Friday, January 21, 2011
The Shadow of a Girl
Charlotte is very present in our home, even obvious, if you spend a little time here. For the most part, she is a known, present part of our family to whomever sees her here. When you know about our tiniest, but biggest girl, it comes as no surprise to see her name written on a plate hanging on the wall, or stitched into a cross stitch, or to see her birth-card, bracelet, and lock of hair behind glass in a shadow box alongside the other three.
But what of the other people, the ones who don't know, and who might not ask?
I think this about a few babysitters we have had, girls from the neighborhood who are 15 now and whose mothers knew about Charlotte when they were 8, but might not have told them. Do they sleuth around the house after our children are sleeping, hoping to piece together the mystery of the child no longer here? Do they go home and ask their mothers, and hear the sad tale of the young, vibrant new couple who moved in, glowingly pregnant, only to lose the baby a few months later? Do they hear the awful word I always avoid, stillborn?
I've been wondering a lot lately about the woman I've had the luxury of having to come and clean (not pick up, but actually CLEAN) my house since Fiona was born. For half a year it was a gift from my mother to have her come, and for the remaining half it has been the gift I give to myself. In fact, it's been the best gift perhaps I've ever given myself, to have this lovely, kind, soft, hippie-ish woman come and clean up the house after I've spent two days picking up all the things hiding the actual house from sight. She comes every two weeks, which seems incredibly often given how frequently I used to clean the house, and she's thoughtful and kind and does a wonderful job. I'm usually home while she's here, but cautious to stay out of her way. And she goes everywhere in our house, so she sees the cradle full of Charlotte's things in our room, and the huge, gigantic photo exhibit over our bed that features 12 , 9x13 photographs in stark, black and white of Greg and I holding her on the thirteenth of May. She dusts the shadowbox and the plate, and she also sees Liam, and Aoife, and Fiona running around the house (inevitably dropping cookie crumbs on the carpet she's just vacuumed) so she knows this is a child who is not here. She's never asked, and I've never had a moment where I felt compelled to explain to her. I'm sure some day Charlotte will come up. But for now, I just wonder what she thinks, where her mind goes with the mystery of this child who clearly did not make it.
In some ways, I suppose, this is why I like having Charlotte pasted all over our home: it means that even if I don't want, or have the chance, to share her with people, they still know she exists. They still see our family as missing a piece, an essential piece, and they know enough to see the shadow of a little girl, seven years young, flash before their eyes. Someday, I'll tell the tale. But for now, this is enough.