Wednesday, September 20, 2006

He was swallowed by a song.

Welcome, Jonah Reuven Sela. Now we need no longer call you Cletus (the Fetus), or Gaby (the Baby), but can start to know you as your true self.

Jonah, I love it that this is your name, especially your first name. I remember a summer quite a number of years ago that I spent in New Haven, working in the library at Yale. That was the summer I met your dad, and got to know him a bit as your mom’s fiancĂ©. As the years have gone by, I have felt very lucky to have had that time to get to know them a bit, to start to feel like your dad was not just someone I had been introduced to, but who I had gotten to begin to be friends with. And this was about the same time that I started to feel like I was really becoming friends with your mom. Sure, I had known her a lot longer, but now we were more grown up, more like fully formed people. (I do not mean to imply, Jonah, that you are not fully formed. From all I hear, you have all your fingers and toes.)

But I know that you are smart like your mom and dad and that you are starting to wonder why your cousin Isis is going on like this. What does this have to do with my name? You want to know.

You are right to ask, and I am sorry that I was going on. I hope that if I keep doing that more and more as I get older, that you’ll say, Cousin Isis, wrap it up! What is the point you are trying to make?

The point I am trying to make, Jonah, is about your name, and about my sense of your parents. And maybe, therefore, the beginnings of my sense of you.

That same summer I was reading Moby Dick. I like to do that, to read big novels, classics, when I am away from home, staying somewhere else to work in a library. And that summer I was living in a sort of boarding house near campus, although I got to spend a lot of time with your parents, your grandparents, and your aunt. Reading Moby Dick was appropriate, I thought, because there I was in a little New England town reading a novel about people from a little New England town. I would sometimes sit on a bench on the New Haven Green and read, my back to the two little churches there, and I would think about those kinds of little churches, and about the firey preachers who preached in them.

There is a place in Moby Dick where a firey preacher is preaching a firey sermon about Jonah and the whale. (And I do love you, Jonah, but I am not going to look up the page number.) And because there I was at a big university with a big library and without people to hang out with, I took myself to the reference room and found one of those big study Bibles that includes, in addition to the books from the bible, an awful lot about how particular stories in the Bible have been interpreted over time.

And that is when I started reading about your Biblical namesake, who I had encountered before, both in the classic tale of the whale and in studying Hebrew prophecy. But I had never noticed his father’s name before, which I don’t need to tell you, because it is also your father’s name. At the time I thought it was pretty cool just to come across that name in reading about something else, so that I started to know something more about your dad, who I had just met, but about whom my cousin was awfully fond. Now I am especially grateful for that somehow random series of events that led me to know something about you, even though I have not yet had the honor of seeing you in person.

So welcome, Jonah. I look forward to becoming friends with you.

1 comment:

Rebecca said...

I've been loving your Jonah-inspired series of posts (even if I have been a little busy to reply). Once he figures out how to read (which should come some time after he figures out how to sit up and focus his eyes), I will definitely share them with him.