Sunday, June 13, 2010

One Month: Remembering

I can hardly fathom that we have managed to live a month without our sweetest Hudson. While Ed and I both thought we should do something to commemorate the day, when he asked me this morning what I thought we should do, I admitted that I had purposely avoided thinking about planning anything because to do so would confirm, yet again, that this really happened.

Instead of sharing more observations on my grief today, I decided I would just spend some time with my memories. They are filled with joy, down to the most mundane of moments. It is one of those moments that I have been thinking about all day today.

Every weekday, I left my office right at 5:00 in order to pick up Hudson at St. Ann’s by 5:45, the latest pick-up time we were allowed. I usually squeaked in right at 5:40 and no matter what had happened that day, I always perked up thinking about seeing my girl. I headed up the stairs to the building and crossed through the lobby, usually greeting several mom- and dad-friends along the way. I took the elevator up to the second floor where the infants and young toddlers were, and pushed through the double doors into the hallway to the kids’ rooms.

Usually around this time, the kids were in their own classrooms—poor Hudson was often last or second-to-last waiting in her room, but she didn’t seem to mind. As soon as I turned into the doorway and her little eyes met mine, though, she always cracked a mile-wide smile and usually started to squeal.

Sometimes if she was still in her highchair finishing her afternoon snack, she kicked her feet and squirmed trying to get out so she could get to me. But other times, if she was busy playing, she turned and dashed off, not ready to end her fun even though she was happy to see me. I remembered thinking back to when she was six months old and she used to cry when I left her at day care—everyone told me not to worry, that she would get to the point where she loved school so much that she wouldn’t want to leave at the end of the day. Once we actually reached that point, though, I wasn’t so sure how thrilled I was about it—not because I wasn’t glad that she was thriving and loving school, but because it made it really hard to get her out of there sometimes.

Back when it was jacket weather, I popped her up on top of the cubbyholes so I could put her jacket on. She inevitably started reaching for every item up there—pens, pieces of paper, other kids’ toys or snacks. Once she was ready to go, we said our goodbyes—Hudson was early with waving, blowing kisses, and saying “bye-bye,” so this tradition had gone on for a good long while before she died. She and Ms. Barbara had such a special bond—there’s not really any other way to describe it than that. It was obvious that Hudson had real affection for her gentle, big-hearted teacher.

As the days warmed up, it took longer and longer to get ourselves to the car, as Hudson began to dawdle on her way, remarking at the bushes, flowers, birds, and airplanes. Lots of the older kids had an after-school ritual of playing on the grassy hill by the parking lot, and as Hudson got older, she often tried to make her way to play with them. I remember thinking that I was dreading the day when she and her own playmates stopped to do this every day—it was already such a time crunch getting home and getting dinner ready for all of us to eat together before Hudson’s bath and bedtime. Usually, I hustled her along, sometimes picking her back up so we could get to the car faster. She hated this and let me know so. 

Once we got to the car, it usually took a fair amount of cajoling to get Little Miss to sit down and get buckled in. That girl was busy, and who was I to get in her way? On only a few occasions did these moments turn into all-out meltdowns. Usually a reminder that we had to get home to see Daddy and Bess did the trick.

The five-minute ride home was hit-or-miss. In earlier days, she often cried most of the way—she was never much for the car seat and, again, couldn’t stand to be interrupted in her enjoyment of the world outside. At those times, I started through her animal noises with her (“What does the… DOG say? What does the… COW say?”). This usually calmed her pretty quickly, as she liked to practice and show off her skills. I always exaggeratedly repeated the sounds back to her and she laughed and laughed. But in the later days, she got busier talking to herself and the things around her and just chattered away in the backseat until we pulled into the driveway.

The driveway was my favorite part. She loved everything about the outdoors (“ow-side”) and once I got her out of the car and put her down, she immediately started scrutinizing all of it. Her newest favorite was ants—she squatted down on her heels and peered at their tiny bodies careening every which way and proudly pronounced, “Ann!” (no “t” sound there just yet, either). Then she headed to the crumbling cement under the garage door and picked up pieces of it, saying, “Rock!” I always had to remind her that rocks stay on the ground and most of the time, she dutifully dropped whatever she’d gathered. Most of the time. If she happened to see some flying insect, she said, “Bee!” (every flying insect was a bee). As we headed inside the gate to our backyard, she laughed as the birds quickly scattered from the bird feeder hanging under our crabapple tree. She shouted, “Bird!” and “Tree!” We went through the rest of the words she knew, most of these only by sight (“Hudson, where is the sky?” “Where is the door?” “Where is the house?”), and she excitedly pointed to all the right things. I climbed the stairs to the back door and she lingered in the yard, stooping to inspect the grass, the mulch, the flowers, whatever caught her eye. Again, I usually had to coax her inside so I could get going on dinner. She was working hard on climbing the stairs by herself, but her legs were still just shy of being long enough to manage on her own, so I took one hand and she’d hold the railing with the other and we’d take each step one at a time. We were both so proud when she got to the top.

Now that I no longer have these ordinary moments with her (how totally wrong and incomplete my days feel without them), I regret hurrying through them. While I generally believe that regrets aren’t very constructive, I think these regrets are. They serve to remind me that beauty, joy, laughter—I can find all of these and more in the most everyday moments. And instead of rushing through them, I should stop and pay attention to the bushes, the ants, the blades of grass, the birds. I should find joy in them, just like my Hudson did. She continues to teach me every single day. And that is another One Good Thing I can take from her death.

One month down. Many, many more without her to go. I miss her so much. But these memories sustain me and remind me how lucky we were to have her in our lives.


  1. It always brightened my day when I saw you and Hudson during one of these evenings at St. Ann's. It always made a long day brighter to see your joy in seeing Hudson. We all miss her so much.

