Natie B.

Dearest Nathaniel Swift,

When I was pregnant with you I worried that I would not be able to love you as much as I loved Sam, who had been born to us two years earlier. I was so bowled-over by the love I felt for him that I couldn’t imagine slicing that in half or feeling the same way about another kid.

I couldn’t have been more off-base on that.

You joined us here in this world twenty-one years ago today, early in the morning, at the hospital in Bennington, the first among us — your dad’s family and mine — to be born in Vermont. Your name seems laughingly unsuitable now as you are the mellowest, most easy-going, not-swiftly-moving person I know. I wonder if that’s because your dad and I were listening to the Grateful Dead Hour on the way to the hospital. I wonder if it’s because I had an awesome midwife for your birth. I doubt, though, that it had anything to do with anything we had done or were doing here. I suspect you were already formed this way, long before we met you.

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Nate, I really don’t know which words are the right ones to use to tell you how amazing you are and how much I love you, on this day, your 21st birthday. I miss you, that much is clear, far away in Montana while your sister and I are waking up here in Vermont. There’s a whole pile of wood outside, Nate, that needs stacking! I wish you could come home for dinner tonight and church tomorrow and wood stacking in the afternoon.

But I also don’t wish that because I have seen the man you are becoming since you left home three years ago to study engineering and to live a truly inspirational life out there in Bozeman. I love every photo you send, of your skiing adventures and your camping adventures and your travels with your pack of awesome friends. I love that you have fashioned a whole new life for yourself, far away. I am so proud of you that the word “proud” seems hollow and meaningless. The thing that I feel so supercedes pride that it moves to a place of pure emotion, awe, respect, curiosity. Watching your life unfold is pure joy. Pure.

There are so many words to describe you, Nate: kind, patient, honest, present, gentle, empathic, smart, funny, handsome, generous. You know how to live simply, how to live in balance, you know what matters, already. You bring peace wherever you go, so much so that just being near you is a calming experience. You are so far ahead of the rest of us, Nate. The hardest part about loving you is the empty space you leave when you are gone. It’s palpable and oftentimes hard to get past or around.

Thank you so much, Nate, for role modeling everything all the rest of us need to know about how to be human. Natie B., Beanie, Natty Bumppo, Bobo Note, my God we have called you a lot of funny things over the years, haven’t we?

I know you already know this, but it bears repeating here, today: recently Coco and I were talking about this idea that you will fall in love with someone someday. We do that, of course, we talk about the women you and Sam will choose one day.

“Whoever she is,” Coco said, “she doesn’t know it yet, but she’s the luckiest girl alive.”

I concur. I most certainly should have been worried when I was pregnant with you, Nate, but not because of any scarcity of love; because knowing you and loving you and watching you grow and reveal who you are in this world would transform me, forever.

Happy birthday, my beautiful son. I hope it’s a perfect Bozeman day.

And also, I love you,