I haven’t figured out how to do it yet, but my sister-in-law is a pro. My new niece, Holly Michelle, showed up this morning around 3AM Rocky Mountain Time, within an hour after signaling her intentions. She’s the fourth of their brood, which is big for a family anymore these days, and warms my heart because I grew up in a family of four siblings (go ahead and guess my birth order – just guess.) and it always seemed to me just the right number for all the wrestlin’, wranglin’, fussin’, tussin’ and lovin’ that siblings are for.
Also warms my heart that Holly got the middle name Michelle, because it’s a name that I share with my sister and two brothers – although the boys go by the variant, Michael.
I always assumed (because my sister told me so) that we got the name from the Beatles song, and didn’t learn the truth until years later when I tried to confirm that with my dad and he said: “No. You got it from the Archangel.”
My dad subscribes to an esoteric spiritual stew drawn from all kinds of wide-ranging influences, and paramount in his convictions is the belief that all of us have a guardian angel watching our back. I learned this for the first time when I was all of six years old and I asked him what the name of that little divot between my lip and nose was. Being a child of reason I was expecting something reasonable to go with it – something easy like “arm” or “foot” – but what I got was this: “that’s where your guardian angel left his fingerprint when you were born” and my father gently touched the spot with just the tip of his pinkie finger.
Years later I found myself on the archangel’s island – Le Mont Saint-Michel in France – in the still holy hours that happen there when the tourists have left for the day and you can feel the ghosts of the monks and their vespers haunting that place. My then-sweetie and I hiked the periphery of the island – he went out scouting far into the sandy reaches of the seabed, and I fretted that the in-rushing tide would roar out of nowhere and swallow him whole.
I found myself a warm spot of sunshine on a rock looking out on all that vastness. I was holding a piece of slate  that I picked up while we were walking and I closed my eyes to take in the moment. I was at an odd spot in my life, trying to figure out where to go next, still young enough that I was wondering who I was supposed to be (although I’m older now, and still wondering some) when I felt something strange and unsettling – because it was so peaceful.
It was permission. Permission to be. In spite of the critical voices that were telling me I could only do this, that or the other thing and not those other things because, well, I was a girl, and broke and who the hell did I think I was anyway?
All those voices went away. Even the voice that was sure I’d lose my sweetie to sudden tidal forces disappeared. And all I heard on that spur of rock looking out over the boundless horizon was: Yes. You may.
And happy birthday, Holly -- welcome to the ‘hood. And for what it’s worth: Permission granted.
 I still have that piece of slate, btw, and I hold it close whenever I’m in danger of forgetting.
 Brotherhood & Sisterhood, both.