Saturday, January 7, 2017

A Toast to Evie on the Occasion of her 21st Birthday Party

Just over 21 years’ ago when Janna and I were choosing your name, we came up against the Teachers’ Curse. Every suitable name we could think of had already been assigned to a child. And not just any child, but the worst child in the worst class in the worst school in the entire universe. We couldn’t use any these names without the risk of bestowing some of that child’s qualities on to you.

Our deliberations might have gone on interminably, had it not been for the approach of a rather pressing deadline. We decided on Evangeline Sophia; Evangeline, meaning bringer of good news, and Sophia meaning Holy Wisdom.

Well, you can choose the name, but you can’t choose the child.

Fortunately, it has been our joy to see you live up to your name. You have brought good news to us, and our whole family, and it has been a wonderful privilege to have you grow up with us.

Shortly after you were born, we moved from the UK to Hong Kong. This is where I stalked you around the flat with a microphone as you learned to talk. All these years later, I used these recordings to assemble the EviePhon, and I invite you all to have a go. It’s not embarassing in the slightest, but you will get the full range of Evie.

You have a strong sense of fair play. We saw this early on when you insisted that noboby, no matter how big they were, no matter if they came from Europe, China or the Planet Krypton, would jump the queue at the slide in the playground at Kowloon Park.

We came to Australia and you went through Camp Hill State School, Somerville House and UQ. My fondest memories of those early days were of walking you to school. One morning, soon after we had watched the BBC documentary “The Legend of Big Al” (it was a reconstruction of the life of the titular Allosaurus) you asked me if Big Al went to heaven when he died. I didn’t know what to say then. I’m still thinking about it.

Much later, when helping you with your homework, I found how perceptive you were. Your essay on how the romantic composers, Claude Debussey and Eric Satie helped define the French National Identity in the pre-war years was particularly fascinating – and you were only Grade 7 at the time. (Sorry, I might have my timelines a little confused there).

With a few notable exceptions involving household chores, you have applied yourself to whatever has been given to you, whether it was study, music, drawing, or working in hospitalilty and retail.

However, it is not just about what you have achieved, its who you are as a person. You have been consistently fair and good to the people around you, especially your friends and family, to which all the people gathered here this evening, testify. Janna and I just hope we have given you the best in ourselves, so it is definitely not your father’s skill in cooking, or your mother’s skill in spreadsheets. (Though, if you had the choice, I suggest you’d be better off with Janna’s spreadsheets than my cooking.)

Now we get to the part where I’m supposed to dispense with some sage, fatherly advice. It’s a testament to your character that I’m quite lost for words. I don’t think I can tell you much that you don’t already know. If you can judge a person by the decisions he or she makes, then one of the highest compliments I can pay you is to say that you are good at making good decisions. Generally. You might still need some coaching in some areas, but you already know this.

What I will say to you, though, is that God is closer to you than you know, and that’s a good thing. If you’re like me, it will take you a lifetime to work out what that means, but it is worth it.

I don’t know, and nobody knows, what the next 21 years’ will bring you. They will probably bring you

Agonising anxiety
Bottomless boredom
Curious coincidences
Delightful diversions
Ineffible elation
Feindish frustrations
Great gastronomies
Heart-racing highs
Insufficient income
Jovial Jacobs’ jokes
Knowledgeable knaves
Luminous leitmotifs
Many misadventures
Nattering nannies
Odious obligations and ostentatious orations
Preposterous ponderings
Querulous queues
A rudimentary roof of your own
Sublime stupidity
Tepid tea
Uxorious unions
A very-expensive violin
Whacky weather
Xenophobic xylophones
Yonder yearnings yelling each year from your yokel-made yoghurt ...

... and finally, a zany zoo with zebra, zebu and zucchini at the zenith of your zone.

Knowing the person you have grown up to become, I am confident that, whatever these years bring you, you will bring to these years your own good news and Holy Wisdom.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you Evangeline Sophia. We love you very, very much. Happy Birthday!

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