Release & Catch

One of my favorite things about this time of year is seeing the mamma birds playing up in the sky with their babies. Maybe they're daddy birds, I don't know, but I always think of them as mammas, showing their wee ones how it's done, readying them to go off on their own into the vast and enchanting world.

We launched one of our own last Saturday. Connor Thomas O'Brien, my brother, Tom's, son, graduated from high school near Albany. Like all commencements, it was a powerful moment. When Connor was born he arrived with the umbilical cord wrapped so tight around his neck that he lost oxygen for a time and everyone wondered if that would have an impact on his development. The week before he graduated, Con was chosen as the Male Athlete of the Year at Guilderland High School. He is poetry in motion on the soccer field and was a tennis star as well. Whatever sport Connor has chosen over the years, he's mastered. Clearly the cord choking him had no impact; if anything it made him stronger, a survivor.

In addition to being a gifted athlete, Connor is a lovely, lovely human being. Soft-spoken, he looks you in the eye when you're talking to him. He is funny and so goddamned handsome that it knocks us all off our feet. The kids in this family just keep getting more interesting, taller, stronger and more solid than any of us were at these ages.

A few days after we gathered to give Connor a loving heave-ho into the future, my other brother, Steve, and his wife welcomed their second son: Justin Silver O'Brien. Born on 7/1, weighing in at 7 pounds, 1 ounce. Justin is the seventh grandson twig to grow on this funky family tree.

There were many auspicious signs surrounding the arrival of the little man yesterday: the first song I listened to in the morning was Sting's Love is the Seventh Wave. Throughout the day, references to the ocean (the newest toe-head is blessed to be living in California, not far from the sea) and the number seven kept appearing. "Seven is the number of completeness and perfection. It derives much of its meaning from being tied directly to God's creation of all things."

OK. Wow.

Boys, the very good news here is that you are part of a wide circle of intelligence, curiosity and devotion in this family. We cover the entire continent, from Fairbanks to Briarcliff Manor. Close your eyes and imagine, if you can, all of us standing with open arms, delighted to receive you in this cast of incredible and absurd characters. You will never be alone, you will never be without love; you will always be expected to do your best. You have aunts and uncles and cousins and grandparents who adore you. The safety net of your existence is strong and colorful. Fall often. We will catch your weary bones and steady you back up. If you need, Pa will build you something from wood or fix whatever's broken, and Nanna will prepare a meal for you that goes on for hours. We are engineers and teachers and professors and builders and gardeners and ministers and bakers and athletes. And dreamers and creators and writers and photographers and designers. We like to do things. We love to play outside; we like to sit and talk. Right around the time you were being born, little J-Man, I was sending my application to the state of Vermont to officiate at the wedding of your Uncle Tommy and soon-to-be Auntie Stacey. In just a month our family will grow exponentially to embrace the big, wild and wooly Gerrish clan. Man-oh-man, I'm in constant disbelief of the grace and the luck and the beautiful and divine madness of it all. 

Sweet baby J, and C. Thomas, you cousins are are at very different and also very similar places in the story of a life. You are both beginning. You are both at the threshold to newness and possibility. I wish you infinite courage in your lifetimes. Find your wings and your pocket of warm air, my dreamy nephews. I'll be standing right here on the ground, watching in wonder.