A Star Is Born

Sunday, June 20, 2021 | Kassel, Germany

Stella in her Father's Day outfit
"Les pères de famille sont les derniers aventuriers des temps modernes."

The words come from Charles Péguy, a French poet (and father of four) writing over a century ago: Fathers are the last adventurers of modern times.

A friend sent me the quote back in the spring, shortly after my wife, Nina, gave birth to our first child, a wonderful daughter we named Stella. But so far at least, the words seem very much exaggerated. Motherhood, which overcame Nina more instantly and totally, is incontestably arduous. Fatherhood, by contrast, feels like a slow build, one that inches day-by-day from the realm of the surreal to the real as the little one grows more into a person, with her own preferences, expressions, and quirks of personality.

Since joining the family, Stella has prompted many adjustments but generally not pushed us to our limits the way most newborns do. For a while, progress in finalizing my book slowed and my attention to my grad school classes waned, but overall the transition has been manageable. In large part that's because Nina and I have both been lucky to be able to take time away from work and enjoy the support of generous family in these first weeks and months. (Nina's parents and brother live nearby us, out here in the tranquil German countryside, and my mother is visiting this month from the US. All have helped us tremendously.)

Bourek and Chorba have also adjusted to Stella's presence; once they realized she was too small to take them on walks or offer them treats, they quickly lost interest (for now, at least).

A very curious Bourek and Chorba greeted the new arrival in her first hours.
Stella means "star" in Latin. Several of her aunties and uncles back in Algeria have already taken to calling her Nedjma, the local equivalent.

Selecting her name was a long process, driven by strong opinions on both sides. One major requirement was that her name be pronounceable both by my English-speaking family and Nina's German-speaking one, as well as in the French-speaking world, where we have long lived and will likely live again.

For me, the choice of a celestial name was also important. I have spent most of my life deliberately cultivating a sense of wonder for the world and following that curiosity around the globe. There remains much to discover here on Earth, but the promise of so much more in the universe beyond. While technological limitations likely mean I'll spend out my days exploring this planet, a wider range of adventures may be open to future generations. Who knows, our little girl may be the first in the family to see the stars up close.

Whatever path she chooses, Nina and I hope that spirit of adventure and discovery will guide Stella and take her far. Our job, for now, is to prepare her for that journey.

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