Thanksgiving Day was the day Hudson took her first tentative steps. She was five days from her first birthday. I was sitting in front of the fireplace at her grandma and grandpa’s house and her daddy was sitting a few feet away. She’d been “walking” with the help of hands for quite a while at this point (she had been practicing “standing” on her legs since she was very young—she preferred standing to sitting from as early as about three months old). We’d tried a few times before Thanksgiving, and a few times earlier that day, to get her to take a few steps on her own, but she just wasn’t quite ready—as soon as we’d let go, she’d plop down on her bottom. But on this day a year ago, all of sudden, with much of her extended Chaney family present, her dad pointed her toward me and let go of her hands, and she just toddled right over to me. We were stunned. I remember shouting, “She did it! She did it!” because no one had been watching except her dad and I. Everyone turned to look, and I pointed her back to her daddy and off she went.
Then she promptly decided she had no interest in walking at all for the next month, at which point, on Christmas Eve, again at her grandparents’ house, she started walking for good. I guess she just really wanted to get her legs under her, because once she started walking, she never wobbled and she never looked back. That’s my girl.
By this time, Hudson had become quite the climber. She loved to climb in and out of chairs, on and off the sofa, up and down the stairs—she was constantly looking for opportunities to practice her skills. I did not do her any favors on Thanksgiving Day by putting her in a dress (I realized early that dresses are not very practical for crawlers, but it was Thanksgiving and I couldn’t resist this cute, simple, brown corduroy number I found super-cheap at Kohl’s), but she didn’t let it hold her back. I don’t think I ever got a full picture of her in the dress because, well, she was just always on the move, that girl.
I’ve written before about our girl’s voracious appetite and sheer love of food. Never was it on better display than at Thanksgiving. She tried everything—turkey, dressing, mushrooms and wild rice, smoked venison (compliments of her grandpa), cranberry sauce, and I’m pretty sure there was a lot more that I just can’t remember. And, ahem, her grandpa would not stop feeding her sweet potato casserole. Not that I blame him. Spoiler. As you can see, eating was truly a favorite activity.
Hudson’s grandma and grandpa live out in the country, on a long gravel lane, at the end of which is a farm with horses and a pond full of ducks, geese, and a few swans. We spent much of the Thanksgiving weekend last year exploring all the adventures down that lane. On this particular day, we traipsed through several feet of woods to get closer to the ducks and swans—we had some bread crumbs in hand. The birds were happy for a while but at one point, one of the swans got a tad aggressive and rushed us—we had to hightail it out of there. We spent the rest of that walk on the safety of the gravel road, taking pictures with our beautiful girl.
We had two tricks to get Hudson to look at the camera. The first was to tell her to say hi to Mommy or Daddy, whomever had the camera. The other was to ask her, “Where’s Mommy?” or “Where’s Daddy?” The result was a lot of pictures where she’s either waving at or pointing at the camera. Case in point:
On another day, we took a walk with Grandma and Grandpa all the way down to the end of the road to visit the horses. We took some of our very favorite pictures of her with them that day.
Hudson had never seen a horse before, but was smitten from the start. Fortunately, this particular horse was happy for some love. There was another one across the road who was not quite as nice—we had to keep Hudson’s little fingers clear for fear of a nip.
This is one of our favorite pictures ever taken of Hudson. These photos that capture the sheer joy she felt and shared with the world are priceless, in the truest sense of that word:
As these photos show, last Thanksgiving was the beginning of the magical time of year that the holidays have always been for me. She was just so full of life and exquisite happiness—I’m so grateful that we had the chance to catch so much of it on camera. Even though looking at her photos always tends to fuel my ever-present disbelief that she is gone, it’s only because they are such truthful representations of the incredible spirit that she was.
On this Thanksgiving Day, the first of far too many ahead without our Hudson, I am grateful for many, many things. But more than anything else today, I am grateful for every single moment of the 17 months and 13 days of Hudson’s life, for every single moment I got to be her mommy, for every sly grin, every grubby face, every wave at the camera, every squeal of delight, every precious footfall, every snotty nose, every dirty diaper, every middle-of-the-night waking, every tantrum, every “No!” I am grateful for every single moment of every single day of my daughter’s short life—the memories I carry of each of those moments are what sustain me this Thanksgiving and will sustain me for the rest of this life without her. I am grateful that I have very, very few regrets about the time we spent with her. Although I would do just about anything to have her back, and although the pain of living without her is worse than anything I could ever imagine, I wouldn’t trade a single second of the time I had with her. The joy, and the memory of the joy, is still far bigger than the pain. And that is One Good Thing.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. And Happy Thanksgiving, my sweet girl. We miss you so very much.