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To My Son On His First Birthday

Dear Declan,

Well, little man, it is hard to believe that a mere 366 days ago you were but a tiny little burst of potential in your mother's womb, as now you are our entire world. You are our son, but you are also our sun, the life-giving center around which all good things revolve. Our bodies might not give out immediately were we ever to be denied your life-giving heat and warmth, but our spirits and souls surely would.

Before you were born, we met with a Rabbi to talk about your Hebrew name and decided upon Simcha Shalom. We have a long history of depression in our family and we hoped that by giving you a such a happy name we could reverse that. We never could have imagined just how much joy you would bring not only us, but everyone you come into contact with.

I have never encountered anybody who could make people so deliriously happy just by being happy himself. But you radiate not only sweetness and light, but also pure joy, and that joy is infectious. Your smile is enduring proof of the universe's fundamental benevolence. Your laughter lights up a room.

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Though you regularly soil yourself and have not yet been able to alchemize your babbling into coherent, discernible language, you are the coolest, most interesting and fun person I know, and easily have the best hair. I can only imagine what a remarkable human being you will be once you add walking and talking to an already dazzling mix of virtues and strengths.

This has been a tough year in a lot of ways. I lost my job, some of my longest and most important friendships ended dramatically and painfully and we had to move from my hometown of Chicago to a basement in the strange suburb of Marietta, Georgia because we could no longer afford a non-basement lifestyle. Yet despite all this change and upheaval, you made this, if not the single happiest year of my life, then one of them. You have been the greatest inspiration and motivation a man could have.

You will likely never know how much you mean to your mom and me, the way you've filled our lives with meaning and purpose and given us a new and wonderful identity

It saddens me that I did not take to fatherhood immediately, that I was not as present and involved as I could have been because I was scared and intimidated by the massive responsibility of adulthood. As an alum of Chicago's group home system, I was all too cognizant of the infinite ways that families can shatter and parents can fail their children. I was terrified of passing on my brokenness and sadness onto you like a genetic curse but in your glorious first year on earth, you have shown an incredible genius for happiness. It seemingly comes easy to you, like charming strangers or growing and evolving every day.

You don't even have to do anything to make your mom and dad deliriously happy. It's enough to simply watch you casually chomp on Cheerios in your high chair or play nicely with your toys. You will likely never know how much you mean to your mom and me, the way you've filled our lives with meaning and purpose and given us a new and wonderful identity: we are Declan's parents, and nothing I've accomplished in my professional life can possibly compare with that.

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Your mother and I regularly marvel that we could have collectively created something so wonderful. We have no idea what we could have possibly done to deserve such an incredible gift, but we will never stop working to prove ourselves worthy of you. And nothing makes me happier than to see the joy in your mother's eyes as she takes in the wonder that is you.

I appreciate that you let me hang out with you and be part of your entourage even though I'm nowhere near as cool or as popular as you. I would imagine that you let me be part of your crew because I am your dad but the truth is that you're kind to everybody, whether they are related to you or not.

So happy first birthday, our beloved Declan Haven Dilla Rabin. You've got an actual age now (one!) instead of just a collection of months, but you will always be our baby.



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