Like his big sister, Jackson loves the bath, so to help settle him down during the witching hour between 6PM and 7PM, we’ve begun giving him a bath each night, after which he gets into his jammies and gets a bottle of breast milk before bed. I have found myself thinking so much about our evening routine with Hudson and how very much I miss it. Today, I found myself wanting to read this post I wrote last year (oddly, last July, on the two-month anniversary of Hudson’s death) and I thought maybe you’d like to read it, too. Maybe some of you will be reading it for the first time; others may be reading it for the tenth time.
I could read it over and over and still it would never be enough. It is still unfathomable to me that it has been almost fourteen months, a vast majority of the amount of time Hudson was with us, since I last splashed and laughed with her in the bath, since I last watched her flip the light switches off, since I last heard her say “Mama!” from the top of the stairs, since I last read Goodnight Moon with her and sang “Hark the Sound!” while she snuggled into my shoulder.
Truly, it still seems like just yesterday that I did these things with her. And truly, it is still so very hard to believe that I will never do these things with her again.
Two Months: Remembering
I have been waiting until today to write about another of my favorite memories with Hudson: our evening rituals. Not sure why I have been waiting, except that this seems like the right way to mark each passing month. Memories are a double-edged sword—they keep her close, but they also make me long for her to actually be close. And I worry about losing them, too. This is at least one way to keep them alive.
When Hudson and I got home from picking her up at school, I usually set immediately to getting dinner ready so that when Ed got home, we could all eat and still get Hudson to bed at a reasonable hour (at our house, this was 7:30 at the latest). I started pulling things out of the refrigerator and cabinets and Hudson set about doing any number of things. Reading books or playing with her toys in the playroom, which was right next to the kitchen. Climbing in and out of the rocking chair in the living room (she’d say, “Rock, rock, rock”). Chasing Bess around or just standing with her by the front storm door (I kept the front door open and the storm door locked so the two of them could watch the world go by outside. It was one of their favorite activities). Pulling all the dishtowels out of their bottom drawer and putting them back in (it finally occurred to me to put the good dishtowels up in a cabinet and put the ratty ones in that drawer so I didn’t have to wash them all the time before using them). Opening all the cabinets and pulling out the pots and pans (often so she could climb in herself). Making use of any number of kitchen utensils that I kept in the lower drawers for her to play with (with me having to wash any of these before use, too). Balling up pieces of paper and putting them into the trash can (or at least trying to—the cabinet had a toddler lock on it, but she’d seen us put trash in there so many times, she wanted to do it, too, so she’d pull it open as far as it would go and just drop the paper inside.)
When dinner was ready, I said, “OK, let’s go to your highchair!” and she would immediately wander over there. I put her in and said, “It’s time to wash hands!” She held her hands out, one by one, while I wiped them with a wet paper towel. I put her food and a cup of water (poor kid never got juice—she’d probably had 2 or 3 cups of juice total in her whole life) on her tray and she got busy. With gusto. My biggest irrational fear was that she would choke on something (I mean, really, who the hell sits around worrying that their kid will get meningitis, damn it?), so I still cut her food up pretty small even at 17 months. This is probably why she shoveled huge handfuls in at a time, though, because she couldn’t get a decent mouthful of food otherwise. Oh, well.
Lots of nights, Ed wouldn’t quite make it home for the start of dinner, so when I heard him come up the stairs, I said, “Who’s that?! Who’s coming?” and she broke into a grin and kicked those little feet up and down, knowing Daddy was home. He opened the door, peeked his head around, and said, “It’s Daddy!” (this was one of Hudson’s favorite lines from one of her favorite books, “Daddy Hugs”—she got such a kick out of the first page where the daddy comes in and says, “Here I come! It’s DADDY!”) Hudson laughed and let herself be kissed, but quickly got back to the business of eating, about which she was very serious. Her only bad habit was that she loved to watch Bess eat food off the floor, so she often purposely held her hand or her spoon out and dropped food on the floor, looking straight at us the whole time, waiting for a reaction. All she usually got was, “Hudson, food goes on the tray, not on the floor, please.” When she was finished, we took her tray away, but often she apparently did not think she was done, and would keep fishing food out of the pocket of her bib. The girl loved to eat, I tell you.
