Learn good penmanship. It’s a sign of class and you’ll get better grades if the examiners don’t have to struggle to read your papers.
Be literate. Read widely. There’s whole new worlds awaiting you never imagined in books. The limit of your language is truly the limit of your world. Be able to speak your truth articulately in whatever company you hold. More importantly, know when to keep your mouth firmly shut. Be kind. Kindness is often underrated. Never confuse kindness with weakness.
There’s a small tea light candle. Be a force of light against the darkness, however small you may think it may be. You never know whose path you may shine a light on as well as your own.
All these things came together by accident. There are no accidents. Only synchronicity.
One day I hope to walk the Camino de Santiago when you are old enough to bring with me or leave behind (as if). But you ain’t heavy. For now though, you are my own way through the darkness and the light of my life. My raison d’etre. The reason I get up in the morning.
Goodnight sweet one. Be lucky. Be happy. Mam loves you. x