Nov. 16, Feast of St. Afan, a Welsh bishop of the 6th century.
Today is your Name Day, the memorial of Saint Afan, who I asked to keep and protect you. Yours is not the same name as his, but it is close, and I believe we would have named you after him had we known of him.
We didn't chose your name, as such. I think you chose it. We had many, many beautiful names for little girls, fresh but traditional, feminine but not fluffy: Nora, Marta, June, Jane, Cora, Cecile, Alice, Gerda . . . even Elfred, after your great-grandmother who taught and Oxford and studied under Tolkien. Everyone said for certain you would be a girl. You showed them!
For a boy, we had three: Michael, from your father's middle name (though I was wary of the shortened "Mike"), Jamie, and then a strange one . . . one I stumbled upon in my research somewhere and somehow, and unraveled its history like a good story. Afon. The Cymraeg name, for boy and girl, meaning "river," with its many children and descendants flowing and pulsing through the mild, fertile lands of Albion. One relative in particular holds some reverence with me: that is the river Avon, which hosted a little village that was to host the world's greatest and timeless poet, William Shakespeare. Unfortunately, that pretty name has been co-opted by American capitalism. That was my sole hesitation. But I figured if we kept the Welsh spelling, with an "f" instead of a "v," it would keep enough distance from that brand and preserve the beautiful language of its origin.
Still, we were undecided, and you kept your sex to yourself in your dark, warm world, and slept.
When you were born, and they put you in the clear incubator on my right, and I turned my head and craned my neck to get a good look at you, with your broad, wide face like a chipmunk's and your long, slited eyes (still so exotic looking!), I heard in a clear whisper in my mind, "Afon." You were Afon, from that moment onward. And even though I doubted it in the next couple of days, panicking, as a new mother will, with the gentle reassurance of my family, and your father's declining the second choice of "Jamie," I spelled the name over the phone to the woman taking information for your birth certificate.
The relatives and friends in Wales were uncertain of your name. On more than one occasion, I heard the question, "Is it Afon or Afan?"
I can't remember how long--maybe months, maybe a year later--I found Saint Afan in my internet wanderings and gave a little internal shout. This was your saint! He was yours, and you were his, and maybe he nudged me to give you the name, even though it is not an exact match. You are a little Celtic child, with your fair blond curls and clear blue eyes; your paternal grandmother's Irish blood and nature; and bearing the Welsh language your father loves for your moniker.
There is a an old Welsh story that the young Merlin (himself a Welshman) buried treasure in a hidden cave in the mountains of Snowdonia. Legend says that it will only be found by a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy of that land. I half believe that little boy is you.
As a tiny nursing thing, you got so angry so easily and rarely slept! What a hard time I had of it. But your nature is not bad, only difficult; clearly you have the artistic temperament. And you are an artist. You have decorated our dwelling with numerous colorful strokes and scrawlings. You can't seem to keep your inspiration contained to paper!
You love the outdoors, and I can't wait to let you lose in the mountains of North Wales, to set you into the forests of daffodils in springtime, to see you splash in the briny Irish Sea.
You love your books. Well, the reading of them. You are altogether too rough with them for my liking.
You love to sing. Words are of no importance to you, and you don't give much credence to them; it's the sounds and rhythm that you cultivate, and I hear you chattering and singing in a jargon only you understand, and probably the angels.
You like sweets and have a deadly attraction to Coke, like your father!
You love Jesus and Holy God and know them, especially the White Round Bread held by the holy fathers at church, and the wooden carving of Christ with his arms outstretched, and the icon of Baby Jesus with His Mother that we light a candle for at night. We were in the drug store the other day, and you said, "Jesus." When I looked, there was a picture of Santa Claus and, slightly above and the right, a bearded nutcracker. "Yes, Jesus," I said, and I was so, so happy. Yesterday, I wrote the alphabet out on a piece of paper while you watched and recited it in song. Some you know, others you make up, but when I wrote the t in lower-case, you said "Jesus."
You say your prayers at night to "Holy God" and go through the (sometimes indecipherable) litany of God-bless-So-in-Sos. Other nights, you just let me do the praying. Some nights you wake with tears from wretched nightmares, and you want to hold the Jesus cross, either a small icon or my rosary, and then you feel better and sleep again.
My hopes for you are so full and so many. But I want more than anything else for you to always Know and feel you are loved; to Know the Magic I have come to know and love, in the growing world and in the seasons, in cycles of the Church and in the saints, in books and fairy tales, and in language. If you become a priest or brother, I will be so happy. If you wed and have children, I will be so happy. If you live a fulfilled and chaste single life, I will be so happy.
My little, impish river-child, happy Name Day. Saint Afan Buallt protect you always.