We are yet to meet.
Even your name has been a mystery to your progenitors until recently. But don’t take that as a sign that we’re being slightly too casual about your imminent arrival, for that earth-shattering moment when parents embrace their first born consumes our every thought.
Some basic facts and guidelines to get you started on planet Earth:
First, a few words about your likely physical and psychological attributes based on genetic inheritance. As you’re not a boy, I can thankfully skip right past issues relating to whether or not male appendage size skips a generation and move swiftly on to extremities. Both your mother and I are pretty skinny, so get used the idea that you’re not going to end up representing your country (whichever that turns out to be) at weight-lifting or the shot put. If you’re lucky you’ll get you mother’s calves, which can at least be seen with the naked eye. On the plus side, you’re not going to end up a looking like the pillsbury dough boy on steroids, and that’s got to be a good thing.
So, what of the personality that both nature and nurture are likely to bless you with? Well, let me start by reporting – with all due humility – that your parents are decent, law-abiding folk, with a penchant for what the English refer to as Queensberry Rules, or what the Australians like to call ‘a fair go’. If you’re a businessman, a human rights campaigner, or the holder of dissenting opinion in China, on the other hand, you call it a fantasy. You can be thankful of this parental gift, for it is the one that guarantees you will stand up for what morality demands is justified, and support those who are denied their fundamental rights by oppressors.
You see, daughter, there are some
seriously bad fuckers really naughty boys and girls (mostly boys, it has to be said) in this world, and while it is adviseable to avoid these people wherever possible, when they attempt to impose their own jaundiced view of the world upon you, you must meet them head on. At such times, I have every hope that you will confront the enemies of freedom with reasoned argument and compassion in equal measure.
But that kind of stuff comes later. For the first year or so you need only be concerned with demands for nourishment, sleeping soundly, and feigning delight when your toneless father sings to you. That you will be cared for in a loving environment is a given, but for every thing we know for certain there are a million unknowns, daughter. I know that we’ll provide a safe and comfortable home for you, but I don’t know exactly where that will be; I know that we’ll feed your imagination with a rich palette of language and ideas, but I have no idea how you will choose to organise and express your resulting thoughts; and I know that you’ll make lots of friends, but I can’t tell you who they will be or what their names are. I also know that there will be moments of frustration with the unfairness of this world (yes, my daughter, there will be some). At such times you may be tempted to vent your frustration irrationally and inappropriately. We promise to imbue with the serene fortitude that will, by degrees, teach that resisting this urge is the healthier course. Instead, we hope that you will work through such pent-up emotions through exercise and sporting endeavour. For example.
In addition to these conundrums, you’ll be born in Australia of a British father and a Chinese mother. Dispel forthwith any notions that this state of affairs is a cultural identity crisis-in-waiting, for you will enter this world as a citizen of the planet, and there is no finer earthly identity than that. Your mother is carrying you right now, as she has done lovingly for 34 weeks already. Until she walked into my life the window of opportunity for fatherhood seemed to be closing. I love her deeply, even when she hides chocolate from me. You will, too (love her, that is, not hide the chocolate).
One more thing, daughter: there are those in this world that will try to tell you that God will protect you. They’re wrong. Protecting you, loving you, and raising you are the primary responsibilities of me and your mother. Though it is our considered opinion that we are the sole creators of your flesh, blood, and dimples, we acknowledge your right to search for – and find – your own belief system when the time comes. And we cherish the prospect of being witness to your individuality, and to your unique journey of discovery in this world. With this journey in mind, your name, as you will be aware by now, is Ulyssa – the female form of Homer’s intrepid explorer. And that is what we intend to raise you to be: an explorer of the unknown; a traveler in search of knowledge, much as Tennyson described in the poem Ulysses:
To follow knowledge like a sinking star;
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought
Ulyssa, you are by an order of magnitude the most incredible and important thing that has ever happened in the lives of your parents. We await your arrival in a few short weeks with a heady mixture of anticipation and wonder. At that time it will be your mother that does all the hard work. For my part, I get to cut the chord and thereby perform my first act of facilitating your path to independence. It’s going to be a hell of a ride, Ulyssa, and we are blessed to be part of it.
It’s ten years to the day since 9/11, and I weep for all those lost, and for the children who said goodbye to their parents for the last time that morning.