Saturday, May 7, 2011

Those Last Happy Hours

On this evening exactly a year ago, Hudson and I were sitting in the San Antonio Bar and Grill here in Brookland at happy hour with our other Brookland mama- and toddler-friends. It was the Friday before Mother’s Day. I remember really looking forward to happy hour that day, having posted earlier on Facebook, “Is it happy hour yet?” or some such nonsense. I had a margarita (San Antonio’s was a favorite spot for happy hour because it was only about a block from our house) and Hudson had some black beans. I guess I forgot to bring a baby spoon with us, so she used a big spoon and dug in. And made a happy mess. I took a picture with my phone and immediately uploaded it to Facebook with a caption (that was supposed to be from Hudson) saying, “This is my kind of happy hour!” I remember thinking that I hoped all the black sauce would come out of her top (I guess I forgot a bib, too) because I’d only just recently bought it at a consignment sale. Little did I know that this would soon become the very least of any possible worry I might have. Little did I know that this photo, grainy as it is, would be the last we would ever take of our precious girl. As much as it shows that Hudson spirit, I do wish that she were smiling her trademark smile.

Many times this week, I’ve found myself wishing that I could remember anything about the last week we spent with her before she got sick. I remember all the events of Mother’s Day weekend well, but I remember almost nothing about the days preceding it, except for the fact that I had a big hearing in my case at work. I wish I could recount each and every moment with her during that last week and live it over and over again in my mind. But we don’t live our lives thinking these will be the last days we have with our loved ones. We didn’t take any special pictures that weekend because of course, how could we have known it would be the last weekend we’d ever get with her?

That Friday night after we got home from San Antonio, I realized that poor Hudson had gotten a splinter in her finger—I guess it must have been from the wooden high chair at the restaurant. I remember sitting in the bathroom with her in my lap, tweezers in my hand, trying to gently remove it, but encountering an angry and pained cry every time I tried to touch it. The first of many of these, I’m sure, I thought at the time. I felt so bad for her and thought how mad she must be at me for making her hurt like that. Now I look back on that moment with so much nostalgia that it hurts. What I wouldn’t give to be able to mother her again like that, pain and crying and all.

The next morning, I took her to her first music class for babies and toddlers, taught by a couple with a child about Hudson’s age. It was a four-session class, but we had missed the first two because we were out of town for the first one and then had the start time wrong for the second one. Ed had to work that morning, so he stayed home. We had such a good time and I remember wishing that we’d started organized music classes sooner. She got her own little mini maracas to shake and we sang fun songs, including ones that included each child’s name, like “Hudson, Hudson, bo-Budson, banana-fana, fo-Fudson, me-mi-mo-Mudson, Hudson!” When we sang “Old McDonald” (one of Hudson’s favorites), the teacher would stop when he got to the line where it says, “And on that farm he had a…” and he’d wait for one of the kids to fill in an animal. Clearly Hudson had had a lot of practice on this song at school and at home, because on the second or third verse, when he got to that part, she shouted, “DUCK!” I think one of the other kids had already said “Duck” once, but we humored her and did it again. When the class was over, they let the kids play with the instruments, and Hudson was really into the keyboard that was sitting on the floor. So into it, in fact, that when another child came over to try to play with it, too, I watched in horror as Hudson leaned over, mouth wide open, ready to bite him. I grabbed her away and immediately said, “No biting!” I’d heard from her teacher at day care that this was becoming a problem but had not yet seen it with my own eyes. I had yet another thought about what a bear it was going to be to try to deal with that behavior appropriately when we weren’t around other kids often enough to see it. And again, today, all I can think about is how much I would love to have that kind of problem right now.

She had actually been a little bit fussy and clingy all during this day—Ed and I thought perhaps she had molars coming in, because she’d recently been sucking her thumb more frequently than usual, something she typically only did to fall asleep. This was during the big baby Tylenol recall, so on the way home, I stopped at CVS to pick up some that hadn’t been recalled. Again, little did I know how very glad I would be later that I had done so.

