A lot of you already know that I decided back in June that I just couldn’t return to my job as a federal public defender. There are lots of reasons why that I’ll write about later, but one in particular became painfully clear to me this morning when I went in to the office for an hour or so to talk to my boss and a law firm associate who will be helping with the murder trial I was working on during the four months I was there before Hudson died. I went in on the early side so I could look things over before this meeting, and stopped at the deli downstairs for a bagel and a Coke. Just like I used to do many, many mornings between January 4 and May 7, my last day in the office before Hudson got sick. Before I even realized what was happening, I was taking a deep breath and blinking back tears. I felt like I had been punched in the face, as I took in the realization that I was going through the morning routine of my life as it existed on May 7, when, in fact, that life no longer exists. I was beginning my day like I often did, but now with the knowledge that I will never end it the same way again: by picking up Hudson at school. And that just wasn’t right.
Since we got back from North Carolina after Hudson’s memorial service, Ed and I have been hard at work on a number of repairs and improvements that have been on the back burner since we moved into this house three years ago. We put them off at the beginning because we were both working long hours at our new jobs and the last thing we wanted to do on the weekends was more work. Then Hudson was born and brought with her joy like we had never experienced before and the last thing we wanted to do on the weekends with her was work.
No more job. No more sweet Hudson. A totally different life. I started calling repairmen and contractors. We got a new porch and painted it gray instead of the dark blue it was before. We replaced the leaky skylight in the bathroom, and in addition to solving the leak problem, the new skylight brings a lot more light into the room. We painted the downstairs bathroom a smoky mauve color and put a new toilet and vanity in there.
Today, I painted the upstairs bathroom, changing the walls from an ugly canary yellow to a peaceful ice blue. And for the first time today, it occurred to me that all this activity around the house may not be just about finally having the time to get it all done. It might seem to an outsider like we are trying to leave an old life behind, to forget about it. And maybe there is something to that notion—certainly it’s possible that by painting the bathroom blue, I am somehow trying to leave behind the space where I bathed Hudson in that cool bath early that Monday morning to get her fever down so we could wait for the pediatrician’s office to open, that by changing the physical space, I might somehow also leave behind me the terrible guilt that is still associated with that image in my mind. That’s possible. Even though I know it won’t work.
But I think it’s more likely that perhaps we’re trying to transform our physical space so that we have a tangible way of remembering (and telling everyone else) that we’re not living the same old life in the same old space. A way of saying that we, too, are transformed. We’ve already pondered at great length what we might do with Hudson’s room if we end up having another baby while we still live in this house. If she were still with us, we’d have done nothing at all—the new baby would have just taken right over and Hudson would have moved into her own room. But we don’t live in that life anymore. We thought that at a bare minimum, we would switch the positions of the changing table and the crib so that at least the room won’t feel the same, like we’re somehow living the same life we had with Hudson except with a new child. At least that baby would go to bed with his or her head facing a different direction, looking at different scenery in the room.
Blue walls. Not starting over (as if we could start over). Not forgetting (as if we could forget). No, it’s a way of remembering that our lives will never be the same because of our amazing child who was with us for far too short a time. Our lives are transformed. Maybe our physical space should be, too.