Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Joy Of The Ordinary

It has been a roller coaster of a week. Coming back home from the beach was hard. It was the end of our first family vacation without our Hudson. This week has been the start of school for so many of our friends’ children, and I watched as picture after picture was posted of the first day of preschool or kindergarten or third grade or eighth grade—all pictures we will never get to take with Hudson. I was struck again by how much she is missing, how much we are going to miss with her forever. It was a very sad few days.

But if you read here regularly, you know that it is not these big occasions—the family vacations and the first days of school—that I miss the most with Hudson, although they certainly bring their fair share of longing and sorrow. Still and always, it’s the ordinary things that I miss so much, the little things we did every day, the ins and outs of life with a bright, curious, active, loving little girl.

On Tuesday, my little boy gave me the gift of taking an ultra-long nap—about three hours. Instead of spending this newly found free time tackling my miles-long to-do list, I sat down and read through my entire Facebook wall, which I had recently downloaded but had not yet looked at. I read through all of my wall posts beginning in the fall of 2007 all the way through the Saturday before Hudson got sick, at which point I had to stop. At first, I wasn’t sure I would be able to stomach reading three years’ worth of status updates from the carefree girl I used to be (when I was so liberal with exclamation points), but once I started, I just couldn’t stop. I skimmed through most of the posts until Hudson was born, and then I was completely mesmerized. Here was a running commentary on our everyday ordinary lives with Hudson—some of it boring to anyone but me, some of it funny, some of it complaining, and much of it poignant, especially in light of later events. It was so lovely to remember all of these ordinary moments, all the little things that both delighted me and drove me crazy about being Hudson’s mom. You can imagine there were far more things in the former category than the latter. Most of the things that drove me crazy were exactly the same things that are driving me crazy with Jackson now—namely, an extraordinary stubbornness about taking naps. 

Some highlights:

Mandy Hitchcock is trying to figure out how to get this punkin to sleep somewhere other than her lap during naptime.
December 13, 2008 at 2:53 pm

Mandy Hitchcock is watching her daughter, who is ridiculously sleepy, but won't let herself go to sleep.
January 28, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Mandy Hitchcock is off to the Arboretum with Ed, Hudson, and Bess. Yay for spring!
April 12, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Mandy Hitchcock First solid food led to another parental rite of passage: blowout diaper all over my T-shirt in public with no change of clothes. Sweeeeeeeeet.
May 31, 2009 at 9:40 pm

Mandy Hitchcock Holy crap! Hudson is about 2 seconds away from crawling. And the world as we know it will never be the same...
June 29, 2009 at 6:14 pm

Mandy Hitchcock is watching Hudson try to stay standing up while bending over to pick up a book. Fascinating. And I love Fridays off.
August 7, 2009 at 8:31 am
Mandy Hitchcock can't believe she just installed Hudson's toddler car seat. Where does the time go?
October 18, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Mandy Hitchcock is fondly recalling the euphoria of this night a year ago, when she was pregnant with a baby and great expectations, driving back to D.C. from poll monitoring in central Virginia, listening to NPR report as the states turned blue, one by one. What a story to tell Hudson when she gets older.
November 3, 2009 at 7:41 pm

Mandy Hitchcock Oops. Hudson just accidentally shoplifted an Elmo washrag. We were outside the store before I realized she was still holding it!
November 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Mandy Hitchcock Hudson thoroughly enjoyed her first trip to The Loop- she had almost 2 full pieces of pesto portabella mushroom pizza.
November 28, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Mandy Hitchcock is celebrating the most magical year of her life so far. A year ago today, I became a mother to a fascinating, exciting, hilarious little creature who challenges me to be my best self every single moment. Happy Birthday, Hudson-- your dad and I love you more than words could ever express and are so grateful for the sheer joy you have brought to our lives.
December 1, 2009 at 10:40 am

Mandy Hitchcock Cold, snowy morning + bright, crisp sunshine + blueberry french toast cobbler in the oven (thanks, Ed) + jabbering baby in footed jammies = perfection. Life is so good.
December 20, 2009 at 9:52 am

Mandy Hitchcock Hudson's hair is rapidly trending toward mullet-dom.
December 23, 2009 at 10:42 am

Mandy Hitchcock Snowed in and it's still snowing. Power on after a brief outage between 3 and 6am. Scratch biscuits for breakfast. Oatmeal raisin cookies and chili later today. Undisturbed playtime with hubby and kiddo. It just doesn't get much better than this, folks.
February 6, 2010 at 11:48 am

