Tuesday, May 25, 2010


I have one brother who's at school, too, Aoife said, when an older woman at a cafe asked her if Fiona was her baby sister. And I have another sister who lives in the stars.

I cringe, and I hate myself for cringing. I'm not prepared for this, prepared for the woman in the cafe to look at me with sad eyes, and for myself to start talking fast, without making eye contact. That's how it is sometimes.
But she doesn't really hear Aoife, who keeps on talking. So I feel very grateful to Aoife for including Charlotte, and I remember to thank her for this when I am tucking her into bed.

I don't know why my reaction is always like this when my children openly share with strangers about Charlotte. It is as if somehow by them sharing our story it seems more unbearable to me, and I'm not certain how to proceed. At once I admire them for candidly sharing the frank truth about our family, and I wish I could sink into the floor and leave them to work out the details with their newest confidante. I recognize that Charlotte's death is, to them, more simple fact than heartwrenching tragedy. Liam is in the midst of the transition where he is recognizing the gravity of the situation, but Aoife is still blissfully unaware. Today she was bright eyed and honest, her shiny blonde hair hanging in pigtails with pink and green ribbons, as she nibbled delicately on a brownie as big as her face. Her legs have grown long and lanky like a little filly and they still hold the suntan from April's trip. She is so innocent and pure, and I see with my eyes what the stranger sees: the baggage of a dead sister. The baggage that comes in the form of a mother who is babylost, a mother who shares the dead sister with the children and allows them to accept her as their own.

This is, of course, my gift to them.

I hope that Charlotte will change them, as she has changed me. I hope that as they grow in our family, they will see that my love for her has changed the way I love them, and that everyone is the better for it.

But as her pigtails swing, I think I fear that the older woman across the cafe might not see it this way, and that she might think it better if I didn't let my sweet, lanky, suntanned four year old in on the details of our family tragedy. Like an adolescent fearing the judgement of the boy across the room she doesn't know, even though she approves of her outfit and so do her friends.

But luckily, the woman in the cafe doesn't hear.

I am spared this once, but know it will happen again.


Mira said...

Aoife looks so very much like you. And there is something in her child's understanding of her big sister that makes me think that there is some beauty in her understanding of the ugliness of what happened to Charlotte and your family. I hope that came out right - but her words made me wistful, not teary, as I usually do when I think of dead babies. The past few posts have been remarkable. Thinking of you.

kris said...

Oh, Carol. You carry all of this with such grace. I wish you didn't have to carry it at all. Charlotte is the gift you've given your littlies...and they will love you all the more for it.

Shannon said...

Aoife looks so grown up! I also think she looks a lot like you, she's beautiful.

You mention about Liam, what does he say to strangers now?

I wonder how I'll handle this one day if I ever have kids. Will I tell them about the ones who came before them, the ones who I never got to meet? I don't know. I guess I'll worry about that if the time ever comes.