On ancestry in the making

I’ve been posting about “family history in the making” and then I read Helen Tovey’s blog post on “becoming an ancestor”. It’s made me think about how important it is to document the present (and recent past).

Today is a particularly appropriate day for such thoughts as it’s my son’s 15th birthday. He is my only child, so his birthday is not just a celebration of his life, but of his father and I becoming a family rather than a couple.

I sometimes wonder if our pleasure in that doesn’t almost outweigh the boy-child’s enjoyment of presents, cake and devoted parental attention for the day. And that got me thinking about his day.

Naming Day, Thomas Alexander Gray.

The boy-child with proud parents and god-parents.

We’re not religious, so a christening was out of the question, but when he was born, I remember thinking that it was important to celebrate the significance of his life to us in some way. It took a while to organise (10 months), but on 17 January, 1999 we held a naming ceremony for our baby boy.

At the time, we were living in England, but both being “Aucklanders” decided to hold the ceremony in New Zealand. That meant, sadly, that my family missed out on attending, but it felt important to us that the boy-child be welcomed into the community of our friends and Kiwi whanau (Maori word that more or less translates as family).

The nice thing about organising a naming ceremony rather than a baptism, is that you have carte blanche to do whatever you like because people don’t really have any preconceived ideas about what it’s going to be like.

Anu singing 'Forever Young.' With Claudia Bell, Chris McMaster, Su, Tom, Tony and Ruth Habgood in background.

So we asked a dear friend, who’s a brilliant, confident and funny speaker, to introduce proceedings, wrote some “promises” in lieu of baptismal vows, chose godparents (we’ve never been able to think of a good alternative term), asked the wonderful singer Anu Grace to perform ‘Forever Young’ at the ceremony and invited lot of people to share in the day with us.

It was fantastic!

One of the best things we did that day was to have a “wishing tree” – a New Zealand native Kauri. We made some little tags and asked all of our guests to write a wish for our child and hang it on the tree. We later planted the tree at the Big T’s parents’ house and stored the tags along with photos and other memorabilia of the day.

Tree of wishes

Tree of wishes

I read the wishes again yesterday, and was struck by how kind, funny, clever and generally good our friends and whanau are.

So mainly for the boychild – but also anyone else who’s interested, here are some of the naming day wishes.

Dear Tom, be genuine and sincere, these two qualities will take you a long way. With love and best wishes always

Uncle Mark, Aunty Jacqui and cousins Natalie and Christopher

Tom. We wish you the best of everything – loads of happiness and a fulfilling life. (Please keep that wonderful smile).

Love from Grandma and Grandad Gray

Thomas, we wish you that you have an enjoyable and wonderful life. We hope you can learn from all your experiences. We promise to visit when we are in your part of the world.

Kathleen, Natalie, Vanessa and Anita.

Thomas, our special wish for you is to explore the world and have many exciting adventures

Love from Arran and Anna

Thomas – I hope you never forget how special you are, and can enjoy and appreciate how special other people are. And I hope we can talk about this one day.

Tony R.

Thomas, every virtue has its roots in consideration. Remember this and you will be able to reflect on the events of your life with joy and not regret.

Steve A.

I wish you joy, laughter and song and an unmistakeable sense of true inner happiness. And love, love, love.


Thomas, my wish for you is that you attract as much joy and happiness into your life as you can generate for others.

Chris McM.

Thomas, I wish for you a life full of endless possibilities, a live explored fully and filled with love and happiness.

Love, Nolene

To Thomas Alexander. Wishing you health, happiness and laughter all the days of your life.


A wish for Thomas
Thomas, thank you for the hope in the future that you have given us. We hope that your future will be a bright and full of cheer as our own.


E tu i mua i te ra

kia kore ai koe e

ki te I te ata

Stand, face the sun

so you won’t see the shadow


Thomas. May you give and receive kindness in your dealings with all the creatures of this world. With love.


And may you enjoy good health throughout your life. More love.

