Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Tis the Season
This is the time of year where my world seems to close in on me in a beautiful, magical way. The night settles in as New England goes dark for the winter, the birds are gathering to feast on seed, and my breath goes frosty as I open the door into the morning darkness to let out the cat. Lights twinkle around the house; on the tree in the living room and the candles in the dining room. It is the beginning of winter, where being housebound becomes a privilege, where there is anticipation of all kinds, where love abounds.
For so many people, recently bereaved, Christmas and this entire season is devoid of anything that might mean joy. I had that, once, that awful Christmas where we went to the farm up the road and bought the tree because, damn it, we had planned to and I still wanted to, for her. We put it up and decorated it with shaking fingers, tears streaming down our faces. While Greg went to class in the evenings I sat home and embroidered on two beautiful Christmas stockings, to match the ones my aunt had made for everyone in our extended family. One said "Daddy", and the other, of course, said "Charlotte". I cried as I made them, for the man who did not get to be a daddy to his little girl, and for the girl herself who was robbed of this privilege of life that most of us take for granted. I was so intent, that season, to show her something of myself, to let her see what a good mother I truly was. I put up that tree, and I hung her stocking. I played holiday music and sang along. I needed her to see joy.
I also needed to feign joy for the poor, untended baby in my womb, the child around whom all the hope in the world was wound tightly around, and whom I was almost too terrified to face. I loved my new, unborn child with all my heart, I needed him desperately, but I feared for him. Feared for his life, and also feared that he would be born melancholy and wasted from the sadness that had engulfed him in the womb. I would talk to him, through my tears, as my sobs wracked my body and bent me sideways over the swell of him, "I love you so much, I love you so much." I hoped so deeply that he would know that I would find joy in him, although I had none at that time. And so there were some, intentional times where I would create it out of nowhere, with the sound of my voice singing, or by skipping somewhere instead of walking, so that perhaps the motions of my body would create joy where I could find none.
And that Christmas, there was hope for everyone but me in that swell of my growing belly, because I could not trust that all would be well. I knew there was a chance, but I was still much too wild with grief for Charlotte to acknowledge that somebody else was on the way. They were just too close together for me to truly take pleasure in his presence at times. And I am sorry for that.
But I do not need to explain the joy that swept me with his birth, my saviour and rebirth, Liam Gregory. He was born the day after Easter and it seemed almost like a resurrection to me; I was reborn a new person when his cry split the air. The sadness was still there, so fierce, but this joy that I felt severed the part of me that could not hope and transformed it permenantly because this I could see, good things could happen. I wanted this little boy to feel nothing but love, and not just love for one baby, he would feel it for two, and I would give him anything.
So now, at Christmas, I delight in the joy that my children feel, in the pleasure of giving and the treat for them of receiving my thoughtfully made and selected gifts. I love seeing them surrounded with family members, all smiles, safe and rooted in a loving home.
Our Christmas table has one of those beautiful angel chimes, with the four candles on the bottom that turn the little fan and ring the bells. We all say a wish or hope for Charlotte at supper, by way of our grace, and it brings a strange mix of sadness and pride and joy as my children express what they are grateful for, and what they wish could happen.
"I'm so grateful for our family," Liam says, "and I wish Charlotte could be here."
"I want Charlotte to come back and live with us," says Aoife, the same wish she has made every night for about a month.
My heart swells. I am sorry for them, forced to miss a sister they never knew, but sincere in their wishes because love is contagious and they have caught ours. Greg and I make our wishes, and the bells tinkle gently as we eat our supper, talking and singing while the quiet night falls, icy cold and frosty around our family's home.