Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two Months: Remembering

I have been waiting until today to write about another of my favorite memories with Hudson: our evening rituals. Not sure why I have been waiting, except that this seems like the right way to mark each passing month. Memories are a double-edged sword—they keep her close, but they also make me long for her to actually be close. And I worry about losing them, too. This is at least one way to keep them alive.

When Hudson and I got home from picking her up at school, I usually set immediately to getting dinner ready so that when Ed got home, we could all eat and still get Hudson to bed at a reasonable hour (at our house, this was 7:30 at the latest). I started pulling things out of the refrigerator and cabinets and Hudson set about doing any number of things. Reading books or playing with her toys in the playroom, which was right next to the kitchen. Climbing in and out of the rocking chair in the living room (she’d say, “Rock, rock, rock”).
Chasing Bess around or just standing with her by the front storm door (I kept the front door open and the storm door locked so the two of them could watch the world go by outside. It was one of their favorite activities). Pulling all the dishtowels out of their bottom drawer and putting them back in (it finally occurred to me to put the good dishtowels up in a cabinet and put the ratty ones in that drawer so I didn’t have to wash them all the time before using them).
Opening all the cabinets and pulling out the pots and pans (often so she could climb in herself).  Making use of any number of kitchen utensils that I kept in the lower drawers for her to play with (with me having to wash any of these before use, too). Balling up pieces of paper and putting them into the trash can (or at least trying to—the cabinet had a toddler lock on it, but she’d seen us put trash in there so many times, she wanted to do it, too, so she’d pull it open as far as it would go and just drop the paper inside.)

When dinner was ready, I said, “OK, let’s go to your highchair!” and she would immediately wander over there. I put her in and said, “It’s time to wash hands!” She held her hands out, one by one, while I wiped them with a wet paper towel. I put her food and a cup of water (poor kid never got juice—she’d probably had 2 or 3 cups of juice total in her whole life) on her tray and she got busy. With gusto. My biggest irrational fear was that she would choke on something (I mean, really, who the hell sits around worrying that their kid will get meningitis, damn it?), so I still cut her food up pretty small even at 17 months. This is probably why she shoveled huge handfuls in at a time, though, because she couldn’t get a decent mouthful of food otherwise. Oh, well.

Lots of nights, Ed wouldn’t quite make it home for the start of dinner, so when I heard him come up the stairs, I said, “Who’s that?! Who’s coming?” and she broke into a grin and kicked those little feet up and down, knowing Daddy was home. He opened the door, peeked his head around, and said, “It’s Daddy!” (this was one of Hudson’s favorite lines from one of her favorite books, “Daddy Hugs”—she got such a kick out of the first page where the daddy comes in and says, “Here I come! It’s DADDY!”) Hudson laughed and let herself be kissed, but quickly got back to the business of eating, about which she was very serious. Her only bad habit was that she loved to watch Bess eat food off the floor, so she often purposely held her hand or her spoon out and dropped food on the floor, looking straight at us the whole time, waiting for a reaction. All she usually got was, “Hudson, food goes on the tray, not on the floor, please.” When she was finished, we took her tray away, but often she apparently did not think she was done, and would keep fishing food out of the pocket of her bib. The girl loved to eat, I tell you.

We washed hands again and then we asked, “Hudson, what time is it?!” She smiled and said, “BATH!” If Ed was home, he took her upstairs to take a bath while I cleaned up the dinner dishes. When I heard them wrapping up and walking over to her room to put on her pajamas, I knew one of my favorite moments of the day was coming up. After she was in her pajamas, she walked over to the top of the stairs, leaned her face against the baby gate, and said, as loud as her little voice could manage, “Mama!” (Her daddy taught her this trick—he taught her all her best tricks, really). I can still hear it in my head as clearly as if it had happened last night, but it is one of those sounds I fear losing the most. I dried my hands, climbed up the stairwell on my hands and knees, and gave her a snuzzle (cross between a snuggle and a nuzzle—it was really just a nose-rub) and a kiss through the bars of the baby gate. Then I stood up and took her into my arms and we gave each other a great big hug before her daddy took her into her room for storytime. This is one of those moments I go back to many, many times every day.

