Monday, March 28, 2011

2 thoughts

I dug in the garden yesterday, and it was Aoife's fifth birthday.
Digging is almost an exaggeration. I am approaching hugely pregnant, and bending down, particularly with the earth so damp, cold, and soggy, is close to impossible. I had a little child's rake in my hand and I used it to lift the old, dead leaves from the mulch in my garden beds, almost all of which have peeked their edges out from beneath the giant heaps of snow that are still in various stages of melt.
This year, mother nature gave Aoife a winter birthday. But I am searching for spring. As I lifted the wet, half-rotten leaves I unearthed the bent heads of tiny crocuses struggling to raise themselves against the odds to greet the sun. The children raced around the driveway on rollerblades, screaming with delight, hands still in thick mittens and their coats buttoned up high against the below-freezing temperatures and steady wind. As I came around the corner to the southwest side of the house, I saw that the little snowbank from our most recent fall of snow had melted, revealing the giant crocuses that had been buried in full bloom seven days ago. They were still brilliantly purple and standing tall. They had survived.

I, too, was buried once. I almost suffocated under the weight of what had fallen on me: a life I did not want, a future that was devoid of meaning. I almost gave up on breathing at times because it seemed to difficult and evidently pointless. There was nothing to breathe for, this winter would clearly go on and on, and even if I saw moments of sunshine or melted patches in other people's yards it still didn't mean that the snowpack in my shaded, wooded yard was melting any faster.
I hold onto this feeling of near-death, of being enveloped in pain and certain of a future that held nothing. I hold onto it because it stands in sharp contrast to what I have now, where days are somehow filled with laughter and joy and the relentless pace of children's needs. I mother with fervor, because I am free to do so.


This weekend, my sister was coming for the night with her almost-new boyfriend. He is the person she has been waiting to deserve for too long, and our whole family is ecstatic about his new role in her life. He is enthusiastic about our children and they adore him. While we've spent many weekends with him at my parents, he had yet to come to our home for a visit. This weekend, in honor of Aoife's birthday, the two of them would come out and take the children out for dinner and spend her special day with us.
I wanted to be especially hospitable to them, given his extreme patience with my overly-enthusiastic children, and so I had it in my head that I would give them our bedroom, and we would sleep downstairs on the pull-out couch. This would allow Aoife to sleep in her own double bed which usually serves as our guest bed. I spent almost an hour picking up my room, changing the sheets, organizing my sewing table to perfection, and folding laundry. I was tucking a little stuffed animal into Charlotte's little cradle, which sits under a double window next to my bed, when I began to worry about whether Nate would notice the little cradle and ask Steph what was in it. Then I even extended my worry to think about whether, if behind a closed door, I might poke around a little in the cradle, because I'd always kind of wondered what was tucked inside it and had been afraid to ask. I was thinking about whether this bothered me, this potential that one of them might lift the little blanket and see the urn with her ashes, or open her memory box and finger her little keepsakes, when my eye caught the photos over our bed.
12 photos, black and white, 12 inches by 14 inches, in a 4.5 foot by 4 foot refurbished window. The legacy of our six hours together, looming over our cherry sleigh bed. Twelve images of our grief, our daughter, our three naked bodies curled up in a narrow hospital bed to look over us while we sleep.
Us, while we sleep.
Not them.

I gathered up the dirty sheets, loaded them into the washing machine, and got a clean set of double sheets from the linen closet. I re-made Aoife's bed and tidied her room, and placed a little mattress on our bedroom floor for her to sleep on.

Sometimes sacred space becomes so ordinary, you forget what it is.


Hope's Mama said...

Given our place is so small, our entire house has become a sacred space with Hope related things filling every corner of the house - both our bedroom and the main living area. It is only when I have new people in my home that I begin to fret about it. Otherwise, I hardly notice anymore. Not that I don't notice her, but I just forget that some things can seem a little shrine-like. But it is what I need, and mostly I don't care what anyone thinks.

kris said...

Happy FIVE to sweet Aoife!!

You tell these two stories so beautifully, Carol. As always.

Sarah said...

Oh. Oh.