Everything is everything, but you’re missing… ~ Bruce Springsteen
It’s been a long week of missing my girl. It began at Topsail Island with Jessica’s family, just like our trip last September. Jess and I had talked at length about how hard the beach trip might be for Ed and me—we discussed the possibility that we just might not go at all or that we might leave early, depending on how we felt. There we were, at the same spot, with the same group of kids who were all together last year (Jess’s two boys, and her brother’s son and daughter), except for Hudson. All four of the other kids were a year older, a year bigger, a year more independent than they had been last fall. And no Hudson. No Hudson to follow around the bigger kids or boss around the one kid a few months younger than her.
But Hudson was also everywhere—in the flocks of pelicans swooping low over the water (“Peh-cun!”), in the gentle and constant motion of the waves, in the beautiful migration of monarch butterflies up the coast, in the near-full moon over the ocean on our last night there. Still, all I wanted was for her to be there in real life, snuggling with me in a warm towel in the chilly ocean breeze of the late afternoon, finding seashells and polished stones, and chasing the waves in and out.
On Tuesday night, the kids (ranging in age from almost 6 down to 19 months) played “kids charades,” where an adult would whisper something into a kid’s ear for them to act out for the rest of the adults. Animals were the natural subject of the charades, since most kids know most animals and how to act like them. One by one, the kids acted out Hudson’s favorite animal noises—elephant, cow, dog, cat, duck, owl, chicken, snake, lion. It was almost more than I could bear. I could just picture her there, leaning close and holding still as someone whispered into her ear (“What does a lion say, Hudson?”), peering around at the rest of us with just her eyeballs and a little grin, knowing that she knew something we didn’t, and then turning around and yelling “RAWR!” with her perfect guttural effects, to erupting applause as everyone said “Lion!” She’d grin that huge grin of hers then come bury her head in my lap in a fit of shyness at being the sudden center of attention.
When the game was over, I went back to our room on the other side of the duplex and sobbed for a long, long time.
Equally hard was the total sense of idleness I felt at having no child to care for. All around me, adults were feeding their kids, putting sunscreen on them, taking them swimming, putting them down for naps, cuddling them after a fall or a perceived slight by another kid. And I had no one. All around me, the cries of “Mommy!” echoed over and over again, and not one of them was for me.
I love Jessica’s family almost as much as I love my own, so it broke my heart to feel so ready to leave them.
We came back to the Triangle on Thursday night and made plans to go to the State Fair on Friday. On Friday morning, I remarked to Ed how much Hudson would have loved the fair, especially all the animal exhibits. Ed, my dad, and I spent about 2 hours there last night, wandering around, marveling at all the crazy food offerings, and cooing at all the sweet animals. Hudson would have been especially taken with the goats (she’d met goats last October at the pumpkin patch and then met some Icelandic sheep at her aunt’s farm this spring just a few weeks before she died), as well as the rabbits, the baby pigs, and the baby chicks (none of which she ever got a chance to see). I found myself wondering which of the kiddie rides she’d have been tall enough to ride, feeling oddly disappointed when the height requirements were too big for her and oddly relieved and happy when there were no height requirements as long as an adult rode, too. This from a person who refuses to ride rides at the fair as a matter of personal safety. The pony rides in particular caught our eye—Ed and I could both picture her utter glee at riding slowly in a circle with four or five other kids on the backs of ponies. She’d smile broadly and through her teeth, she’d let forth her little giggle that sounded like “Sssst!”
The fair food gave Ed a hankering for Cracker Barrel, of all things. I was having one of those first trimester days where nothing sounded good (I ate nothing at the fair, but bought some fudge and a caramel apple in hopes that I’d want them later), but chicken and dumplings from Cracker Barrel actually sounded rather appealing. So we headed there for dinner. During the 20-minute wait for a table, we wandered around the country store. Dozens of little girls’ Christmas outfits were everywhere—simple, festively colored corduroys with snowmen or reindeer or Christmas trees. Neither of us could resist picking them up, running our fingers over the cloth, imagining how sweet our little girl would look in them, desperately wishing she was here with us so we could buy one for her.
It has been a long week of longing. The longing is so intense and still punctuated by a sense of total disbelief. It’s still difficult to rid myself of the notion that she is just away somewhere (though I can’t imagine where she might be) and will somehow be back soon. It is still near impossible to embrace the notion that she is gone forever.
But in every place where I could see Hudson with us, I could also see our future kids with us. It was a long week of seesawing between missing Hudson terribly while also looking forward to the days when I will do all these things with my children again.
I am dreading returning to work next week. All I want to do right now is to be someone’s mommy.