    We learned last night from Philip and Nat that Hudson's things remain as she left them, her drawer and cubby still marked with her name.

    I've made a point of getting to know Ms. Barbara this last month, not to mention other parents, children and caregivers. It's a lesson Hudson taught me.

  2. Mandy, you simply amaze me. Many hugs xxx

  3. I remember seeing one of your facebook status updates several months back that simply said "I truly do love my child". I don't know what she did that inspired that post, but I imagined that it was some every day, adorable thing that just put a big smile on your face. And it made me smile thinking about it. It just kind of stuck with me for some reason... just how the little moments, especially with kids, bring so much joy.

  4. The month mark must be a hard one. So much of what you say about the daycare pickup ritual is so familiar, of course. I thought your way of putting Hudson on the cubbies to get her jacket on was innovative...and enjoyed seeing you guys whenever I did pickup--because I also rush out of my office at 5 to make it to St Ann's by 5:40 or so. And I sometimes drag Elliot past the grass and the bugs and the birds so we can get home. But Hudson's too short life has taught me not to rush and to enjoy the bugs and the grass a bit more. And that is One Good Thing.


  5. Mandy, your words, as always, are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing them and for reminding us all of the beauty in the small moments. I often remember laying on my back with my mom laying next to me on the grass when I was a little, little kid and looking up at the clouds and we would say the animals and things we saw in the clouds. What could be more mundane, really? But like your St. Ann's pick ups and the stops to explore the ants and the trees and the blades of grass, that's where the beauty is. Thank you for the gifts you and Hudson continue to give us and for helping us remember to be thankful for the times that seem rushed, hectic or mundane. Love, Kate Ackley Z.

  6. How beautifully you've captured these memories. You're a beautiful writer, Mandy, and a beautiful mother. I loved reading your mommy Facebook status updates about everyday things, because most often, I found myself nodding my head and relating to them. (When I didn't relate, it was usually because you were describing Hudson's brilliant precociousness or hitting some milestone early that we hadn't yet experienced here!)

    I sometimes catch myself hurrying through things with my children, and lately when this happens, I think of Hudson, and of you and Ed, and I try to relax and savor the little moments, not worrying if bedtime slips a few minutes or if I have to re-fill the watering can because Henry has watered the rocks instead of the plants.

  7. Mandy, thank you for sharing this. this One Good Thing has once again helped me notice the many small blessings around me. love, leigh

  8. Another extra tough day for you both, I know. Today we celebrated Hudson's memory with bubbles at the Brookland picnic. Lots and lots of them. Her beauty floated everywhere. For today, I send you strength!

  9. Mandy, your friends said it perfectly above, about moving forward versus moving on. I think of you often. Although I never got to meet Hudson, I feel I've gotten a glimpse of her through Facebook and here.

    Your post yesterday recalls a family I know who lost their young son, Sam, to cancer. I always remember the way they said there will never be a "before Sam" and "after Sam;" there will only be "before Sam" and because of Sam." So it is with Hudson. There is no "after Hudson," since she will forever be a part of you. But even the "returning to normal" and the pockets of joy you will hopefully begin to feel in increasing quantity as you move forward (not on)-- will always be (consciously or not) in part because of Hudson. Much love to you, Deborah.

  10. My sweet Mandy. I love this post so much. I read and re-read it. It was a moment with Hudson and all her wonderment. It reminds all of us how precious those moments are. I could literally see each moment you were describing and her little face as she saw the world. Thank you for letting others into your memories - - they are wonderful memories and with each one Hudson lives on. Love you so.

  11. Mandy, at the risk of opening the proverbial floodgates, I hope you will post more of these stories. Hudson was a person of joy nad inspiraton to us all, and while none of us will travel the road exactly as you and Ed travel it, we miss many such similar moments as well. You are right to rejoice in the memory of looking at ants and rolling down hills - those are the first gifts Hudson gave to you.

  12. My heart breaks with every sentence.

  13. I always admired how truly fulfilled you seemed by motherhood-- it didn't have to be the only thing in your life, but when you were in that place, you were in it fully. I have often hoped this month that somehow your complete joy in being Hudson's mother might somehow help you get through this-- your memories are all sweet. That in itself is a gift. It is so utterly wrong tht you have to go on without Hudson, but continue to celebrate your memories of her.

  14. I just wanted to second what others have mentioned here of how much joy I felt reading this post--feeling Hudson's vibrance, yours too--and I hope you'll feel up to sharing more vivid memories of her like this. You have such a voice, Mandy: so articulate, so genuine, so authentically you.

  15. One of the many things I have learned from you and Ed losing your sweet Hudson is to try to slow down and enjoy every moment I have with my daughter. Life can change so fast. I am terribly sorry yours has.

  16. Coming to you from MaTante: My mother, aged 20 at the time, married short of a year, lost her first baby. He lived only an hour. Mother birthed 5 more children, but always when asked, she said she had 6. We of course never knew him, but included our "Baby Brother" when we described our family. The hole in Mother's heart was precious and permanent throughtout her life and she passed on to us an inclusion of nuturing a love for him. Do you remember the Wordsworth poem, "We are Seven"? Recently I was at the old family cemetary lot in Greenville, SC. I reached down to touch the wee headstone. "Who is that?" I was asked. "My Baby Brother"...the reply. Hudson has a permanent spot in many hearts. She will never NOT be there. Years ago I read a little verse. Loosely remembered it went somewhat like this:
    "And in the long ago
    So bitterly that I wept
    The babe I mourned as lost that day
    Is the only one I kept."
    Welcome Hudson; welcome to a forever spot in my heart.....a Great Grand

  17. So lovely. I particularly liked your description of Hudson looking at the ants. That made me smile, your clever little girl. x