Mandy Hitchcock I positively adore my child.
February 22, 2010 at 9:56 am

Mandy Hitchcock Sick day isn't a total loss. Hudson's feeling much better and we're now rocking out to "Mr. Roboto."
March 8, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Mandy Hitchcock Few things could be sweeter to a UNC alum than singing "Hark the Sound" to your child only to finish and have her say "Mo! Mo!" while making the sign for "More." Over and over again. As many times as you want, dear one. :)
March 8, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Mandy Hitchcock I went a little overboard when Hudson's teacher told me to pack a green snack for her tomorrow. Her food for the day consists of peas, broccoli nuggets, green yogurt, and green cottage cheese. The leftover quesadilla is thrown in there for some variety.
March 16, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Mandy Hitchcock Watching Hudson's first pretend play-- trying to give some water to her stuffed animals. It's pretty awesome to think what's churning around inside that noggin.
April 10, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Mandy Hitchcock I came to the shocking realization that I no longer have to lean over to hold Hudson's hand. Yay for my back. Boo for growing too fast.
April 13, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Mandy Hitchcock is thankful we found the "repeat" button on our car's CD player. It has been playing "Seasons of Love" from "Rent" incessantly. Seriously, she screams when we try to move on to any other song. Hmmm... I can definitely think of worse songs to listen to over and over!
May 8, 2010 at 7:13 pm 

I wrote that last one on the Saturday night before Mother’s Day, about 6 or 7 hours before Hudson first woke up with a fever. It is the last status post I wrote about her that did not involve her being sick or, later, gone. It is about one of the most ordinary moments in our lives—trying to find a way to keep a kid happy in the car. And it is incredibly precious to me.  And so very appropriate.   

I didn’t read any further. I didn’t need to remember the rest of it—not right then, at least. I had thought it would be hard for me to read about all of these moments we shared with Hudson, moments that I loved when I was in them and that I truly cherish now. But it actually lifted my spirits somehow. Remembering those precise moments in time when Hudson was here with us was exactly what I needed. For not only did it allow me to spend some time with my girl, it also renewed my hope for all the wonderful ordinary moments we have yet to share with Jackson and our future children. When Jackson woke up from his nap that day, I couldn’t stop smiling and smothering him with kisses—I was in as good a mood as I’ve been in a long time.

And then today, I found myself feeling very sad again. The end of the day is always my music time with Jackson—he’s usually pretty tired by that point and we’re just waiting for his daddy to get home to give him a bath and put him to bed, so music is usually just the trick to keep him calm and happy for that last hour or so. We generally listen to an Elizabeth Mitchell station on Pandora, which is beautiful and soothing, but inevitably brings up songs that make me think of my girl. By the time Ed got home today, I was in tears.

But then, one of those lovely ordinary moments presented itself. Ed picked up Jackson and sat on the couch. He pulled Jackson into the standing position he loves so much and started swinging him forward and backward, much to Jackson’s delight. As I sat there watching Jackson grin and coo, I started crying harder thinking about how much I wished Hudson was there with us, too. And then Jackson laughed. And I started laughing, feeling so grateful to be there in that moment with him and Ed. I held on to that feeling for as long as I could.

I just finished reading Muriel Barbery’s The Elegance of the Hedgehog today. One of the characters, after experiencing a devastating loss, remarks that you can’t really understand the meaning of the word “never” until someone you love dies. Then, she says, “you really feel what it means and it really really hurts. It’s like fireworks suddenly burning out in the sky and everything going black. I feel alone, and sick, my heart aches and every movement seems to require a colossal effort.” But then, in her despair, she hears some beautiful music that moves her to her core and she muses, “Maybe that’s what life is about: there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same. It’s as if these strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that had come to us, an always within never.” She commits herself to “searching for those moments of always within never. Beauty, in this world.”

It’s September again. And the hole in my heart is feeling more like a treasure than an abyss. For me, all those lovely ordinary moments we shared with Hudson, all the ones we are sharing now with Jackson: they are my always within never. And I am so grateful for them.


  1. "There's a hole in my heart and I'll carry it wherever I go

    Like a treasure that travles with me down every road...

    ...Even though my heart aches, there's a smile on my face..."

    Love and hugs,

  2. I love the ordinary moments—especially loved your snow day.

    I've been singing "So Glad I'm Here" since you posted about that and finding a lot of "always" in the "never."

  3. So lovely. I send much affection.

  4. "finding an always in the never"...grace indeed. Renee P.

  5. You give me hope, Mandy.

  6. It feels like "moments of always within never" is the next step beyond One Good Thing... my goodness, you never cease to both amaze and inspire me, Mandy.

  7. I remember so many of these status updates, reading through them. I'm so glad they are there and you were able to read them, so that you can appreciate who you were and be reminded of some seemingly mundane things that may otherwise have unfairly slipped away.