Today’s post is an open letter to my daughter E. in celebration of her one-year birthday this Thursday, the 15th of January, which is also the day the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and my sister!) was born.
Initially, I sat down to write this from scratch in Spanish since that is the language I use exclusively with her, but I just couldn’t. Living in the States, I do most of my thinking in English even though I spend most of it speaking in Spanish (strange, I know. I’ll save an analysis of why for a later blog post.) I found that what came most naturally from my head to my fingers was a mix of Spanish and English. (In case you’re wondering, this is code-switching. I write about it in this post.)
So, here it is: una carta a mi hija in remembrance of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Mi querida hija E.,
Mañana cumples un añito. ¡Cómo pasa el tiempo! Doce meses de vida. Nunca pensé que llegaría este día, pero ha llegado, y para conmemorarlo te dedico estas palabras.
They say first borns take their time to enter this world, usually arriving well past their due date. Not you! Llegaste rápido y con mucha intensidad. Desde la primera contracción hasta que apareció esa melena negra: nueve horas y media. Según los médicos, you arrived four days early (I would disagree…). Either way, you came on your own time. And, I’m glad that you did.
I’m not going to share my birth story in painstaking detail. No, not here on the Internet. Maybe one day when you’re older we can sit down over un café con leche y te lo cuento todo.
All births are unique, all birthdays special. So, it would be nothing new to say yours was unique, but it is special to me and to your papá. You have changed our lives and le damos gracias a Dios por eso.
Your being born on the same day as the great civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has inspired this birthday letter to you.
Hay mucho que admirar y mucho que podemos aprender de este gran hombre, y aunque sé que eres – y serás – tu propia persona, there are characteristics that made him great and that I have already begun to see in you. These are traits that I pray will grow deeper and stronger as you grow older.
Un corazón grande –
During one of our many paseos diarios en familia, tu padre y yo íbamos discutiendo algún tema lingüístico (no me acuerdo cual…) and I began to worry about the future: can we afford the local bilingual school when you turn two? what if you refuse to speak Spanish? what if we never return to live in Spain? Y tu padre, con sabiduría, nos paró, allí en medio de la acera. Mirándome a los ojos, me dijo, Audrey, “lo más importante es que nuestra hija tenga un corazón grande.”
He’s right. You could speak ten languages, but without a big heart, they mean nothing. In the words of St. Paul, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” Así que, hija, usa tus palabras para amar a los demás.
Ser valiente –
Hija mía, oro por ti todos los días. I don’t know why, but God placed it on my heart, from the very day you were born to pray that you would be grow up to be valiente (brave).
Valiente when the day is dark and the night is scary.
Valiente when you feel lonely: to remember that you are never alone.
Valiente to choose what is right even when it is harder to take the easy way out.
Pasión, por la justicia –
Carácter, intensidad, pasión e incluso a veces ira.
You may be petite (eres nuestra pitufa), but you’re full of fire. At twelve months, you’re leaving behind the land of babyhood to enter toddlerhood and with it come las rabietas: you hate being forced to wear mittens in the cold or socks at night; you refuse to eat manzanas, preferring Cheerios; you have a will, a passionate one, and you’re starting to make it known.
Dr. King, too, was passionate. He had a passion for justice, and he fought to make it a reality for those who thought it was only a dream.
I pray that you, too, in your own way, in your world, will fight for what is right, fight for those who cannot fight. Use that carácter, esa intensidad e ira for good. To fight for justice.
Tu bilinguismo para eliminar barreras –
Dr. King was gifted with a sharp mind, a mesmerizing voice, a command for the written word, and a relentless faith in God. But, what made him truly great is that he did not keep those gifts to himself, but rather used them to serve others in a quest to eliminate walls of separation and discrimination.
Asimismo, hija, te animo a que uses tus palabras, tanto en inglés como en español, junto a esa sonrisa tan contagiosa que tienes, para eliminar barreras.
Instead of viewing your bilingualism as a way to pad your resumé, see it as a tool with which to serve others.
As the microphone for those whose voice is a but a whisper.
As the bridge that closes the gap between two different groups.
As the song that brings joy when there is sadness.
I view your bilingualism as a gift, but unlike most gifts, which are meant to be kept and enjoyed by the recipient, I pray that you will use it for others.
Te quiero, mi hija. Eres mi pitufa, a veces gamberra, nuestra “hola amapola,” la siempre Doña Croqueta. Nuestro tesoro.
I leave you with the words of Israel’s former King David, the words I prayed over you each day as I watched my belly grow and my heart expand. Never forget them.
Porque tú formaste mis entrañas Tú me hiciste en el vientre de mi madre. Te alabaré; porque formidables, maravillosas son tus obras; estoy maravillado, y mi alma lo sabe muy bien.