I’ve just dropped E off at daycare and come to the coffee shop to start my work day. I sit down at the same table where six months ago to the day, E and I sat after a visit to the library. We had steamed milks and bagels for lunch while we looked over the books we picked out and then E said, ‘I know what we should call Baby Sister when she’s born: Firebell Cutie Amelia-with-an-A (this last bit is funny because it is basically E’s name spelled differently). I remember how her face shone, triumphant, as she held her milk in her still chubby little hands. I remember how I laughed and texted R and thought about how much I would miss my just-E days and about what a wonderful big sister she was going to be.
And just like that the tears that I have held off for weeks now stream down my cheeks while I try to hide them from the other people like me who use this place as their office. The week of opposite days start; the memories bubble up and I miss her like crazy.
Yesterday we walked across downtown to meet friends, E in her stroller jabbering away. She asked about her little friend’s baby sister and then she said she didn’t have a baby sister anymore but that she had had one, right Mommy? I did have a Baby Sister, she affirmed adamantly before I could answer. Yes, sweetheart, you did. And then a few minutes later she calls out, ‘Look Mommy! A butterfly!’ And there is a pale yellow butterfly just ahead of us, out of place on the busy road that’s all concrete, graffiti, litter and traffic. It flew right over to E, fluttered over her outstretched hands, away and back and then away and back again. I told myself it was a sign; it was Baby Sister come to reassure her big sister that she was here once, that she existed, that she was still our Baby Sister. But I can’t do it. I want to. Oh, I want to so badly, to believe it was her, to see her somewhere, to feel her near me. But it never works and I wonder why I can’t just let myself go, think magically, conjure her and conjure worlds where the two of us can walk together, be and breathe together again. It doesn’t work.
There are fires in Colorado and their smoke drifts all the way up here, is a haze in the evening sky, sets the sun blazing red and dangerous as it sinks behind the mountains, a reminder to me of the treachery of this summer that on the surface seems so normal.