On the beginnings of persons
Lately I have gotten to know some fantastic kids. I can barely go anywhere without meeting the newest additions to families, and it is more common to see the two-legged kind as opposed to the four-legged kind. I am presently preparing to meet four new people next February. This latest cycle of “Welcome to the ex-utero side of the planet” is particularly special as I prepare to greet my nephew.
I’m new to this whole aunt business and try to envision how settling in to this “cool aunt” role is going to be. Yet, I already marvel at the vocabulary required to introduce you to this fantastic little person forming in utero. Because incidentally, I lacked a way to introduce him that made sense until I knew that it was appropriate to call him my nephew.
Parents, on the other hand, have some flexibility. They are having a baby. They are welcoming their child. Yet, it is equally hard to begin to thinking about the rest of the conversation because invariably the discussion turns to names. Naming a child means providing a person with their called identity within the world. Our name allows us to turn our heads and respond to the person entreating us. Our name permits us a level of self-recognition that helps us navigate the world, knowing when it is our turn. And we have a rather distinct convention about boy names and girl names, even if those conventions change over time and even if I take rather imaginative joy in brainstorming lists that tend to throw the whole system. [As an aside, I was totally shocked when I first looked at an icon of St Hilliary and encountered an older, bearded fellow with intense eyes.]
Now admittedly, I am a person big on the pragmatics. How is the couple doing at the news? Is everyone healthy? Do things seem to be progressing normally? How may I be of service? Yet, there is something intrinsically not pragmatic about the joy of appreciating a new person as an incredibly special child of God, entrusted to the care of the parents and the broader community.
Because incidentally this story is not about me. This story is about a fantastic little person I hope very much to get to know over the course of many years. Yet, before I knew him to be my nephew, it’s really hard to introduce him to others. [For the record, I would be equally cool if a little niece surprised me.] But I couldn’t introduce him as “my child” or “my baby” because everyone would think me to be the pregnant or adopting one. “Baby, to be named later” doesn’t work very well either. But there is a question of discovery associated with the beginning of persons. And available vocabulary to keep the focus on them strikes me as rather peculiar.