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An Open Letter to My Son
by Marla Rose
November 8, 2002
My dearest Justice,
If there was ever a moment when I knew that our lives had changed
completely, it was the other day when the three of us were in the bulk
section of the grocery store. I was filling a bag with some couscous,
and, in our family's little division of labor, your father was putting
the code on the twisty-tie for the cashier to ring up. When he reached
for the bag, something in his hand caught my eye. Around one of his
fingers was your pacifier, worn like you two had just gotten engaged.
In a way, you had. I looked at you, six-weeks-old and sleeping snugly
in the carrier strapped around your dad's chest, one arm casually
draped across him, and I just thought, Wow. Our lives are forever
I know this sounds silly. There have been so many more obvious clues
than that that our lives have been slightly altered. Not sleeping more
than three hours at a stretch could have been an indicator. The
frequent visits to your changing table. The sound of wailing being so
omnipresent, I swear sometimes I hear phantom cries even when your
father has taken you along on the evening dog walk. All these things
may have shouted at me that I have a newborn in the home, but, frankly,
I think before the pacifier incident, I was a little too sleep-deprived
for it to sink in.
In that seemingly routine moment in the grocery store, though, it was
as if the fog around me abruptly lifted and I woke from a dream to find
myself as The Mama, improbable as that may seem, that long-haired man
as The Daddy and you as Our Baby. Before then, it was as though I was
watching some other exhausted, confused couple fumble their way through
caring for a newborn, peeking through my fingers as I snickered and
winced on the sidelines. At that moment, I finally realized that I'd
been snickering and wincing at myself.
Through a joyous, healthy pregnancy and a delivery that was,
lamentably, miles away from the alternative-birthing-suite-
-into-the-world-an-hour-or-two-after-contractions-began, you have
asserted yourself time and again as a passionate, determined young
being with your own way of doing things.
In my womb, you entertained us with your calisthenics every morning,
flipping joyous cartwheels as you and I enjoyed blueberry smoothies. In
the delivery room, you came out punching and kicking 52 hours after
contractions began, daring anyone to tell you to settle down. I held
off committing to your name until we met, but as I looked at you hot
from my womb, red-faced and hollering with your hands balled into
tight, tiny fists of righteous indignation, I thought, Well, this is
definitely a Justice.
I hope you are not going to think your name is stupid. Will you beg us
to change it to Tyler or Jake or Bubba? Will you be creative?
Analytical? Sensitive? Brash? A little bit of everything? Will you
resent your dad and me for raising you in the city? Will you be
enthralled by all the energy, noise and motion?
Maybe you'll forsake your genetic predisposition and be the kind of
child who loves to be organized and tidy and balances checkbooks for
fun. Maybe you'll sleep in a tent in the living room during the winter,
drawing maps and creating an elaborate kingdom in your mind. Maybe
you'll fall in love with a girl or a boy one day and know in your heart
that no one has ever loved this ardently (but, my child, I must quietly
point out that we have...)
The kind of person you are to become is being formed as I write this,
as you sleep like an angel straight from Raphael's sketchbook, as you
nurse at my breast, as you discover your toes. I enjoy watching you
unfold, my baby, with all your quirks and predilections, understanding
that you have your own purpose here on earth, just as we all do. I just
have one little favor to ask of you. Not too big, I hope.
Promise me you won't ever eat meat. Okay?
I don't mean to be making demands on you so soon, and lord knows I'd
rather you decide on your own with all your good sense and natural
compassion that eating an animal's carcass is barbaric. And that
consuming their secretions and ovum is thievery. And that wearing their
skins is unseemly. And paying to watch them perform in aquariums,
rodeos, circuses and whatnot is idiocy. If you come to me one day and
tell me all this on your own, I promise you a vanilla and chocolate
sorbet sundae as big as your head, with extra syrup. Dark chocolate, of
course. Is it a deal?
You see, despite the poopy diapers and unexpected hair tugs and
occasional all-nighters, you are a perfect being born into an imperfect
world. I look at you with your huge, glistening eyes and the soft
cheeks designed to be nuzzled, and I can't help but see an angel who
has decided to touch down for a while and check things out. And the
things you'll see, I'm afraid, may disappoint you. I feel like a jerk
telling you this, admitting to you with your absolute purity how flawed
your fellow race of humans is, especially after how hard you struggled
to be here, but it's true. We are flawed. Please forgive us.
We do things sometimes knowing full well that they will hurt another.
We pollute and desecrate the only real home we have. We waste our time
and money on things that only serve to make us sedated, angry or
depressed, and then we do it some more. We do these things despite
"knowing better." Yes, me too. We all started out like you, though,
full of innocence and curiosity and guilelessness, but somehow, we let
the world steal it from us, sometimes while our backs were turned,
sometimes with our full encouragement.
In my mind, the act of eating another animal's body - though it is
usually an unconscious event, at least at first - is the first time we
give tacit approval of this mugging of our better selves. As we grow
older, and cynicism settles into our bodies, we accept this cheapening
of ourselves with little more than a shrug. I'm asking you, Justice, to
not accept this at all, least of all with a shrug.
If I could protect you from all the wounds big and small that we
inflict and we receive, I would. But would I be denying you the wisdom
that comes from a few scrapes and bruises? Am I standing in your way if
I try to protect you from making mistakes? If I don't, am I being a
uncaring, negligent mother? Am I creating an irresponsible being? I'm
not going to pretend that I have the answers, so we're going to have to
navigate our way together.
One thing I do know, though, is that you're a precious, pristine spirit
and if you can preserve some of that essence throughout your life, the
earth will heave a sigh of relief.
Please, Justice. Hold on fiercely to your beautiful, proud and compassionate self. Please don't eat meat
©2016 Vegan Street