Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Created Space, Space To Create

Well, we did it. We rearranged Hudson’s memorial space to make room for me to knit and sew and organize all of my supplies. Once I made the decision to do it, I was eager to get it done before I lost my motivation (nerve? commitment? absence of terrible feelings about it?), so I took President’s Day off with Ed just so that we could spend the day working on it.

The disassembling and reassembling of the memorial table itself was not terribly difficult emotionally—in a strange way, I felt like I was taking care of Hudson as I did it, trying to figure out which items should go where in their new space on the other side of the room, deciding which things did not need to remain in the space permanently, making a new home for Hudson’s ashes, her Elmo, and so many other special things.

Here are the before pictures (again) and the after pictures.



  • My sewing machine (a rental while my mom’s is getting serviced after 10 years of non-use)
  • Some of my favorite pictures of Hudson
  • Hudson’s lamby (named “Haha”—her dad asked her what the lamb’s name should be and she laughed, so from then on, he called it “Haha”; he used to sing her a song he made up, singing “Haha the lamb loves you!”) wrapped in a washcloth, because that is what she always did with him—she laid him down to “sleep” and covered him with a “blanket”
  • The monkey fabric (on the right) that I bought and used as a tablecloth for Hudson’s birthday party—I now plan to make a quilt out of it for Jackson and the future Hitchcock Chaneys as another way to remember their big sister 

Most of the contents of the memorial table, with Hudson’s ashes, in their big Elmo hug, on top

A beautiful plaque my high school girlfriends had made for me last summer

A collage of some of our very favorite photos of our girl

A gorgeous pencil drawing my sister had made for us from Hudson’s Easter egg picture, one of our favorites

A nameplate for Hudson’s room that my dad had my nephew create for me for my birthday last year (each letter is wrapped by an animal that begins with that letter) along with some of Hudson’s artwork

Hudson’s first and last artwork:  the first (on the right) was made in her old daycare when she was about seven months old; the last was made at St. Ann’s just a week before she died, a gift for Mother’s Day. 
Look how much her little hands had grown.

I am happy with the way the room turned out.  It is imperfect, but the only way it could be made perfect is if Hudson were still sitting in it.

Slightly harder than rearranging the table was going through all of her toys (in baskets under the table in the before picture), sanitizing them, and packing them away. For as much as they filled that space when strewn about (as they often were), they ultimately fit into one plastic storage box and two small, soft-sided handled baskets, as well as a laundry basket full of her books to reshelve in hers and Jackson’s room upstairs (“their room”—I wonder if I could just get used to calling it that all the time). I had forgotten about many of the toys because it had been so long since she had played with some of them, especially some of the little baby toys that were still hanging out in the playroom.

What stopped me in my tracks was finding her purple sun hat (one of two—the other one is still at day care where it lived with her diapers, wipes, diaper cream, and extra change of clothes) in one of the laundry baskets of her toys. She wore it often, and is wearing it in one of our favorite pictures of her and her daddy in the azalea garden at the Arboretum (on the top of the new memorial shelf next to her ashes). As happens so many times, I was just struck by the impossibility that the hat, which used to rest on top of her precious head, will never touch her head again. I was hit again by that very familiar feeling of She was just here. I turned it over and over in my hands, teary, dumbstruck once again by the horror of it all.

And then there was the diaper bag. So many times I have sat down on the floor beside Hudson’s table, opened the diaper bag, looked through it, cried, and closed it and put it back. I have been unable to do anything else with it. This time was no different. After everything else in the room had found its new place, there it sat, in the same place under the table where it has lived for the past nine months. I picked it up again, opened it, and looked again. And there they still are: the clothes she wore on the day she was admitted to the hospital. Little navy and white whale print pants. An aqua polo shirt with puffed sleeves. A pair of white socks tucked into her pink Nikes from Grandma. And something I hadn’t remembered seeing before—the maroon fleece sweatshirt embroidered with flowers that I had picked up for her at a consignment sale last winter. She wore it all the time—she is wearing it in the photo at the top of this blog where she is sitting on my shoulders last March at the kite festival. I stood there and stared into the bag, then closed my eyes and began to shake with soft sobs. Ed came in and I said, “I can’t do anything with the diaper bag.” He nodded, tucked his head into the crook of my neck, and held me as the soft sobs turned into hard ones.