For that afternoon, Ed and I traded off. He took Hudson to the playground while I went and got spoiled a little bit for Mother’s Day. I got both a haircut and a pedicure. I think back on that day now and curse myself for not having stayed home to hang out with them. Again, we don’t live our lives anticipating that the best things about them will be snatched from us unexpectedly, but when I think about those precious hours wasted that I could have spent with her, another set of memories I could have made that I could hold close to my heart now, I can’t help but feel so much regret. It was actually a long time last summer before I could bring myself to go get another pedicure, because it reminded me so much of that last happy day when I missed out on a trip to the playground with her.

We had actually planned to take Hudson camping for the first time that Saturday night as part of our Morther’s Day celebration. We were going to go to Greenbelt National Park only a stone’s throw away from DC. But the weather didn’t cooperate—we knew even before the weekend came that it was going to drop into the high 30s that night and we weren’t equipped for that kind of camping. I suppose it turned out for the best, since I doubt it would have occurred to me to take the thermometer and Tylenol with us on a camping trip, and I would have been panicked if we’d been in the middle of nowhere when she woke up with a fever in the wee hours of the next morning.

So instead, we went out to dinner to celebrate Mother’s Day that night instead of Sunday night (again, another good decision made without realizing it). We went to a brick-oven pizza place with outdoor seating and had pizza in the waning sunlight. All I really remember about that dinner is that there was a dog there at a nearby table and Hudson had great fun looking at it.

And that’s it. That’s all I remember of those last, carefree, na├»ve, unknowing happy hours. I don’t remember bathtime and bedtime. I wish so much that I did. We’d spend the next thirty hours worrying over her fever and trying to help her feel better before finally taking her to the pediatrician as soon as they opened Monday morning. We certainly had a few good moments on Mother’s Day when the medicine would kick in and she’d feel better for a little while (including an afternoon walk to buy some baby ibuprofen to alternate with the Tylenol and that night’s dinner, which Hudson ate voraciously) but those moments are unfortunately overshadowed by all that we learned later and all that we now wish we’d known.

Those last happy hours. So ordinary. And yet so very, very extraordinary. If only I could have them back.


  1. No mother should ever have a last weekend with her child. My heart breaks for you. You are in my thoughts this weekend.

    And while you'd probably rather skip this year's Mother's Day, I want to say what a wonderful mother you are. I am honored to witness your love for Hudson and Jackson through this blog. Thank you for all that you have taught me about the depths of a mother's love.

  2. Thank you for sharing these memories with us, Mandy. I feel so honoured to have gotten to know Hudson this year through your writing, and I will remember her with you. I wish I could take some of your grief, some of your missing her, so that you could just spend some time with the memories without any sadness.

    Kate is right, you are a wonderful mother, to beautiful Hudson and to Jackson, too.


  3. Dear Mandy,
    Kate and p have put things well.
    I love hearing about your never-should-have-been-the-last-few-days with your precious girl. She was a gem set in the perfect place for her short life: in a home with Mandy and Ed.
    I think she's not smiling in the above bean photo because she was so rudely interrupted for yet another photo of her magnificent self! She's concentrating on what's most important to her: F-O-O-D.
    How I wish I had known Hudson and you as her mama.
    Jackson is a lucky, lucky boy...soon to appear.
    Sending you love,

  4. Mandy, It sounds like she was having a wonderful time that weekend -- Happy Hour at San Antonio's, baby/toddler music class, loved by you and Ed.

    My last memory of Hudson is going down the elevator at Saint Ann's. We had gone to the Takoma pool the previous weekend (a great time, and I wish I had pics from it, at least from the snacks on the grass afterward, but we'd locked the iPhone in the car since we forgot a padlock to take to the pool). Anyway, Elliot looked at Hudson and said, "a baby! a pool!" and she looked at him and said, "Eh-yuh!". You mentioned that she had just learned how to say his name...and said his name just like he did. You also said she was pretty good at saying her own name (I remember being impressed -- and about her speech generally).