If Ed wasn’t home, then I would take her upstairs for her bath. I usually let her climb the stairs on her own, either on her hands and knees, or, in the later days, with great big steps while holding on to the spindles in the railing. At the top, I closed the gate behind me and we went into the bathroom. I put her toddler tub in the bathtub and started drawing the water and told her to go get a washcloth. She wandered out of the bathroom and into her room, opened the cabinet door in her dresser, and grabbed a washcloth (or, usually, several). I grabbed a towel and we went back to the bathroom, where I told her to pick out her toys. She poked through her bin of tub toys—mostly squirting sea creatures and one plastic turtle with three building blocks for his shell—and picked out a few, which she threw into her tub. Then I sat on the edge of the tub, pulled her into my lap, undressed her, and plopped her in.

This was undoubtedly Hudson’s very favorite time of day. She had the undivided attention of her mom or dad, lots of water, and tons of toys. I picked her squirty toys up out of the water, set them on the edge of the tub and then launched them back into the tub with a flick of my finger and a “Wheeeee!” while she laughed and laughed. She pushed the squirty toys under the water, squeezed them and watched them make bubbles, and then pulled them back out to squirt. She stacked the building blocks on the turtle’s back or used them as cups to pour water. But the thing that got her giggling the most, her very favorite thing, was splashing. She kicked her feet or flailed her arms, throwing water everywhere, and I would exaggeratedly shriek and hold the washcloth up to protect myself, saying in a high-pitched voice, “No, no!” She just laughed her little head off and, egged on, would do it some more—the cycle of my shrieks and her laughs continued until I’d had enough (she would never have had enough).

Every other night or so, we bathed her with soap and washed her hair. Once she was good and soapy, we stuck her in the Bumbo seat on the floor of the tub (no, not filled with water) and pulled the handheld shower head down from its perch, turned it on, and rinsed her off. When she was littler, she LOVED this--she couldn’t get enough of it (see video below). As she got older, and actually minded getting water in her eyes, she liked it a little less, but still got a kick out of playing with the sprayer.

When we were all done bathing, I said, “Ready for shaky shaky?” In more recent days, she said, “No!” and shook her head because she wasn’t ready to get out of the bath. I grabbed her tight under the armpits and lifted her up, saying, “Shaky! Shaky! Shaky!” and she kicked her feet and wiggled to help shake the water off. Then we twirled around and I laid her down on her towel, which was waiting on the closed toilet seat, and wrapped her up, saying, “Baby burrito!” And then I swooped her up and we looked in the mirror and I leaned her in so she could give herself a kiss in the mirror. We did this exact sequence every time I gave her a bath. Then we sat down on the toilet seat, finished drying her off, and brushed her teeth (not a favorite activity). Finally, as we left the bathroom, she loved to flip the light switches off in the bathroom and the hallway before we headed into her room.

Once we got her jammies on, I sat down in the rocking chair and set her on the floor. We kept all our regular bedtime books in a pile on floor to the right of the rocking chair. In earlier days, I set her on my lap and I picked the order of the books, but later, she liked to pick which ones she wanted to read each night. A recent favorite had become an extra copy of a photo book we had made for her grandparents for a Christmas present—we called it the “Hudson book.” We looked at each page and picked out and named Hudson (at all her different ages), Mommy, Daddy, Bess, and all the other relatives in there. Some other bedtime favorites were Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, (complete with Hudson’s motions of smacking her head when “one fell off and bumped her head” and wagging her finger when the doctor said, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”), Goodnight Gorilla (she loved, loved, loved that pink balloon) and Hush Little Baby (she picked out and named the birds, the moon, the bear—lots of her favorite words were in that book). And of course, the finale was Goodnight Moon. Usually Ed and I had to pick that one up ourselves when it was time for storytime to end—Hudson loved the book but she knew it meant no more stories, so she rarely picked it up herself. She often fussed at us when we tried to pick it up, but that never lasted long once we opened it up. She positively adored the great green room and everything in it. We picked out all kinds of things: the clock, the house, the cats, the balloon, the three little bears, the bowl full of mush, the stars, and much more—she could say many of these words by the time she died, too. But her favorite activity had become finding the mouse—she practically wanted to skip over the pages in between the green room pages, so she could get back to the mouse. She knew exactly where it was on every page, but would look up at me, smiling and sucking air through her teeth, waiting for me to say, “Where is it?! Where’s the mouse?!” and then she’d point to it excitedly, and I’d say “There’s the mouse!” And she’d start flipping ahead to where she could find it again.

