Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, Sweet Girl

Last Thanksgiving was the first and last we ever got to spend with Hudson. Thankfully, like so much of her life, we made the most of it. It remains one of many precious memories for which I am grateful today.

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. 


  1. Hi Mandy, I've never written before-- am one of those shy readers who quietly follow what you write with awe at your strength and incredible sorrow for your loss. Thank you for sharing the pics from last Thanksgiving. That last one of Hudson is electric-- her spunk leaps off the page and it keeps making me smile! I just wanted you to know I am here thinking of you, Ed, Hudson and the little penguin and wishing you have all the strength you need for these holidays. --Audra

  2. Happy Thanksgiving, Mandy and Ed! The photos of your beautiful little family made me smile this Thanksgiving, which is one good thing! I've said it before, but I'll say it again: you guys are so inspiring. -Sara

  3. Mandy, I am yet again struck by how much living you, Ed and Hudson packed into her too short life. Those 17 months and 13 days truly were a gift. I am so sorry she is not with you this Thanksgiving.


  4. Beautiful girl and beautiful family. Hudson had the most joyous of lives. I only wish it could have been 99 years longer than it was. I am so glad the memories of her incredible spirit bring you joy.

  5. What a fantastic little girl. I look at her precious face and I have to smile. May you and Ed make the best out of Thanksgiving this year, stay strong!

    Happy Thanksgiving from a very homesick expat.

  6. These photos are so stunning. What utter joy on Hudson's face, and yours, too. Thank you for sharing them.

  7. Thinking kind thoughts of you and Ed, and loving peaceful wishes on little Hudson's sweet memories.

  8. I see all the love in those photographs. I hope that Thanksgiving was peaceful for you two.

  9. What gorgeous photos and amazing memories... desperately wishing Hudson was home with you to make more this Thanksgiving. That sweet child has been in every corner of my thoughts this week and I'm incredibly thankful to have shared a small part of our lives with her. Also shaking my fist at the skies and wondering why she can't be here now - I'll keep working on reconciling those two thoughts and if I figure out how, I'll definitely let you know :) Big hugs to you and Ed and a little belly rub for the penguin...

  10. Every time you post a picture of Hudson I've never seen before, she comes through to me in ways that tickle my heart. What a beautiful Spirit, your girl. Renee P.

  11. Count me in on all remarks - particularly Renee P's.
    Mandy & Ed, you both look so gorgeous and vibrant. That Hudsongirl was a bit of a ham, for sure!
    Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts and the wonderful photos.

    With love, Rebecca

  12. That is One very Good Thing indeed. Love and hugs to you!