We washed hands again and then we asked, “Hudson, what time is it?!” She smiled and said, “BATH!” If Ed was home, he took her upstairs to take a bath while I cleaned up the dinner dishes. When I heard them wrapping up and walking over to her room to put on her pajamas, I knew one of my favorite moments of the day was coming up. After she was in her pajamas, she walked over to the top of the stairs, leaned her face against the baby gate, and said, as loud as her little voice could manage, “Mama!” (Her daddy taught her this trick—he taught her all her best tricks, really). I can still hear it in my head as clearly as if it had happened last night, but it is one of those sounds I fear losing the most. I dried my hands, climbed up the stairwell on my hands and knees, and gave her a snuzzle (cross between a snuggle and a nuzzle—it was really just a nose-rub) and a kiss through the bars of the baby gate. Then I stood up and took her into my arms and we gave each other a great big hug before her daddy took her into her room for storytime. This is one of those moments I go back to many, many times every day.
If Ed wasn’t home, then I would take her upstairs for her bath. I usually let her climb the stairs on her own, either on her hands and knees, or, in the later days, with great big steps while holding on to the spindles in the railing. At the top, I closed the gate behind me and we went into the bathroom. I put her toddler tub in the bathtub and started drawing the water and told her to go get a washcloth. She wandered out of the bathroom and into her room, opened the cabinet door in her dresser, and grabbed a washcloth (or, usually, several). I grabbed a towel and we went back to the bathroom, where I told her to pick out her toys. She poked through her bin of tub toys—mostly squirting sea creatures and one plastic turtle with three building blocks for his shell—and picked out a few, which she threw into her tub. Then I sat on the edge of the tub, pulled her into my lap, undressed her, and plopped her in.
This was undoubtedly Hudson’s very favorite time of day. She had the undivided attention of her mom or dad, lots of water, and tons of toys. I picked her squirty toys up out of the water, set them on the edge of the tub and then launched them back into the tub with a flick of my finger and a “Wheeeee!” while she laughed and laughed. She pushed the squirty toys under the water, squeezed them and watched them make bubbles, and then pulled them back out to squirt. She stacked the building blocks on the turtle’s back or used them as cups to pour water. But the thing that got her giggling the most, her very favorite thing, was splashing. She kicked her feet or flailed her arms, throwing water everywhere, and I would exaggeratedly shriek and hold the washcloth up to protect myself, saying in a high-pitched voice, “No, no!” She just laughed her little head off and, egged on, would do it some more—the cycle of my shrieks and her laughs continued until I’d had enough (she would never have had enough).
Every other night or so, we bathed her with soap and washed her hair. Once she was good and soapy, we stuck her in the Bumbo seat on the floor of the tub (no, not filled with water) and pulled the handheld shower head down from its perch, turned it on, and rinsed her off. When she was littler, she LOVED this--she couldn’t get enough of it (see video below). As she got older, and actually minded getting water in her eyes, she liked it a little less, but still got a kick out of playing with the sprayer.
When we were all done bathing, I said, “Ready for shaky shaky?” In more recent days, she said, “No!” and shook her head because she wasn’t ready to get out of the bath. I grabbed her tight under the armpits and lifted her up, saying, “Shaky! Shaky! Shaky!” and she kicked her feet and wiggled to help shake the water off. Then we twirled around and I laid her down on her towel, which was waiting on the closed toilet seat, and wrapped her up, saying, “Baby burrito!” And then I swooped her up and we looked in the mirror and I leaned her in so she could give herself a kiss in the mirror. We did this exact sequence every time I gave her a bath. Then we sat down on the toilet seat, finished drying her off, and brushed her teeth (not a favorite activity). Finally, as we left the bathroom, she loved to flip the light switches off in the bathroom and the hallway before we headed into her room.
