Richard Haddad is recently retired from a career managing support services functions in the public and private sectors. A resident of Westminster, Maryland, he has been writing on the side – articles, essays, fiction and satire – since college. Because his wife Valorie’s first child, by a previous marriage, was brain-damaged during birth and suffered severe physical and mental disabilities as a result, the birth of her second child, Ashleigh, a healthy baby, was a very special event for the family. Richard and Valorie’s son Jonathan was born 18 months later, in December of 1986. To make sure he gave Jon his due, Richard wrote this letter to him the day after he was born, and gave it to him on his 18thbirthday.
Dear Jonathan Michael,
I hope you don’t ever feel cheated the way some people do because your birthday comes a couple of days after Christmas. I worried a little about that in the months before you were born, but now that you’re here, I feel that there probably isn’t a better time of the year for a birthday celebration. There’s so much good feeling in the air to begin with. Anyway, your mom and I will make sure you have lots of especially happy ones as you’re growing up
I want you to know that as happy and climactic a time as Christmas always is for me, and as really perfect as this past Christmas was, I had a very strong sense of it as a warm-up exercise: an opening act with colored lights and sentimental music and great food, the purpose of which was to get everyone in the right frame of mind for the main event – you.
So before you were even born, you changed (for the better) the way I experienced a particular Christmas, and I don’t doubt that your birth will have the effect of adding a special touch to all my future Christmases as well. Please keep that in mind when anyone asks you how it feels to have your birthday “overshadowed” by Christmas.
Yesterday, I watched a doctor lift your head from your mother’s body. I watched you take your first breath, heard your first cry, and after one of the nurses had cleaned you up a bit, I held you close and, through my surgical mask, gave you your first kiss.
The only way for you to understand how special those moments were for me would be to experience them yourself – being with a woman you love more than anything, watching the birth of a child you made with her, then cuddling your newborn. I hope it happens to you some day: maybe in my lifetime so we can talk about it; but for now, you’ll just have to take my word for it that the excitement of Christmas pales in comparison.
I promise you that as long as our family is together you are going to have as good a childhood as it’s possible for anyone to have. I can make that promise to you because of the amount and intensity of the love that exists among us. It’s a love which will warm you, and nurture you, and heal you when you need healing, help you overcome any problems, and teach you everything you need to know about how to be happy in life.
Like your sister Ashleigh before you, you exist, my Christmas baby, because of that love. There isn’t a force in life stronger than it. Together with your own unique characteristics, that love makes you a very special person, and gives you the power to make your life meaningful and the sense that you make a difference to life.
That’s our birth-day gift to you. Grow in it and give it to others in your own life. Always know that I love you and that I’m happy to be your father and that your being has made me a better person.