Monday, August 30, 2010
Where it all begins
I waffle between wanting to focus explicitly on the side of me that is bereaved, and running out and exposing some of what's really happening here in the little pink house. Tonight, I err on the side of the mundane, of an evening where I sit in my Audubon Russet living room, on the sage green couch, listening to crickets and the river, knowing in my deepest happy belly that there are three little sleepies upstairs dreaming away.
Greg and I had dinner on the porch tonight, by candlelight, at the white table my mother gave to me for my birthday this year. I had put together a tomato, mozzerella and basil salad on one plate, and a green salad with fresh corn, red onion, cherry tomato, and red pepper on another plate. All the food was from our CSA (except the cheese) and we had wine. This week, we decided, is a wine week. This week Greg returns to work, and Liam to school. The summer, the divine summer that we love and cherish and milk for all it's worth, is over. Over in the sense that we live it, at least.
We toasted, as always, over Charlotte's candle, and I thanked her for everything that's fallen in her wake. I think sometimes that's the oddest thing about Charlotte having been our first child, and about her having been born right as we moved into this house, and right as we were in just the second year of our jobs, forming and solidifying friendships in a new community. Sometimes it feels like we really didn't have a life to speak of before Charlotte, and so therefore virtually everything in our life right now has something to do with her. As many people with children often do, we have formed many of our friendships around people we've met with children of similar ages: hence, the majority of our friends originated from Liam's birth. His was, of course, a birth that never would have happened without Charlotte. I wonder about the girls, and whether they are the same souls who were destined for me in the first place. Aoife and Charlotte are almost three years apart, and Aoife and Fiona are three and a half. Perhaps this is what I would have had; three girls, three years apart. But I don't know this, and so I think of them, too, as the unusual outcome of an unusual situation.
Even friends who didn't coincide directly with Liam's birth had something to do with Charlotte. People who are in our lives have to be able to understand and accept our first daughter, if somebody didn't allow us to speak her name, or down played her importance, we would not welcome that friendship. The way people interact with their children has a profound affect on whose company we keep. We warmly embrace the friendships with people who celebrate their children, who laugh with them, let them explore and get messy, and find humor in the temper tantrums. People who are wallowing joyfully in the unpredictable mire that is parenthood, those people bring us joy, we see them with a glowing appreciation for what they are blessed with. Likewise, people who are chronically fed up with their children, with parenthood, who harp on their children's weaknesses and ignore their blossoming strengths are sadly crossed off lists for dinner parties; sometimes these are adults we truly like as people, but we can't bear to watch them parent. This, too, happens because of Charlotte.
In some ways, I suppose Charlotte is just a turning point like any turning point. It could have been a job change that sent us moving to Fargo, North Dakota, and then everything would have been different. It could have been a house fire that destroyed everything, starting us over from scratch and changing our perspective in so many ways. But I think that reflecting on Charlotte as the point from which so many things originate somehow gives more meaning to her short life, somehow makes me feel as if she is more here with us than I give her credit for.
(but I'd rather have the child upstairs)
As an aside, we went camping last night at a local state park on a lake, and in the morning I drove down the hill to pick up a friend of the kids' to join us for swimming. She's Liam's age and the three of them are like siblings, having grown up together. As we walked from the campsite to the beach, and played, and returned, I was ever aware of the family portrait that was being painted: That of a family with three girls and a boy; the three older ones and the baby girl, just as it should be. I don't covet this child actually, and have never actually compared her to Charlotte in my relationship with her, even though I've taken care of her for her entire life on a part time basis. But what I'm alluding to is simply what was seen, and I think particularly since the kids are now of an age where a year isn't as easily detectable. When she and Liam were babies, people thought they were twins. Now it's less obvious, and I just had this feeling, almost like when you're a teenager borrowing some designer piece of clothing, walking around knowing that people are looking at you thinking it's yours. Because we were camping in a park where most people come from afar, nobody would wonder if one of the kids wasn't ours, it would be assumed that we were all one family. From the outside, we looked like we did have those three girls and a boy, which we did, but don't anymore. And I was glad, in a sneaky sort of way, to be seen that way.