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.