It would behoove me to explain the nature of a letter written to you so casually, one penned so long before you even exist. Plato, a man you will someday learn not to confuse with your childhood pastime, once said that when we began writing we began forgetting. I am cursed with the gift of forgetting.
But there are things I’ve remembered, snapshots of time that I have tucked away and hope someday to pass along to you. Some of them are stories, leather-bound tales I’ve tucked away into my heart, invaluable to only a few on this world. One day I will dust them off and hand them over to you, probably again and again and again, to the extent that you will roll your eyes and sigh with your then teenage friends. And I’ll laugh because that is the way of things. But I hope you still hold them close to your heart, somewhere beneath the pubescent mannerisms and other facades of the age.
Others are just moments. Moments that I’ve seen and wish to live a million times more, moments of subtle brilliance and quiet redemption that shine like a thousand sunrises all around me. These are the most difficult to pass along and begs the occasion of this letter. For the sake of moments, I must try.
Because I was out walking earlier this morning when a sight caught my eye. It was a tire swing, hanging from a giant oak tree swaying slowly in the February breeze. It floated silently above the snow trodden by the feet of a thousand adventurers below it. Likewise the swing too ventured then returned, all within the confines of the rope by which it hung. It circled back again. It lifted. It dropped.
And that was all.
I thought of how I recently heard another newly married gentleman list “learning to apologize” as one of his favorite hobbies. I felt stupid; I’d said skiing. Make no mistake: your mother is the type of person that is worth apologizing too. She’s the type of woman you go back to again and again to say: “I’m sorry” no matter how minuscule, trite or misplaced the offense.
Which is to say that when I saw the tire swing it reminded me of myself, in a way that only grace can. I wish I could tell you I am brave and humble or that I ever was. I wish I could tell you that for some moment in my life I have faced the world anew with something like courage or that saying sorry came easy. But if there is anything left to say of me it is that I am like that swing: I am fun when twisted the right way but firm enough to make an apology a difficult ordeal. I’m flexible when pressed, though not enough to hold to something with any sense of conviction. But I am tied down, held in place, by a rope that took hold of me before I was aware of myself enough to notice or resist.
And so there is grace for me in this moment and in all of them. Despite my other shortcomings I do not fall to the snow beneath, the snow which is itself a testimony to the purpose I have served, the purpose of underdogs and merry-go-rounds. Instead I remain and I explore. I go on.
I hope you don’t turn out like me in many ways. I hope you don’t learn from me an ability to swear, argumentative temper or how to find people’s buttons and then push them as a hobby (though it is one hell of a sport). I hope you don’t take my stubbornness, my moodiness and my wanderlust of the heart. I’m sorry if you do.
But I do hope, somewhere along the way, you take from me this moment. And when you begin to doubt yourself, be that in the form of pride or a worn-down spirit, I hope you inherit from your father the ability to find a tree. Find a tree with an overhanging branch, one that sits at least twenty feet off the ground and has a tire swing attached to it. And when you find that tree, sit off in the distance, far enough from it that you can see the whole thing.
Then, my child, wait for the wind. Wait and see what the wind does to the tree and to the swing. Watch as it slowly lifts and falls, lifts and falls. And if you remember nothing else, remember what I told you and the grace of that moment.
If you remember nothing else, remember the tree and the swing and what I told you about grace. Take that moment and keep it.
I hope you don’t need it but know you will.