What Jacques Taught Me

I have a dear dear friend who used to live in Maplewood, two streets over from me. My son was a plump little baby when we first met, and apparently he inspired her to have a third child too, whom she named Jacques. A few months before he was born my friend asked me to be the godmother. I was honored by the request, and I accepted immediately.

Jacques was born on July 18, which is my birthday too (!).

I don’t have any other godchildren, and I’m not Catholic. This was a brand new thing for me in all sorts of ways, and somehow I got the idea that I was supposed to take Jacques camping, or teach him how to shoot a bow and arrow, or tie knots. I don’t know where this idea came from but there it was, and it left me feeling quite inadequate. I don’t do any of those things, and I’m an indoors person. I admire the color of paint on the walls of a high-ceilinged room as much as someone else admires the Redwood Forest or Grand Canyon.

What did I have to offer this child?

I felt a great responsibility.

On the occasion of his first communion, I flew to Burlington (where he lives now). He and I were going to spend six hours together, just the two of us. I was nervous about what to do with him; I mean I was the godmother and everything. I had to do something he’d remember.

What could I do with him—I was beginning to panic . . .

That’s when I took a deep breath and discarded all of my ideas of what a godmother should be.

That’s when I took a look around . . . at myself.

His mom had picked me, and she hadn’t asked me to become anybody other than who I already was.

We ended up driving to Burlington to visit an artist I know. We ended up playing with a View Master and Magna Doodle and talking for most of the afternoon. We went to the Flying Pig Bookstore and bought some books and stuff. I taught him Yahtzee.

Sometimes it’s hard not to get tripped up by some idea of what you’re supposed to be.

When really all we’re supposed to be is who we are.

Jacques, my gentle boy, thanks for helping me figure that out.


Holly McGhee