News From The Woods.16

NEWS FROM THE WOODS

By Bob Ketchum

Originally Published January 1, 1998


"A Letter To Robert"


Dear Robert-

I have been meaning to write this letter to you. It's been on my mind a lot lately. The plan was to start the new year out with this letter as a means to leave a little something behind, perhaps each year at this time, that you might find years from now when you were old enough to appreciate what I am about to say to you.

It's still two weeks before Christmas when I start this letter. I don't know if I expected to just sit down and compose it at one time but as I think about it now I think I would rather write it in a couple of sections so I might have time to reflect upon it before the beginning of the new year...... your very first year of life on this planet.

It's 4 O'clock in the morning and I woke up to one of your "stirring sounds" in the bassinet next to our bed. This is not really a good time for me to start this letter as I must get up at 6:30 and drive 50 miles away for an important video shoot. But after waking up and thinking about you I just could not get back to sleep so I will try to put down a few thoughts while it's still clear in my mind. I learned to do that, being a musician who is used to getting up at all hours of the night and having a song in my head. I've learned through the years that if I wait until a more appropriate time I might lose the feeling of the moment, so here I sit at the computer trying to put my thoughts and feelings about you to print.

First, let me tell you a few things about yourself. You are such a special person. You are surely a gift from God. There are a number of reasons I say this, not the least of which is the fact that it must have been a gift from Him that we will forever share our birthdays. When the doctor told your mother and I that your due date happened to be my birthday, I just knew it would be so. Just as I knew months before the first ultrasound that you would be a son. I have always wanted a son to carry the family name on into the next generation, but it just never happened during my previous marriages. I am so glad. At 51 I finally feel like I am mature enough to handle the awesome responsibility of the task.


It's the day after Christmas now, Robert. Your first Christmas. This year was almost anti-climactic however, and we can hardly wait until next year when you will be old enough to remember and enjoy the spirit of Christmas. There are so many things I want to show you and teach you and tell you about. With each passing day you learn something new, like how to smile or make direct eye contact. You're only 8 weeks old and yet I have watched you grow and learn many things in this short time. I have learned as well. I have learned to read your body language and when you are uncomfortable or too hot. You mother and I have learned that you do not like to get too hot or covered up, so we shop for appropriate clothing. Not that you wear it for very long. At this stage you are outgrowing some of your clothes on a daily basis.

It's so wonderful to watch as you grow into a healthy young boy. With each passing day you are making me a younger man as I am now seeing life all over again through your eyes. I will really cherish this time above all others in a special way because we truly have you all to ourselves. Sometimes you get cranky and show off the trademark family temper and I get so frustrated with you, then you will look up into my eyes suddenly and smile at me and I immediately forget what I was so upset about. It's so very hard not to "get started" talking about you in social settings then completely dominate the conversation until I finally wind down and produce today's polaroids of you. By now you can tell that I am hopelessly bewitched by you. I might not feel this way when you're going through your teen years so I want to tell you about it now.

We have moved you into your own bed in your own room now. We have the wireless baby monitor in your bed so we can listen to you breathe each night. Listening to your sleeping sounds somehow soothes us into restful sleep ourselves. One of us is usually up at 4AM to change your diaper. You usually just sleep right through it, then you are awake at 6 or 6:30. Lately we've been carrying you back to our bedroom and placing you in bed between us where you snuggle against our warmth and we all catch a few more winks before it's time to get up and have breakfast. You are a really good baby and only cry when you need changed or you are uncomfortable for some reason. Most of your waking hours at this point are spent smiling and making "goo goo" noises at your parents, or looking around your surroundings and trying to make sense of it all. Sometimes, in a lucid moment right after a nap you will try to communicate with us, matching "aaa" with "aaa" and "ooo" with "ooo". You are already starting to reach toward your little toys and you love music. No big brainer there. I knew you would.

One of your favorite pastimes is to sit in your "sling" which positions you like a little papoose on my stomach facing me. You like to sit there while I sit at my computer and work the keyboard. You seem fascinated by the computer screen and love the way it changes as I navigate around my software. You easily pick up movement and primary colors, especially red. I have caught you staring with a fixed expression at my red fire extinguisher hanging up in the control room more than once. I just got a red lava lamp for Christmas. I can't wait for you to spot that!

Of course I've been getting video of you from Day 1. Even before. There were ultrasound pictures of you on the Internet months before you were born. By the time you are 15 I'll have enough video on you to embarrass you for years to come. I hope you will learn to appreciate these videos as I have my old home movie films taken by my parents and relatives like Uncle Harold who was the first adult to get me involved with movie cameras many years ago. Thanks to him I have hours and hours of me as a baby growing into a young man. I have long since transferred those films to video to pass along to you and Missy when it's time. I have already made a "This Is Your Life, Missy" video and given it to your older sister for her safekeeping. I hear she drives all her friends crazy reliving those childhood events and memories stored forever on videotape. She says it makes her feel close to home even though we are a thousand miles apart.

Missy got over being camera-shy years ago when I would shove the camera in her face. You don't even seem to be fazed by it at 8 weeks. You look at the RECORD light situated just above the lens and smile at it. I wonder what affect this will have on you later in life? Will you be a movie star? A videographer? A movie director? A politician? A comedian? A MUSICIAN? ........Who knows? I can hardly wait to find out. But whatever it is you want to do I will support you. I will not force anything on you but I will always be here to help guide you towards whatever it is that you will show interest in. I want you to learn that you can come to us with any problem you might encounter in life.

All I really care about is that you grow to be a healthy child in body, mind and spirit. I want you to respect life and this wonderful planet we call home. I pray you will be strong-willed like your grandfather and giving in spirit, like your grandmother. I will encourage you to read as much as you can, whether it's comic books, classic novels, the newspaper, or the Bible. Music, of course, will always be around you but I will not force it on you. If you are anything like your dad or grandmother you will be a natural at whatever musical instrument you pick up. There are sure plenty of instruments laying around in the studio for you to examine. I would rather have you learn through the desire of wanting it yourself than through the discipline of formal training. It was good enough for your father and grandmother and it will be good enough for you. I believe talent is like destiny. It is inescapable. Sooner or later you will recognize it. And when you do, I'll be here for you.

Your mother and I are so proud of you. And you're just 8 weeks old! Our hearts are full of hope and promise for you. Your mother loves you so much I almost have to wrestle with her to get to play with you. We are a happy family and we both feel truly blessed with your presence. With each passing day our lives become even more entwined. I have been waiting for this all my adult life. You could never be a disappointment to your parents. But you must try to listen and learn from our advice and above all else, you must trust us. We know things you haven't learned yet. Maybe we can keep you from making some of those mistakes that cost us in our own lives. Maybe not. That's the way life is.

As you begin the first year of your life, these are all the things we wish for you, Robert. And no matter what happens, your mother and I will be here for you. Your Papaw and Grandmother and your sister and brothers will also be here for you. We are all family. Of course you and I will always have that "special something". Shared birthdays. For the rest of our lives. What a reminder! Boy! Your mom sure knows how to pick out a birthday present, doesn't she?



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