A good friend commented on a Facebook post I made today and said she missed the blog. I miss it, too. Now that we are back home from a bit of a whirlwind trip to North Carolina, hopefully I will be able to find more time in the daily routine for writing (well, there’s no real routine yet, but hopefully there will be one of these days). I’ve had the inspiration to write on several different occasions in the last few days, but no uninterrupted time to gather those ideas into a coherent post. But for fear of losing important pieces of this journey, I may just have to settle for writing in shorter blocks. Here are a few snippets of this week’s leg of the journey. I am sapped of the mental energy to make it all somehow fit together right now, but it felt important to me to get these things out.
Last Friday, on our way down to North Carolina, we had to stop by one of the baby stores to pick up a few things for the trip. I went to the bathroom while I was there, and I heard a mom and her little girl come into the stall next to mine, chatting away. The little girl was saying things like, “There’s the toilet paper,” “Is it magic?” (asking about the flusher, I assume—probably some potty training trick at home, I’m guessing), and “I go potty, Mommy! I a big girl now!” I was washing my hands when they came out of the stall and the mom told the little girl she had to wash her hands. The little girl walked up to one of the sinks and said, “I want this one.” I smiled and asked the mom how old the girl was.
I asked the question, quite certain I already knew the answer.
“Two and a half.”
Two and a half. Exactly the age Hudson would be now.
I went back to the car, where Ed was waiting with a sleeping Jackson, and cried and cried and cried. I’ve said so many times that I can’t imagine anymore what Hudson would be like now, and here was a little girl showing me. And I imagine that Hudson would have been even more verbose, given how advanced her language development was when she died. So I guess I still can’t even imagine what she’d be like. I would give just about anything to be able to talk with her now, to listen to her make conversation, narrating her world in a way that only a two-year-old can.
Again and again, I have to tell myself that she is gone. Again and again, I find I can’t believe it.
I wrote last weekend about how hard it was to go back to North Carolina with Jackson for the first time without Hudson. The days of that visit did get better as they went on, partly because they were busy with visitors. But one thing that started to settle in with me for the first time is that this kind of missing her will be constant—it does not rely on the special places we went with her or the special things we did with her for its pathetic existence. It’s just the very thing of being her mother that I miss. I’ve always known that Jackson would never take Hudson’s place. And while having a child in my arms again has absolutely helped with some of the emptiness and has triggered a new process of healing that was not possible before Jackson was born, the act of mothering him also makes me miss her more. Every cry I soothe, every diaper I change, every kiss I give, every nursing session, every twirl around the kitchen with him to music, every piece of clothing I fold, every song I sing, every time I prop him up on my shoulder and rub his back (this especially)—every single one of these acts makes me ache with love for Jackson but also ache with longing for Hudson. I thought that now it would be easier to walk down the baby food aisles in the grocery stores, looking at all the toddler-oriented foods she’d be eating now. I thought it would be easier to pass by the rows and rows of little girl clothes I’d be buying for her now. I thought it would be easier to see kids her age, either the age she was when she died or the age she’d be now. But it isn’t. As much as I love being Jackson’s mother, as much as I am enjoying the physical act of mothering again, it makes me miss mothering my sweet girl more than ever. And I guess it always will. I doubt I will ever be able to walk down those aisles or see those girl clothes or see girls her age and not feel a terrible pang, no matter how many more children I have. Her place is her place and hers alone. Being her mother was different than being any other child’s mother. And I desperately miss being her mother.
Almost every baby I know who was born within six months on either side of Hudson now either has a little sibling or will have one within this year. I look at the pictures of these growing, happy, totally intact families and am still just so lost. Of course, I don’t begrudge my dear friends the happiness that their children continue to bring into their lives. Of course I don’t. I love them and their children. It’s just that seeing their families grow, seeing their oldest children starting to turn three, seeing the little siblings get kisses from their big siblings, when our family will always be missing one, when our oldest will never get any older than 17 months, when our poor Jackson will only ever know his sister from what we tell him about her, raises that infernal question of why. I still just don’t understand why this happened to us. I know there is no why, of course. I look back at our lives in early May of last year and am struck by how happy we were. Ed and I had both come through some very dark periods in our lives, having survived our first marriages and the deaths of our mothers at ages far too young (for them and us both). We found each other when neither of us was looking, fell in love, built a beautiful life together, and channeled all of our love into having that amazing child. When I think about how happy we were, and how quickly and cruelly that happiness was shattered, forever, never to be the same again, I just don’t understand why. We didn’t take each other for granted. We didn’t take our happiness for granted. We didn’t take Hudson for granted. We KNEW how lucky we were to have ended up where we did and we told each other all the time (and still do). We were the last people to need a lesson about cherishing life. We DID cherish our lives with each other and with Hudson. So where is our happy, intact family? Why don’t we get that, too? Why doesn’t Jackson get his big sister? What is the freaking point of all of this?
And my last snippet is this: Jackson has reshaped my world all over again, a gift for which I am so grateful. I am reminded of a poem a blog reader sent to me (thank you, Allison) that I think of often in this bizarre world I find myself living in.
The Thing Is by Ellen Bass
to love life, to love it even
when you have no stomach for it,
and everything you’ve held dear
crumbles like burnt paper in your hands,
your throat filled with the silt of it.
When grief sits with you, its tropical heat
thickening the air, heavy as water
more fit for gills than lungs;
when grief weights you like your own flesh
only more of it, an obesity of grief,
you think, how long can a body withstand this?
Then you hold life like a face
between your palms, a plain face,
no charming smile, no violet eyes,
and you say, yes, I will take you
I will love you, again.
“An obesity of grief.” Indeed.
But the thing is, my world has changed forever. Again. And yes, I will take it. I will love it. Again.