Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Yellow Balloon

(Inspired by Jenni, from her post on GITW.)

I remember so vividly feeling Charlotte with me when I had her. I don't think I felt the warmth until she left, and the chill that seemed to surround me when she left the room was palatable. Greg and I were alone with our tears and broken selves, and suddenly I felt that she must have been there, somehow, that her little soul must have waited around to watch us be with her before she floated off to wherever came next. There was also this intense, undeniable feeling that she had to be somewhere. Just the day before she had been this absolutely vital force: this kicking, writhing person who loved to tuck her feet into my ribs and pluck them down with an audible twang. How could this person be simply gone, rendered a lifeless body in my arms? She had to be somewhere, didn't she?
Suddenly the idea of religious belief made perfect sense, and I wished more than anything that I had some preexisting sense of how these things worked. It seemed to late now to suddenly become a fierce believer in a place called heaven, or in life after death, or some other fixed version of what happens. But I didn't, so I was forced to ruminate on the hundreds of possibilities of where she might be, and to feel little if any faith that I would ever be privy to her sweet self again.
But there was a fierce need to keep her, and so after we came home, we saw her everywhere. We saw her in the heavy rain that hung from the lilacs outside our windows, and on the sunny days in the fluffy wisps of cottonwood that would ride the air around our house. The sunshine, the warmth, everything beautiful seemed to be her for some time. I needed her to be there with me. I wanted her to know that I could be good, that I could be beautiful beneath all of my melancholy. Almost every day, I would put on Spring by Richard Shindell and dance like no one was watching, passionately and deeply, hoping that she was somehow watching me. I wanted her to see that I could feel joy, and would have.
But then the darkness settled in and the signs seemed more contrived to me, as things I wanted to see rather than real moments with her presence. The truth was, my baby was gone, and I was never getting her back. I didn't want a sign of her, or to imagine that she could see my potential for joy. I was sad, angry, disgraced. I wanted my daughter.
There was one event, however, that felt truly inexplicable to me. It has always felt like my one, true piece of evidence that she was looking out for us. Charlotte would have been about two and a half years old. This may have been around the time when I truly stopped looking for signs; around the time when my life had almost started to just be my life again, albeit my new life, and where I stopped thinking that somehow, if I just tried hard enough, she would come to me in a dream.
The day it happened was a blustery spring afternoon, and our baby Liam was about eighteen months old. We had dropped our car off at the Honda dealer and walked into town to get a sandwich while it was being repaired. The man at the dealer had given Liam a giant, round yellow balloon with a bright orange ribbon. As we walked, he held it in his fat little hand and screamed with delight as it bobbed in the wind. We tied it around his wrist, but in time, it loosened and suddenly there it was, floating up to the sky. Liam pointed after it, to stifle his potential torrent of tears we waved to it cheerfully and told him he was such a nice boy to decide to give his balloon to baby Charlotte. We kept waving to it, watching it rise into the grey sky above, until we got to the restaurant. During the meal he kept talking about his balloon and baby Charlotte, and we kept saying that his balloon had floated up to the stars to be with Charlotte.
Several hours later, we returned to the dealer, got into our car and began to drive north, towards the Vermont border, to visit my parents. Thirty minutes into the drive, we were talking about the balloon once again when I saw what must have been a trick of the light, waving to me from a tree along the side of the highway. I looked once, twice, but it was real: there is was, the yellow balloon, with its thick orange ribbon, bobbing in a tree beside the very road upon which we were driving. Three hours had elapsed, and perhaps thirty miles, and somehow this yellow balloon, round and giant and perfectly unlikely, had snagged along our path of travel.
I leaned back and took in a deep breath. Perhaps Charlotte had gotten the balloon after all, and this was her way of saying Thank you.

It was the only thing I could think of. How else could it have gotten there?

Spring (Richard Shindell)

The day will begin like any other
Another sunrise in the east
It will reach across and touch you like a lover
It will tease you from a dream

And opening your eyes you will surrender
To the light that fills the room
And the hope that you have carried since September
You will offer up to June

Maybe will be certain
You can take it as a vow
Winters just the curtain
Spring will take the bow

Looking out your window you will wonder
At the blooming in your yard
And evry opening flower will be a mirror
Of the quickening in your heart


The day will begin like any other
Another sunrise in the east
It will reach across and touch you like a lover
It will tease you from a dream
You wont remember


Hope's Mama said...

A truly amazing story. I don't know if I believe in signs, but this post just about changes my mind.

Charlotte's Mama said...

It changed my mind, that's for sure.