HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY FIRST BORN
Yesterday I said Happy Birthday to my first-born son. Malcolm was not my first-born, however. That distinction belongs to his sister who was born two years before him but only a day apart on the July calendar, July 13, 1965.
On this day, July 13, 1965, my first born, a daughter, came into the world. This photograph of her was taken on 8th Avenue in New York City. Such incredible joy! I would not have believed it if someone had told me, that onher 52nd birthday, she and I would not have spoken or had any contact in almost 25 years. There’s a story here but I don’t know it. What I do know is receiving a letter from her stating that she no longer wanted to have any contact with me, after having informed her mother and brother of the same.
My initial response was hurt and anger, but very quickly those feelings turned into one of pride. She had a father (me) who was an existentialist and believed that we have the power to define and redefine ourselves, had a father who had reconceived himself many times, including a conversion to Judaism. I understood that she was now doing the same and stating clearly that she was no longer to be known as “Julius Lester’s daughter." Just because you were born into a family, it didn’t mean you had to stay.
I miss being a part of her life and she being a part of mine, but more than that, I am happy that she chose to define herself for herself. When I last knew her she had a strong sense of privacy, and for that reason I am omitting her name and am using this photograph of her only because it has appeared in print.
I am asking anyone who knows her name not to post it.
Two final remarks:
In sending birthday greetings to Malcolm, some people commented on what "a wonderful father," he must've had. In all honesty, the only people who can say that are my five children. You who know me through Facebook or through other creative outlets do not know me as a father. I was a lot of things, and "wonderful father" not be near the top of the list.
Second, if anyone cares to comment on what I've written about my First Born, please, please do not tell me how you think I feel. I do not want or need any sympathy or any emotion in that country. I can understand that others might find it unbearable to be estranged from a child. I do not. I've told you how I feel, which is I am very happy that she defined herself for herself, and that is all that matters to me.