So we took some lunch down to the Mall, sat in a shady, grassy spot next to the Museum of American History, and ate lunch. Then we meandered down to Constitution Gardens. As soon as we crested the small hill where you can catch your first glimpse of the pond and its surroundings, I was just overwhelmed with longing for my girl. There were loads of ducks in the pond, and a huge flock of geese meandering along the sidewalk we were headed for, not to mention several other species of birds in the water, including kingfishers and herons. It was a breathtaking sight. I could picture her there so clearly, delightedly repeating, “Kak kak!” and “Duck!” and “Bird!” and grinning as she chased them down only to have them run or fly away.
We walked around the north side of the pond, stopping for a few photos before we got to the small pedestrian bridge out to the island where the signing memorial is located. As we crossed the bridge, what we saw on the bank just opposite us brought me to tears. Two adult ducks and a horde of tiny ducklings, only a few days old, sat waiting on the bank to see if we were any threat (we had Bess with us) before hopping into the water. Again, I could only imagine how enthralled Hudson would have been if she’d been with us—she would have been so fascinated by how small the ducklings were, especially their little feet whirring in the water. She would have giggled at them swimming willy nilly around their parents on what must have been only their second or third trip into the water.
As we walked away, I remarked how strange it is that Hudson would now be two and a half years old, but we can only really think about her as a 17-month-old. No doubt she still would have loved this place as a two-and-a-half-year-old, but her enjoyment of it would be so different than what we knew of her. She would probably know the word “duckling” by now and would be able to understand the concept that the big ducks were the little ducks’ mommy and daddy. She would probably understand by now that there are different kinds of birds, and that the ducks in the water were different than the geese on the land. She would probably even be able to count the ducklings, at least up to ten or so. Who knows what else she would know and understand now?
Before we got pregnant with Jackson and during the early months of my pregnancy with him, I thought so often about how I wanted nothing more than to move back home to North Carolina, because I just couldn’t fathom taking another baby to all the same places we used to take Hudson. As if we’d just replaced her with another one. “Baby, take two.” In my head, it all seemed tragic and awful. But what I realize now is that she lives in my imagination and my heart even in places we never did take her. And it will be that way forever, regardless of where we live or where we go. And while it is indeed tragic and sad, it is also a gift. To take her brother to the places where we took her keeps her close to us and to him. And to take him to places she’s never been but that she would have loved does the same thing.
Because no matter where we go, she is always with us. And for that, I am very grateful.