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.