I closed the bag again and put it right back under the table, where I suppose it will just stay for now. I’m not sure why I can’t bring myself to empty it. Maybe it is just a portrait of a moment in time that I wish I could go back to and freeze, at least until I can figure out how to change the events that followed so that I spent yesterday straightening up Hudson’s well-used playroom and organizing her clothes to make room for the new round of 2T sizes we just bought this weekend, instead of figuring out how best to remember her as I make new use of her old playspace. As long as those clothes stay in the diaper bag, that moment still exists, I guess, as does the possibility of the different outcome. Probably not very healthy, but I figure I can only handle so much at one time.

So we did it. One big, hard task down. So many more to go in the many years to come, the first of which will have to include rearranging things in Hudson’s room (their room?) to make room for Jackson’s clothes and things, organizing and storing Hudson’s clothes, and sorting through and cleaning all the baby gear in the basement to get it ready for Jackson’s arrival.

I have a new space to create things. I share it with my precious girl, who so fills the room that I can’t help but feel her there with me. One day soon, Jackson will join us in there, sitting on the same playmat and playing with the same toys and reading the same books his big sister loved, while I sit with him and sew or knit. I have many things in mind to create, things for Hudson, things for her brother, things for her other future siblings, things for all of them together.

And in the middle of all that, in that room I will share with both of my children, I will be creating something for me: all the space my heart needs to love and parent them forever.


  1. You are very brave. I think the fact that you have re-arranged the space to be one where you can create-- and remember-- is very significant. Hudson is always with you in this place.

  2. You will share this space, along with your lovely words and amazing creativity, with all your children. I'm thinking of you tonight, no less so than when I discovered your blog almost 8 months ago now.
    Big, big hugs.

  3. Very brave and very beautiful, Mandy.

  4. I don't cry easily -- but your post made me cry. Leave the diaper bag where it is and the way it is. It may stay that way forever....it may not. It's up to you, and you will know if and when you need to do anything with it. You have moved forward as you have been able and as you have been led -- THAT is one good thing. Bless you -- (((hugs))) Mariann

  5. It's a beautiful space, mama, with plenty of room to grow and change and remember and create and love.

    Love you.

  6. This is such a beautiful post and leaves me with a feeling of hope... I am eager to see all the delightful things you are going to create in your new space!!

  7. Awefully beautiful Mandy. Hudson will forever be missed and loved. Whenever you're ready to re-create Hudson and Jackson's room, I extend myself to you in any way that helps. Big Hugs, Renee P.

  8. As so often when I come here to read, I am moved to tears. What a beautiful space you have created. I hope you can find some peace (and creativity) there.


  9. I'm proud of you and Ed, Mandy...you have done a beautiful job of turning Hudson's memorial space into something more, where she will forever continue to be with you, but where there will also be new life and joy, movement,parenting, playing, creating, remembering. All those things can and will exist in this sweet space, and you have conquered one big, hard task --- and that is One Good Thing. It's all about learning to look forward and anticipate with joy, while continuing to look back and remember and honor your beautiful girl...at least I THINK that's what it is about. A friend of mine who lost her beloved boy in 2003 said to me early on that "the sweetness returns," and I have been holding on to that promise for dear life...and I have almost, almost come to believe it.


  10. I love, love, love the integration you are doing... the creating of your own path, your own space... the integration of Hudson and Jackson, and of you, woven together in love and hope, and also loss and pain. Sending love as you continue journeying.
    Rachel C.

  11. :( :( :( crying with you Mandy.
    Can I miss someone I never knew? But I do.

  12. Admiration (as always) for tackling this difficult task.


  13. I have been reading your blog for a couple of months but have never commented (since I don't know you). But through your beautiful writing, I feel like I have come to your sweet Hudson. Your love for her is palpable through your heart-felt words. You have helped me love my family deeper (and I didn't think that was possible) and to let the little things go, knowing that they have no significance in this life, really.

    I love the idea of a quilt using the monkey fabric for Jackson and any future children! I bet it will become one of their most cherised items! And the name plaque- just made me cry and cry.

  14. Yes, you can only handle so much at a time. I felt for you with the diaper bag. I've had those moments. Hugs.

  15. You did a great job incorporating everything, Mandy. I know you will enjoy your shared space.

    Why does that diaper bag ever have to be unpacked? Go easy on yourself. :)

  16. Mandy,

    As a mom of a couple of little ones I have just one suggestion about the room....Hudson's oh-so-precious art work will not age well left attached on the wall. I have been so sad to see how faded and brittle things have become in just a few years. As I know how important these are to you, please get them to a framer who can help preserve them!