Thursday, May 30, 2013

Land Mines

I truly have only barely begun thinking about what it means that I am going to have a chance to raise another little girl. Every time my brain starts to wander into that territory, it veers off unexpectedly, not ready to entertain any deeper thoughts on the matter.

Today, I was forced to dip a toe a little deeper into that water, and yet I was still only scratching the very surface, I think. I finally got down to tackling all of the boxes and junk we’d thrown into the baby’s room in the new house. Not only do I want to get it cleaned up and ready for an actual baby to live in, but I also want to use it as a writing space for the summer, so I needed to make some room.

The room contained several large boxes that have basically not been opened since they were packed from our house in DC over a year ago. I also brought up some other boxes from the basement containing baby clothes, with plans to sort everything out by size and gender (or gender-neutrality as the case may be) so I could figure out what we have for this baby to wear. (You can probably see where I am going with this. This is another one of those posts that just keeps rewriting itself over and over again in new circumstances, I think).

I had already seen some of Hudson’s baby clothes through the sides of the clear plastic boxes I brought up from the basement. Somehow, this was all I was preparing myself for, and it seemed manageable.

But instead of starting with those boxes, the knowns, I opened one of the big cardboard boxes labeled only “Baby Clothes.” And right there on the top, the first thing I saw, were all the 18-24 month size clothing that Hudson was wearing around the time she died. In DC, I’d never been able to bring myself to put them away somewhere, so I simply moved them into the bottom drawer of the dresser in Jackson’s room in order to make way for his clothes. I looked at them from time to time, but for the most part that drawer stayed closed. When the movers came to pack us in DC, it felt almost like a cop out to me that I was letting them pack the clothes in the dresser, another way to sidestep having to ultimately do anything with those clothes I was unprepared to do anything with.

The thing about land mines is that no matter how much you prepare for encountering them, and no matter how many precautions you try to take to avoid them, they can still blow up right in your face.

On top was the grey fleece jacket with the bear ears that she wore so very often during her second and final winter that it was almost like an extension of her:

(I’d originally put this jacket in the box of clothes to be worn again by another sibling, rather than in the special box of Hudson’s clothes that will be only her own forever. Today I changed my mind about that. It’s just far too much hers to ever be anyone else’s.)

Then there were several items I’d only recently bought her at a huge kids’ consignment sale, including the lightweight sunsuit she was wearing in this precious picture with her friend Ellary on the playground at St. Ann’s:

. . . as well as this sweet top that I was inanely worried about getting stained by black beans when I took this, the final photo we have of Hudson:

Some of the clothes from that drawer in DC she hadn’t even gotten to wear yet, because the seasons were still changing and it was not yet reliably warm (we’d planned to take Hudson camping for the first time on the night she fell ill—we canceled the trip well before she ever ran a fever, because the overnight temps were supposed to be in the low forties).

I dug down lower into the box and found a jacket she’d worn regularly as a baby—I’d written her name on the tag so that it wouldn’t get lost at day care:

I shared that last photo on Facebook, with the caption: “Unpacking so much more than mere clothes,” and I am. I’m unpacking an all-too-short lifetime of memories. One of my bereaved-mom friends offered the kind hope for “a time when there is almost as much sweet as bitter in these clothes.”

And the thing is, this is that time. At least I think it is. Yes, finding these clothes when I (stupidly) wasn’t anticipating to (seriously, how does this keep happening?) blew me into a rib-shaking grief wave. Yes, most if not all of these clothes have some Hudson memory attached to them. But isn’t it sweet to have them in our lives again, to share them with Hudson’s little sister, to make new memories in them even as we tell Hudson’s siblings the stories of what their big sister was doing when she wore them? Isn’t that much sweeter than tucking them away in a drawer or a box as if I am afraid of them?

I think so. At least for the time being. I will probably still try to prepare, in vain, for the possible land mine that awaits when I first put one of those items of clothing on my second daughter. And it will probably still blow up in my face. And it will be OK. I’m willing to bet that something sweet will be waiting after the dust settles.


  1. I hope one day I can use some of Eva's clothes on a little sister. I can only imagine the turmoil of emotions you have with the anticipation of another daughter.

  2. The clothes that set me off were the ones that Diana hadn't even worn. They were such a concrete reminder of the life she didn't get to live. The land mines will grow fewer and fewer as time goes on, but there will still be some. Hudson's death was certainly one for me. But don't ever worry that you will forget, Mandy. I promise you that you won't.

  3. There's still a stack of mom's clothes in the back of my closet that I sometimes like to go to and pull out and just hold. But I agree about the sweet treasure they can become. I have several articles of mom's clothes that I regularly wear (and have nearly worn out) and somehow I feel like I'm taking her on my adventures every time I do (one jacket that I've worn on pretty much every camping trip since she died). I too hope they will bring you sweet more than bitter... and sometimes the bittersweet tears that you need at moments. Love you, Jess.

  4. Going through things is exhausting and seems to continue to be no matter how many times you winnow down. For what it's worth, I have taken comfort in seeing my girls use some of Henry's things. Much love to you in this process.

  5. It seems so cruel that you have all of these things that were hers (with her name on them, even!), all of these memories of her, all of these photos of her sweet, expressive face, and yet she is not here. How can it be?

    I wish it were not so.

  6. I don't read often cause it is hard..but I love this picture of Hudson and Ellary.. we are thinking of you all every day.. when we get settled into our programs... our Hudson room is coming.. I promise she will have a room at St. Ann's..

  7. This showed real courage. Good for you, Mandy. How very very hard.