Once we got her jammies on, I sat down in the rocking chair and set her on the floor. We kept all our regular bedtime books in a pile on floor to the right of the rocking chair. In earlier days, I set her on my lap and I picked the order of the books, but later, she liked to pick which ones she wanted to read each night. A recent favorite had become an extra copy of a photo book we had made for her grandparents for a Christmas present—we called it the “Hudson book.” We looked at each page and picked out and named Hudson (at all her different ages), Mommy, Daddy, Bess, and all the other relatives in there. Some other bedtime favorites were Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed, (complete with Hudson’s motions of smacking her head when “one fell off and bumped her head” and wagging her finger when the doctor said, “No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”), Goodnight Gorilla (she loved, loved, loved that pink balloon) and Hush Little Baby (she picked out and named the birds, the moon, the bear—lots of her favorite words were in that book). And of course, the finale was Goodnight Moon. Usually Ed and I had to pick that one up ourselves when it was time for storytime to end—Hudson loved the book but she knew it meant no more stories, so she rarely picked it up herself. She often fussed at us when we tried to pick it up, but that never lasted long once we opened it up. She positively adored the great green room and everything in it. We picked out all kinds of things: the clock, the house, the cats, the balloon, the three little bears, the bowl full of mush, the stars, and much more—she could say many of these words by the time she died, too. But her favorite activity had become finding the mouse—she practically wanted to skip over the pages in between the green room pages, so she could get back to the mouse. She knew exactly where it was on every page, but would look up at me, smiling and sucking air through her teeth, waiting for me to say, “Where is it?! Where’s the mouse?!” and then she’d point to it excitedly, and I’d say “There’s the mouse!” And she’d start flipping ahead to where she could find it again.
When we got to the “Good night stars, good night air,” I would soften my voice, and then finish “Good night noises everywhere” with a whisper. By this time, she was usually already curling up on my shoulder with her thumb in her mouth, ready for her song. We finished our bed time ritual with one round of “Hark the Sound,” her head tucked under my chin, me swaying gently on my feet. When I got to the end of “I’m a Tar Heel born, I’m a Tar Heel bred,” instead of “Go to hell, Dook!” I whispered, “Don’t go to Dook!” which always earned a smile or a soft giggle. Then I hugged her tight, kissed her cheek, and put her down on her tummy. She turned her head to one side, thumb still in mouth, and I tucked her little polar bear and panda bear up under her arms on each side, and she closed her eyes. I said, “Good night, my sweet girl” and closed the door behind me.
On the day Hudson died, her blood pressure and other vital signs were pretty unstable throughout the day. The doctors had talked with us about the possibility that her body might not even make it through until the evening, when they were planning to do the second brain death test, even with all the medications and monitoring they were doing to try keep her alive and stable until then so the results would be reliable. We assured them that if she crashed, we did not want them to take any extraordinary measures—we knew our girl was already gone, but we just wanted a little more time with her before we would never be able to see her again. I didn’t leave the room that entire day. Knowing that this might happen before the planned hour, Ed and I took some quiet time alone with her earlier in the afternoon so that we would feel like we’d had a chance to say goodbye, just in case. We talked to her, cried over her, told her how much we loved her—I remember telling her that there were so many things I wanted to say, but I didn’t know what they all were right then, so I just had to trust that she knew. And Ed told her that we knew she would still hear us when we talked to her for the rest of our lives. Then we read Goodnight Moon. On each page of the great green room, I said, “Where’s the mouse?!” and then pointed to it myself and said “There’s the mouse!” We said, “Good night stars, good night air, good night noises everywhere” and then closed the book and said goodbye to our beautiful girl. We were fortunate to have more time with her and a chance to say goodbye to her again later that evening, but I will remember that most precious moment for the rest of my life.
As parents, it seems we often focus on remembering and documenting “big” moments—Christmas mornings, birthday parties, first steps, and the like. As I’ve said here many times before, now that Hudson is gone, it’s the ordinary, everyday moments that I miss the most. And it is these that I most want to remember.
We love you and miss you so much, my sweet girl. This memory of you is my One Good Thing on this otherwise very bad day.