From Tineke (Jette’s mum}

Hello Tom, I wish you nearly everything you ever want … but especially that you will always be loved as much as you are now.


Tom. A good start; a great day. May your pixellated digital future contain a hyper-paradise.


Dear Thomas, we wish you success in all you do. Live well, laugh often and love much. Love and be loved.

Dorothy and Peter

Thomas Alexander Gray, my wish for you is that you have an inner peace and the gift to be able to share it with others.


Dear Thomas, don’t let the small things get you down. Keep a smile on your face and love your mum and dad.

Regards, Craig

I wish Tom the strength to finish what he starts.


Tom, I wish that you always see the positive side of everything and know that you are loved.


To Thomas, I wish that when you are old enough to play squash against your father you will be as merciless when you thrash him as he is.

But my wish for you is that every day you will wake up happy with adventure in your heart.


Tom, I wish you happy and fulfilling relationships with all your friends and family. Lots of love


Wishing Thomas Health, Wealth and Happiness. And lang may yer lum reek.

Margaret and Espie

Thomas, I wish you tolerance, but not indifference. Kia kaha

Niven (love also from David)

Thomas, I wish you the gift of concentration – that is really being IN what you do, with all of you.

Love from Lynette

Thomas, I hope you grow up seriously cuddly and domesticated so you have a happy life.


Too much celebrating! Thanks for inviting us to your naming ceremony. From one red-head to another – don’t forget your kiwi sunscreen. Hope we get to see you soon.


Learn to sail voucher. To be used as often as necessary.

Mark O.

To Thomas, enjoy life, life it to the full. Grow and develop as an individual. Keep in touch with your parents and your heritage. All the best for the future

Tony D.

Dearest Thomas, may you have as much happiness in your life as we do (heaps and heaps). Our love.

Tony and Cara

Dear Tom, destiny is not the possibilities you have; they are infinite. Choose your role models well (your parents are a good start). Enjoy the 21st century (I’m going to). Happy sailing, fishing, travelling, story-telling, exercising, thinking, conversing. Happy challenges regardless (or particularly because) of the difficulty.

Love, James B.

To Tom. What a fabulous naming ceremony this has been in honour of you. May your life have much zest, vigour and freedom to choose all that’s fantastic


Thomas, realise who you are and where you are going.

Thomas, know that love and peace are always inside you … and may someone else always pay the rent.

My wish for Thomas is that he may learn to enjoy the treasures of life and the wealth of nature and not be dependent on material wealth for enjoyment. Lots of love


My wish for Thomas Alexander Gray would be for his life to be filled to the brim with love, joy, faith and happiness and may all this be shared with his parents and family.

Love, Sharlene

Tom. I wish Tom you will be a pilot.


The party.

Thomas’s naming party is fun

Thomas’s naming party is number one

Uncle Tony’s over there.

Aunty Su is over here.

We are all at the naming party.


Thomas, may you continue to bring as much joy to the new people that you meet as you bring to those that you know.

Sean P.

Darling Tom, may you live as long as you want and want to as long as you live.


Darling Tom, may you never hunger in body or soul and may your heart fly free every day of your life. May all your pain be washed away in the tears of joy I shed for the happiness you have brought into my life. Shine on little one.


5 thoughts on “On ancestry in the making

  1. Hi and thank you for reading my blog. It is important to treasure, record and remember recent years and family times too isn’t it. I love Tom’s tree of wishes, it’s such a beautiful idea and those messages are so precious – I think I’ll do one of those for my daughter’s 18th birthdays when they happen in a few years time!

  2. Reblogged this on Zimmerbitch: age is just a (biggish) number and commented:

    I sat down to write a post about wishes (since I’ve decided to make a book of them for the boy-child’s sixteenth) when I remembered I’d already done something similar. So here it is – my musing on family and love and children from last year’s birthday.

  3. Pingback: On writing wishes and not re-inventing the wheel | Zimmerbitch: age is just a (biggish) number

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