Dear Baby Girl,
You just turned 10 months old. Earlier this week, we spent Christmas in one of the more unlikely places I’ve come to call home: Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I grew up in a suburb of Atlanta that was overwhelmingly white and upper middle class, and I was unprepared for the neighborhood of inner city Milwaukee where your daddy grew up. One of the first times your daddy got really irritated with me was when I tried to pet a pit bull stationed at a neighboring house. “Don’t touch that dog!” he told me. “He hasn’t been raised to be a pet.” That neighborhood was the last place I thought I belonged.
But in your grandparents’ house at 30th and Hampton, I found a grace I hadn’t expected. When I met your grandparents, I encountered a welcome that astounded me. “As long as you’re here, you’re our family,” they told me, back when your daddy and I were just dating. As soon as your daddy and I got married, they called me “Daughter.” I didn’t regard my trips to Milwaukee as an exercise of spousal duty, but instead anticipated the return to the safe haven where I was fully known and fully loved.
Christmas day this year, I passed through the threshold of the house on 30th and Hampton not like a stranger, but like the prodigal returning. It felt like coming back to where I belonged after a long exile. “Welcome home,” your uncle said to me as I walked in. I realized that he was right—somehow, by the grace of God, that place had become my home, and yours too.
There’s a lot of history there. The fireplace mantle roughly outlines the story of the lives that unfolded there—baby photos, triumphant graduates, prom dates, wedding, grandchild (that’s you!). There’s the wall where the tennis and wrestling trophies, musical awards, and team photos showcase the pride of two parents. There’s the poem about selfless marriage love that chronicles the forty years your grandparents spent together on this side of heaven. There are the dents and scratches in the floor and the walls made by the brothers’ (mainly, I gather, your daddy’s) misdeeds. There are the semi-functional control pads with which your daddy and his brothers battled for Super Mario supremacy. There’s the weight of memory that this was the first house to which your daddy and his younger brother came home and also the place where your grandma died. It’s been one of my life’s greatest honors to be woven into the history of that house not only through marrying your daddy, but also through the love your grandparents and uncles have extended freely to me.
When I think about the home we want to make for you, I think about the house on 30th and Hampton. It’s not so much about the physical house, but about the capacity of a place and a people to brim with so much life. It’s about the potential of a family to stick fiercely together through hard times and good, and yet to welcome strangers like your mommy with hearts and arms wide open. It’s about faith that builds a foundation for everything else, so that when the unthinkable happens, the home may shudder for a moment, but it never falls down. It’s about a place where you are fully known and fully loved.
If we make a home like that for you, we will have done well.