I keep a vase full of fresh-cut daffodils on the kitchen table. I decided to do this the day we came home from the hospital without you. Spring flowers for my should-have-been spring girl. I see you now in every daffodil blooming down our streets and E and I greet each new patch of yellow as we make our daily rounds of the neighbourhood. I don’t know what we’ll do when daffodil season ends, but by then I will also have a small daffodil tattoo on the inside of my left elbow, a permanent reminder of all you were meant to be.
I sleep with a tiny pink onesie under my pillow. The only things I ever bought just for you (you had a big sister, after all, and a closet full of hand-me-downs) were three little onesies, on sale, the final Sunday you were alive. I stood in the store looking at tiny sleepers and dresses, but all I bought was the little 3-pack of onesies. Two striped pink, one plain. One of the striped ones was with you when you were cremated. I sobbed as I handed it over to the man at the funeral home. We wanted so badly to take care of you and couldn’t. Your little body cold in the morgue and soon to be burned to ash, was so far away from us and so alone; one striped pink onesie seemed such a paltry offering. The other striped pink onesie is in the box with your footprints and ultrasound photos, the hospital wristbands that neither of us wore, and the little bonnet that was part of the hospital’s care package and that was too small for your head, but that has a small smear of blood, of you, on it and has therefore been saved.
I have three grainy black and white photographs taken by one of the nurses. One is just of you and two are of your dad, you and me. When they were taken I thought I’d never want to look at them, but now I wish we had hundreds more to look at, too. Three is not enough.
I have a bus transfer that I found in my wallet the week we picked up your ashes. It’s from the Tuesday of that last week, just two days before we learned you’d died. E and I took the bus downtown to run some errands and then met your dad for lunch. I sat across the table from your dad and E, squeezing my big belly into the booth, and we shared our sandwiches and laughed at each other and never dreamed that that lunch would be the last truly happy family outing we’d have for months. I’ve run over and over the details of that last week, so that it has now taken on a sort of magical glow: it was happiness, it was hope, it was before. It seems ridiculous to project all of that onto an expired bus transfer, but….
I took a picture of me, your dad and your big sister when we were in Mexico just two and a half weeks after you died. We went there to be with family and for E to be able to play in the sand and water with your aunt J and your Gran instead of hiding out from the rain at home with grieving parents. In the picture you can see how devastated your dad and I are, though we both tried to smile, and even E has a sort of rueful look on her face. I think of this picture as a portrait of the four of us. You are there in all our eyes and in our half-smiles, the missing piece for which the rest of us are searching.
I have two little dolls from that same trip to Mexico. They sit together near your ashes. Sisters.
I have a glass vase and in it are two rocks. One is from the Tasman Sea, collected by your Gran on a recent trip. She thought she would be coming home to a newborn you but instead mourned you on another continent. The other rock I picked up just yesterday on a hike at Lynn Canyon. Your dad, your sister and I walked up and down the canyon, giant cedars and other tall, tall trees all around us, pools of green water below us. Early in the morning, the canyon is enchanting: tree trunks covered in moss, gnarled roots across the paths, sunlight filtered in from the canopy high above, the roaring of the river and the spectacular crash of the Twin Sisters waterfalls. E was delighted and I was happy for almost the first time since you left us. I wished you there, though, and I picked up a rock for your jar, as if to bring the magic of the place back to you. More rocks will come, from other magical places you will not get to see, where I will feel your absence and dream you back to us.
All of these things are such a poor substitute for you, but they are what I have. I am the keeper of your memory, the curator of all these objects I invest with significance and arrange just so. I trained as an archivist, you know, and now, I try to create an archive of my love for you. It will never be enough.