    We talked about what a great time we'd had at the pool and how we'd have to do it again. How I wish it were so...

    You are a wonderful mother, Mandy. Ed is a wonderful dad. Hudson was a lucky girl, for her too short time here with you. Jackson will be a very lucky boy.


  5. Thank you for sharing the Light of your mothering with us, Mandy. Honoring you and joining many, many others in wishing that you were focused on sharing your time with her and soon-to-arrive Jackson, instead of sharing the amazing gifts of her all-too-short life with us. There are not words for how wrong it is that you are now without her... thinking of you this weekend.
    Rachel C.

  6. Mandy, I think about you, Ed, and Hudson all the time (the card of her playing in the snow is still on our fridge). I am especially thinking of you these next few weeks as you remember your last times with your sweet girl and get ready to welcome Jackson. Sending you so many hugs...

  7. Mandy,
    If there's yet another gift that Hudson has given it is the reminder to think intentionally about time, about living in the moment, and about whether we're spending each moment in the highest and best possible way. Hugs to you and Ed this weekend and always. Looking forward to Jackson's birth announcement.

  8. While we were not able to attend Hudson's beautiful bean picture San Antonio's happy hour, my last memories of her were also at San Antonio's. The 3 of you met the 3 of us for a spontaneous happy hour there. We were still sitting at the bar and hadn't yet figured out we could persuade the manager to let us sit at the tables for the happy hour special. She was sitting on a big tall stool and digging in to the nachos, smiling and beaming all the while. She was so well-behaved and you and Ed just beamed with love for her. It was so clear how much you love being parents. Above all, I remember Hudson's amazing language skills. She asked for some more chips, by signing and saying "more" followed by "please", with both languages. Paul and I looked at each other - stunned. Wow! This is one smart cookie! I also remember her pointing to a balloon and saying "purple!" so matter-of-factly and again Paul and I looked at each other and whispered, Oh my Gosh she knows her colors???? Who is this kid?" I proposed that maybe in 3 months when Cecilia was the same age as Hudson if she'd be able to not only recognize her colors but be able to speak them so clearly as Hudson did - and we giggled at one another and said, "nah, this kid is just really smart and ahead of the game!" On our walk home we of course drilled Cecilia's colors with her, trying to bring her up to Hudson's speed if she were going to come even close to her aptitude in 3 months. It was a really warm, positive, and special memory for us.

    I know this is an especially difficult week - we are thinking of you constantly. Much love and support to you and your family.

  9. Been thinking about you and Ed, Hudson and Jackson oh so much this past week and weekend.

    Lots of love to you,
    Lisa S

  10. Thank you for sharing your beautiful girl. Thinking of you today.

  11. I'm thinking of you this Mother's Day, Mandy.

  12. Another stranger thinking of you and Ed and Hudson today. I hope the universe is as gentle as possible with you this week.

  13. Thinking of you today, especially.

  14. I somehow came across your blog today. I can't stop the tears from coming down. I'm so sorry for your huge loss. Have you ever seen this blog? - you may find comfort reading about Molly and the loss of her son Lucy, and later the birth of her son Peter. Much love to you and your family.

  15. I am with you Mandy.. and I cannot thank you enough for having the courage to write here.. to share precious photos with us and to allow us to share our support and strength with you.
    Hudson is precious.. and always will be.

  16. My thoughts have been with you today as they are so often.

    What an amazing momma you are and will continue to be.


  17. Mandy -- Pablo and I are so touched that Hudson enjoyed the music class so much. I remember her so well from that day. I remember where you sat in the corner and the keyboard after class. She did love class, clapped and participated as if she was a regular. I think of you all the time and try and keep up with the blog. I hope we see Jackson in music class when he is ready!