Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hidden Treasure

In mid-April, about a month before Hudson died, I took a trip to Chicago to interview a witness. Ed and Hudson came with me to visit some friends and family who live there. On Friday night of that week, Hudson and I had dinner at the home of my college friends Jason and Megan and their two kids. Ed was not feeling well so he stayed back at the hotel. Ed, Hudson, and I had spent a beautiful afternoon at the Lincoln Park Zoo, where Hudson had gotten some incredible close-up views of gorillas and the big cats, two of her favorite animals. She wasn’t sure what to make of being able to be so close to the gorillas—she was utterly fascinated, but kept one hand on my leg at all times, clearly not totally aware that there was a sheet of glass between her and the big apes.

Hudson had a blast playing with Megan’s kids, 3-year-old Eve and 13-month-old Logan, especially playing with their kitchen set, a toy we had not yet gotten around to getting for her. I had great fun drinking Megan’s fantastic margaritas, made with not only tequila, but also Captain Morgan’s. Ed called around 6:30, and I answered my cell phone and after talking to him, I put it back in my purse on the floor down the hall. Megan and Jason and I chatted while the kids played. Later, when Megan dropped us back off at the hotel, I fished in my purse for my phone as I headed to the front door and couldn’t find it anywhere. I got upstairs and texted (or emailed? I’m not even sure how I got in touch with them, since I had their numbers in my phone, which was lost) Megan and Jason and asked them to see if they saw the phone anywhere in the apartment or the car. It was nowhere to be found. We went back over the next morning and helped them look and it was just gone. I had a sneaking suspicion that my little monkey, who had recently started enjoying placing items inside other things (like bags and pockets, etc.), had “disappeared” my phone somewhere in the apartment. To this day, it hasn’t been found. The last phone call made to it was when Ed called me earlier that night.

The phone was lost, but out of nowhere, something very special was found from that visit. Megan emailed me earlier this week and told me that while going through pictures from the last few months, they had found a video Jason had taken of Logan pushing Hudson down the hall on a ride-on toy (one of her favorite toys at home). I was floored. Here I thought I had seen every last image of my little girl that I would ever see in my life, and all of a sudden, there was a new one. I would get to see another picture of that beautiful face, those plump cheeks, and, if I was lucky, that smile that made everything OK, even on the worst days.

I waited anxiously while Megan tried to figure out how to get the video to me. I wanted to see it before she shared it on Facebook, because I knew that watching it was going to be intensely emotional and personal. Since it was such a large file, we figured YouTube was the best (and quickest) way for her to share it. I literally had knots in my stomach while I waited today for her to get it to me (and I’m so grateful to her for working so hard to figure out all the privacy kinks).

Finally, the video was sitting in my inbox, waiting for me to watch it. Megan’s message said, “One of my favorite parts of the video is watching Hudson smile until she realizes that Jason is taking the video and then she won’t take her eyes off him. My other favorite part is watching my friend who is happy and at peace, and with time you will find it again.” The smile. There would be a smile. I had such mixed feelings. I couldn’t wait to see it, but I also knew how sad-happy it would make me, to see my girl again, but also to know, again, that it was probably the last “new” image of her I’d ever get to see.

Here is what I saw:

I immediately started sobbing, like I knew I would. I cried and cried and cried. I cried because I was so happy to see her again. I cried because I will never see her again. I cried because this is one of the only videos I have of her and me together (Ed was much more of a picture-taking guy). I cried because I barely recognize the woman in that video anymore—I recognize her clothes, her hair, her voice, but other than that, I have no idea who she is. I cried because the video is such a perfect illustration of the amazing creature that Hudson was. Her impish grin along with that “sssstt” sound she always made with her tongue when she was really getting a kick out of something. And then her serious, observant, perceptive “Whatchou talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” face when she realized she was being filmed. God, how I miss that grin, that face. And she’s wearing her now-iconic (to us, at least) turtle shirt. From the pictures of her last few months, you would think she never wore anything else. And now she’ll never wear it again.

Oh, my amazing, precocious, beautiful, sweet, loving, charming, brilliant little girl. My turtle. I miss her every agonizing second of every mind-bending day in this new world without her. I’m so grateful to have seen her face again, even for only 26 seconds. They may never find the phone, but this video of her that we didn’t know existed is an infinitely better hidden treasure. And maybe, like Megan said, just maybe that unrecognizable woman in the video is still hiding somewhere, too, waiting for the right moment to be found.


  1. 26 seconds of utter grace ~ both in the discovery and in the presence it offers ~ Deedee

  2. Oh, Mandy, what a lovely gift this is for you (and for all of us). A real treasure. I am hopeful there will be a time when you again feel like the woman in the video.

  3. Grace-- yes. A wonderful gift.

  4. So sad and so wonderful - such a beautiful little girl. Blessings to you.........

  5. So wonderful that you got this snippet to hold on to. I'm so sorry, and I wish you so much peace.

  6. Oh, that smile is so beautiful. I'm so glad you, and we, got to see this.

  7. Dear Mandy,

    Katie Shea Britton is my college roommate and her daughter Emma is in daycare at St. Ann's. Katie shared your story and, for whatever it's worth, I just wanted you to know that I'm here, bearing witness to your profound experience and hoping that you can find ever-increasing peace.

    Most sincerely,
    Erika Chapin

  8. What an incredible gift to us all. I shiver at how much Hudson and Amaris are alike. I would give anything to witness them negotiate a friendship beyond toddlerhood...anything! Thank you so much for allowing us to bear witness to your beautiful girl. xoxoxoRenee

  9. What a beautiful hidden treasure. I'm so glad that you have this video of you and Hudson together. I only wish that it did not have this finality to it. You and your girl should have had many, many more moment together.

    I love her facial expressions, it always amazes me how much toddlers can say without words.

  10. I love this. And, I still recognize you, sweet Mandy.