When we got to the “Good night stars, good night air,” I would soften my voice, and then finish “Good night noises everywhere” with a whisper. By this time, she was usually already curling up on my shoulder with her thumb in her mouth, ready for her song. We finished our bed time ritual with one round of “Hark the Sound,” her head tucked under my chin, me swaying gently on my feet. When I got to the end of “I’m a Tar Heel born, I’m a Tar Heel bred,” instead of “Go to hell, Dook!” I whispered, “Don’t go to Dook!” which always earned a smile or a soft giggle. Then I hugged her tight, kissed her cheek, and put her down on her tummy. She turned her head to one side, thumb still in mouth, and I tucked her little polar bear and panda bear up under her arms on each side, and she closed her eyes. I said, “Good night, my sweet girl” and closed the door behind me.

On the day Hudson died, her blood pressure and other vital signs were pretty unstable throughout the day. The doctors had talked with us about the possibility that her body might not even make it through until the evening, when they were planning to do the second brain death test, even with all the medications and monitoring they were doing to try keep her alive and stable until then so the results would be reliable. We assured them that if she crashed, we did not want them to take any extraordinary measures—we knew our girl was already gone, but we just wanted a little more time with her before we would never be able to see her again. I didn’t leave the room that entire day. Knowing that this might happen before the planned hour, Ed and I took some quiet time alone with her earlier in the afternoon so that we would feel like we’d had a chance to say goodbye, just in case. We talked to her, cried over her, told her how much we loved her—I remember telling her that there were so many things I wanted to say, but I didn’t know what they all were right then, so I just had to trust that she knew. And Ed told her that we knew she would still hear us when we talked to her for the rest of our lives. Then we read Goodnight Moon. On each page of the great green room, I said, “Where’s the mouse?!” and then pointed to it myself and said “There’s the mouse!” We said, “Good night stars, good night air, good night noises everywhere” and then closed the book and said goodbye to our beautiful girl. We were fortunate to have more time with her and a chance to say goodbye to her again later that evening, but I will remember that most precious moment for the rest of my life.

As parents, it seems we often focus on remembering and documenting “big” moments—Christmas mornings, birthday parties, first steps, and the like. As I’ve said here many times before, now that Hudson is gone, it’s the ordinary, everyday moments that I miss the most. And it is these that I most want to remember.

We love you and miss you so much, my sweet girl. This memory of you is my One Good Thing on this otherwise very bad day.

video

27 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Mandy, How much love you squeezed into every single day with Hudson! She had more love in her moments with you on daily basis than some children experience in a lifetime. I love the video of her trying to catch the water from the shower head, and while it made me cry, it also made me smile and laugh, which is truly one good thing. Erin

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  3. This was the toughest chapter for me to read so far. I prayed last night that I would wake up and these last two months would have been a bad dream. It didn't work and I'm so so sorry.

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  4. Mandy, that was really beautiful and just so touching. My heart still aches for you and everytime I see Teddy, I think of the little blessings, ordinary moments and try to capture them in my heart's album. Love to you and Ed this day and always thinking of you.

    Brooke Adams

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  5. I'm crying for you and all the people who knew and loved Hudson, and for all those who never got a chance. I LOVE that her lullaby was "Hark the Sound." I hate that you are left with such unfinished business, but it couldn't be clearer that Hudson's 17 months were filled with as much love and joy and richness as could be. It's a reminder to all of us to treasure the special moments, and to stuff in as much joy as possible. And that's One Good Thing.

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  6. Oh, what a beautiful ritual. Except in the most brutally final way, Hudson was a lucky girl. How blessed she was to have such loving parents, such a peaceful bedtime ritual.

    I am so heartbroken for you, thinking of you all every day. And thank you so much for sharing Hudson's beautiful, too-short life with us.

    Penelope

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  7. Oh, Mandy. What beautiful memories you have and what a blessed little girl Hudson was to have you and Ed as her mommy and daddy. I am in tears and my heart is aching for you and Ed anew, having just read this and seen this video of sweet Hudson again.

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  8. Kate Ackley ZellerJuly 13, 2010 at 12:33 PM

    Smart, adorable, joyful Hudson, we will always remember you.

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  9. The lump in my throat is killing me as I picture those sweet moments you spent with Hudson on her last day. You were so right that she hears you still. She sings to you now, in the trees, the moon, the stars that she loved to point out. Most of all, she resides in your heart. As you said, it's a double-edged sword -- as she both breaks and mends your hearts, every day. Only big, great loves have the power to do that. Your and Ed's love for Hudson was one of those rare, big, great loves. It is so obvious to us all. In the same way that she would wait for you to ask her, "Where's the mouse?", I feel like she's asking us all now, "Where's the one good thing?" And she's helping us all find it and point it out to the world. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of your dear sweet girl.

    I pray that each day there's a little more mending and a little less breaking.

