I have found, to my great relief, that that was just my grief goggles talking.
Today was a perfectly beautiful, cool, sunny fall day. I had plans to go to the grocery store, but after lunch downtown with Ed, Jackson fell asleep in the car (a rare event), and in my effort to keep driving until he woke up, I meandered my way over to the zoo. Even though I had thought earlier this morning that it would be a nice day for the zoo (gorgeous weather but it’s Thursday, so it would not be crowded), I didn’t really think I’d bring myself to go. We haven’t been back to the zoo since Hudson died, for obvious reasons: too many beautiful little toddlers and too many precious memories of her there. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever bring myself to go back.
But in the middle of Jackson’s nap, I just decided it was time. I felt like I needed to go. I remembered a comment that I left on another grieving mom’s blog about how returning for the first time to one of our children’s “places” is always hard, but that for me, I am always pleasantly surprised at how it makes me feel closer to Hudson. I hoped the same would be true for the zoo.
And it was. As we pulled into the parking lot (Jackson already awake again, cat-napper that he is), I was awash immediately in memory, thinking of the first time Ed and I brought her there together, when we joined the Friends of the National Zoo on our way out, anticipating many more visits in the future where we’d enjoy the free parking. Then I remembered the last time I took her there, in March or April of 2010, on a day that she’d had to stay home from day care because she had pink eye but felt totally fine otherwise—I drove to the zoo at naptime and sat in the parking lot waiting for her to wake up. With these memories came tears, but thankfully they were brief.
I put Jackson in the stroller and we made our way inside. The zoo is one long hill. From our side, the walk to the other side is uphill (which is much nicer, because once you’ve done the zoo and are tired and ready to go home, you get to walk downhill). We started at the bottom of the hill at the kids’ zoo, complete with cows, alpacas, donkeys, goats, pigs, and rabbits. I was reminded not only of our many trips to the zoo with Hudson, but also to Homestead Farms in October of 2009, where she met her first goats, and to her aunt and uncle’s farm outside of Chicago, where she got to hang out with some Icelandic sheep, a llama, and some chickens.
As we made our way up the hill, I told Jackson all about Hudson’s favorite animals, including the big cats (which she didn’t see here, but saw at the Lincoln Park zoo on our trip to Chicago), the gorillas and orangutans, the elephants, and the birds. Oh, how she loved the birds. She and I sat and listened to the flamingos cackle for the longest time.
As Jackson and I wandered around, I remembered nursing Hudson on one of these benches on our first trip to the zoo, when she was just a week or so older than Jackson is now. My friend Emily was nursing her son, Ollie, right next to us:
And the spot in the ape house where she and Ollie (6 weeks older) sat and stared at each other, trying to figure out what they were looking at:
And this picture I took of her looking goofy in her sunhat in the elephant house:
(If she were not dressed in girl clothes and carrying that particular monkey, I am not sure I would know which of my children was in this picture.)
And this one by the giant tortoise (turtles of all kinds being her spirit animal and all):
And the spot on the elephant path where I took a few pictures of her and her daddy that fall:
Finally, on our way out, we passed by the giant rock where the ring-tailed lemurs live. On my last trip to the zoo with Hudson, she and I sat and watched these awesome creatures prance around on their rock for what seemed like forever.
As I approached the rock, which is surrounded by a moat, I realized I had totally forgotten what else lives there.
She is always with us.
The first time to a “Hudson place” is always hard. But it never fails to make me feel closer to her. And I love sharing these places with Jackson. I can’t wait until he can enjoy them the same way she did.
She is always with us.