To my unborn daughter,
May your intellect and humor propel the human race forward. May your kindness inspire nations to beat swords into plowshares. May your beauty dazzle brighter than all the stars in the sky.
And, most of all, may you be a colossal pain in the butt.
The women who came before you – who dug, pounded and paved the path to your existence – these women were giants. They didn’t do what they were told. They didn’t make the easy decisions. They didn’t shut up when shutting up would probably have been a pretty good idea. You wouldn’t be here if they had.
One of your great-grandmothers was an intellectual, a philosopher and an ideologue. She left a wealthy, comfortable pre-war life in Holland to become a farmer in Israel. Zionism was fine and dandy, but after allowing their daughter to attempt to irrigate a hostile desert for a few years, her parents traveled to Israel to bring her home. She wouldn’t budge. They returned to Holland and were killed by the Nazis. She stayed put and, literally, built a nation.
Your other great-grandmother slipped from the grip of the Nazis by leaving behind everything and everybody she loved. By the time the war ended, she had made it from Poland to the very border of China. The people in my grandmother’s town who didn’t run, who believed they were living in a time of political upheaval and not unprecedented evil, those people are lost to history. Meanwhile, your great-grandmother didn’t just live, she thrived: her first daughter was born on the run. Her second, my mother, was born in a refugee camp after the war.
That feisty redheaded refugee baby was raised in Israel, where she threw rocks at the prison housing Eichmann and caused all kinds of mischief. The tiny country wasn’t big enough to contain her, so she moved here, to America. And that’s where I was born.
The urge to fly the nest is in our DNA, little one. When it came time for college, I picked a spot as far away from home as I could (well, one with a good journalism program). Your grandfather’s proud chest sank when the acceptance letter came. It was there that I met your dad. Your grandmother tried my whole life to indoctrinate in me the desire to marry a rich, Jewish boy from a good home. Your dad was none of these. My mother did what she could to break up the romance – everything from setting me up with other men to threatening your father – but I walked down the aisle, anyway (to the “Star Wars” theme, no less).
Had any one of these women listened – listened to reason, listened to the pervasive wisdom of the time, listened to their mothers – you would not be kicking me in the ribs right now. And, girl friend, those kicks are strong!
I can’t imagine what the world holds in store for you. Or what you hold in store for the world. I just trust that whatever path I try to put you on, you likely won’t follow. You’ll stomp on the flowerbeds I arrange on the side of your road; you’ll race headlong into that forest I’ll have always warned you about.
And you’ll be fine.
Because as you trample along shaky, rarely trodden slopes, I know that you’ll be stepping in your mother’s and mother’s mother’s defiant footsteps.