Welcome to Jonah Shifren Garriga
I am neither an Athenian nor a Greek,
but a citizen of the world.”
Welcome to St. Louis, Jonah. You look calm and rested; ready to take on your new living arrangements; eager to meet all of the people that will provide everything that you need to become a citizen of the world.
Let me start by saying that you were wanted. Very much so. There are dozens of people that will rejoice at the news of your arrival, and they have never laid eyes on you. You will be held, cuddled, and catered to as if you were the son of a king. You will be showered with love. Enjoy this foundation, because life is hard and you cannot possibly make a success of it without friends.
You will have one singular advantage: your ancestors come from all over. Hungary; Belarus; Spain; Lithuania; Ireland; Germany; Canada; Puerto Rico; South Africa… Of course St. Louis. You will grow up with the distinct advantage of never, ever having the feeling that you’re better or worse than another human being that looks or talks different from you. You’re young and you don’t realize it yet: take my word for it. You’re way ahead of the game.
Now allow me to brag: your grandparents are some of the most decent people you will ever meet. Smart; hard working; considerate of everybody else’s needs. They will make sure that you have every possible resource available to you. Of course they are grandparents: they will have expectations; many of them will seem quite unrealistic to you at such a young age. Listen to them; love them; keep in mind that they try real hard and that at some point you will miss their teachings. Even if they’re not saying so, all they want is for you to make them feel that you will carry their torch when it’s your turn.
I have only known your dad for a few years, yet I assure you that you could not have done any better. He is brilliant and well rounded. There isn’t much that he doesn’t know, and there is nothing that he’s not willing to learn. He will look tall and imposing to you at first. I think that he likes to project that image. Just between the two of us: he’s a softie. You will be able to get absolutely everything and anything that you want from this man, and it won’t take you long to find out what to do to have him wrapped around your finger. Please remember that he’s a kind and generous soul and don’t overplay your hand.
To counteract your dad’s willingness to let you have your way you will need your mom. Her I’ve known for as long as she’s been alive. She has always, almost from birth, known what’s best for her and everyone who surrounds her. It’s a gift. She has an uncanny knack for predicting the future. Things always work out for her. She’s an accomplished doctor; she knows how to cut hair; she knows how to get things at half price; she organizes seemingly without order; she makes things work out. She can succeed and get what seems unachievable to anyone else.
I’m telling you right now: don’t even try. There will be many times that you will have perfectly logical reasons for wanting or not choosing to do something. She will have three times as many explanations to clearly demonstrate that she’s right, and that’s before she gets started. Save yourself the grief. Do exactly as she says and everything will be OK.
This may sound unfair to you. It’s not; you are the luckiest little boy in all of St. Louis. From day one you will have dozens of people rooting for you, and they will all be pulling in the same direction. From a young age you will travel tens of thousands of miles; you will see our world with glasses of many colors; you will have exposure to every conceivable ethnic and cultural influence, and it will all be presented to you as if it were part of a normal day. You will have music for breakfast and poetry for lunch. You will be taught to love trees, and flowers, and all animals. You will be expected to work hard, to the point where you’ll feel as if this is the normal way. You will be a citizen of the world, thanks to all of these extraordinary people who have brought you into it.
You’re so tiny, and it seems like such a tall order. Look at it from my point of view. I’ve been around; I’m old; I know what I say. You can do this.
Today I give you my blessing. Go forth; make your mark; leave everything and everyone that you touch better than before. Be a Shifren; be a Garriga. May you always do for others, and let others do for you. Forever strong; forever young.