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  10. I found your blog through Katie Granju's blog. I haven't stopped crying since I started reading. I'm terribly sorry and heartbroken for your loss. Thank you for sharing this journey and your daughter with us.

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  11. I whisper "Good night noises everywhere" too. As I have said before. You have changed the way I look at the everyday moments. Such as Taylor (8) has made a mess and I am just about to get frustrated with her, and I stop, think of you, think of Hudson, and think is it worth me screaming about books on the floor, "Betsy just pick them up." I want them to teach them to be responsible and to clean after themselves, but when you are tired and you don't feel like an argument it's better to just do it. As I said at those moments my girls are here and I am very lucky. I think to my self others not so lucky. This has changed me, Hudson has brought perspective to someone she never met because her Mommy is brave and is sharing her story with others.

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  12. Mandy, thank you for sharing this description of your nighttime ritual with Hudson, and thank you for helping us all to remember to treasure the sweetness of everyday life and love.

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  13. Mandy, that video makes me smile and cry all at the same time. Keep writing down these very detailed memories of your time with her-- you're not one to forget much to begin with, but writing it down will let you relive the wonderful moments again and again. I know you will never forget the sound of her voice calling you-- and I know that you and Ed were right--she will always be able to hear you when you talk to her. And, somehow, I think she will always find a way to answer you.

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  14. We will never forget, Mandy.

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  15. Incredible, wonderful stories Mandy, and I can relate to every one. Take care, Rob Kempton.

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  16. "Then we read Goodnight Moon."

    Sweet Jesus.

    I don't know why this blog should be a precious gift to me, when it breaks my heart into one million pieces like it did on that sentence, but it is, so thank you.

    My dad's and my favorite book was "A Wrinkle in Time," and I read it to him on his deathbed.

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  17. It is at night, when I say a prayer with Caroline after our bedtime story, that I think of you and your sweet Hudson. I ache for you, but I know it takes away none of your pain, although I wish it could. One Good Thing...I think all of us are learning to savor these little, fleeting moments, as we honor your sweet babe.

    Take care friend-
    Amber A.

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  18. We think of Hudson, you and Ed, every day, especially in these little routines.

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  19. I honestly felt like I was there in each moment you described....dinner, bathtime, bedtime and, sadly, the hospital. Letting us in to share moments with you, Ed and Hudson is One Good Thing. She lives on in every one. Love you.

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  20. I have been in love with that sweet child since I saw the first photo and could see how wonderful she was. Thank you so much for sharing these memories of her.

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  21. What a beautiful post Mandy. As much as it broke my heart to read, the video of Hudson made me giggle....what a sweetheart she was. We are thinking and praying for you and Ed every day...xoxo

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  22. Mandy...I am a friend of Ed's from way back in elementary school in Chapel Hill and my heart breaks for the both of you. I am so moved with every entry you so eloquently write about how you are dealing with the loss of your precious girl. I look forward to your entries and after I read them, I am inspired to cherish every moment with my children and to find "One Good Thing" about them each and every day. Thank you so much for sharing what must be both hard and therapeutic. You and Ed have been and will continue to be in my prayers.

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  23. as i have been afraid to be here i am now glad to have come...as i read these memories aloud i better feel my grief...i hope you do not mind but i would like to read some of these moments to an audience..it is easily stressed in the choke and the tear in the reading..i know your a lawyer by degree but i must observe by your memory and conveyance you do so much to affect...seems writing might be a more satisfying puruit..you are so connected..just saying...i love you and will henceforth fear less in sharing grief through articulation... reverie..and every word you share i will be sure to read aloud so i can hear your voice through mine..i love you little big sister

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  24. see mother for a moment in the correction.. meant "you are a lawyer"and "more satisfying pursuit"..specific genetic vanity

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  25. Goodnight Hudson. We love you always. Renee P.

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  26. Thank you for sharing such beautiful rituals - they're so achingly familiar and remind me to cherish the simplicity of our routines each day. Someone asked me just yesterday how many children are in Emma's class at St. Ann's and I was truly a deer in headlights - completely frozen - before simply stating that there are six. Hudson was the leader in that room and created in her classmates the ability to carry her in themselves... she taught them (and us) so much! We talk about her everyday and miss her terribly.
    -Katie Britton

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  27. Mandy,

    Last night I was exhausted and planned to have a quick "good night" with my girls (ages 8 and 10), followed by TV. After reading this post (and drying the tears), I spent relaxed, happy time with each of them, and I'm thankful that I did. It was yet another One Good Thing.

    Please take care.

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