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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A letter to Yalile in the year 2015

Published: November 11, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

Im going to watch you shine,
Going to watch you grow;

Going to paint a sign,
So youll always know:
As long as one and one are two,
There could never be a father
Who loved his daughter more than I love you.

Paul Simon

My Little Girl,

Even as I write this letter, youve not yet been born, nor am I certain that you ever will be. But no matter;

as I merely wish, if indeed this letter finds you in this world, that it should find you well and happy. Hopefully I will be there at your side, your father: To protect and take good care of you;

to calm and soothe you when you are distressed;

and to somehow show you all that I have found in the beauty of the life that surrounds us.

It may cause you some wonder that, though I dont yet know you, my little one, indeed I love you with all of my heart. Imagine all the things I wish I could tell you now, yet most of them must wait until, God willing, you are born. Still I must begin somewhere, so I will start with that which is among the most important things given any of us: Your name

The name I have given you is that of a student I once had when I was a teachers assistant. You see, I lived and worked once in a town called Chelsea;

it is a place forever dear to me, such that I sometimes visit there in my dreams, finding the friends that I had known there but have not seen since. Near the hometown of my childhood, yet worlds apart in destiny, it is a hardscrabble city that was home to me for five years of my life. This humble place gave to me some of my best friends. It broke my heart and shattered many dreams;

yet, by the gift of the many precious young people I was able to know there, it blessed me with hope as well.

Charm and enchantment, tenements and disillusionment, angelic faces and jump-rope, hard liquor and food-stamps. Chelsea, Massachusetts. And among them all was Yalile, your namesake. No, she wasnt an especially outstanding student at the time, and her behavior was not always what it should have been. Why this girl among so many, with names equally as unique? As lovable and wonderful as she was at the time, it was what she became later on that caused you to have her name

You see, there were many students in Chelsea who misbehaved. It was, one might say, what was expected of them. Many such kids would fulfill their teachers predictions, ending up forever in trouble and never doing well. Not Yalile. By and by, for some reason none can know, she became blessed with a certain spirit;

and with it found the ambition to reach for the better person she knew she could become. She came to envision herself as someday being a doctor who would work to help her needy community. What has since become of her I do not know, though I sincerely wish her well;

the important thing for you to understand, dear, is the act of envisioning oneself

Herein lies the perennial mystery witnessed in the career of the discerning teacher: What child will find, in adverse circumstance, the grace to rise above despairs own swamp and fly away? The answer: We never know. We can only call it a blessing and a miracle that it happens. And that is indeed how living in that modest, tired six-pack town gave me the strength to hope, and helped me, years later, to envision the better person I could become too

Yalile, my precious one, my sweet baby: If one day I should indeed be your papa, I hope to have the honor to also be, as it were, your good teacher. Perhaps, like my student and friend, that girl whose name you wear, you too might see the beauty within yourself, and from that find a strength of spirit that takes the form of wings.

Now, my dear, you understand the meaning of your name. As you are not yet born, it is the only gift I can give you. And should you never be born, it will forever remain your name still. In any case, birth itself will make you a proper wearer of your name, for, as with the girl who went before you, one must first envision oneself. So come to this world soon, my little daughter. Come with wings. See the living girl you could be;

and me, your father, waiting for you with all of the love that exists in the universe.

Papa, in the year 2005