Yesterday at dinner I reached up to rub my ear and noticed it was gone.
The earrings were garnets, A’s birthstone. After she died, I thought about getting a piece of jewelry with her birthstone, but I had a hard time reconciling myself to the garnet; she should’ve been born in March; her birthstone should’ve been aquamarine, a light, bright blue; the dark red of the garnet was all wrong. January was wrong. The garnet was a deathstone, not a birthstone.
Eventually, I accepted the garnet as her birthstone and I looked for something I wanted to wear. A friend of mine has a necklace from the MISS foundation and I liked hers and tried to order one, but after numerous mix-ups and delays, I finally cancelled my order; waiting so long for it and having to repeatedly inquire about it felt awkward and almost desperate and I did not want those feelings associated with a piece of memorial jewelry.
Last month, the three of us went East to visit R’s parents. Of course, R and I thought all the time of how we should be bringing our second daughter to visit her grandparents for the first time. The house was full of unexpected ‘reminders’ of A. The night we arrived, we roamed around the many little rooms, reacquainting ourselves with the space. In one room there was a picture of R and I holding E moments after she was born; tucked behind that picture was another taken at the same time but from a different angle. The resemblance between E and her sister in that photo was shocking. There was Anja, looking out at us, held in our arms, alive. Neither R nor I could look at it for long and I quickly put it back where I found it, although, for the rest of the visit, I felt drawn to that picture, compelled to look at it but unable to. In every room there was something to remind us of A, of what should have been.
On our first Sunday there, we took a day trip to Parsboro, where we roamed the beach, hunting for interesting rocks and running in and out of the wind. We brought E here when she was six months old, about the same age A should have been, and it was easy to picture what it would be like to have A in the snuggly, under my coat, protected from the wild wind. Instead, I was collecting rocks for her jar.
On the way home, we stopped at the Rock Shop, a ramshackle little geological museum and gift shop. On the way in, I noticed right away a pair of garnet earrings, the garnets a beautiful bright red when the light shone through them. E pulled me to the back of the store to look in the magic bins of rocks and treasures laid out on the floor and when I went back to look at the earrings again, they were gone. We were the only ones in the store, so I knew someone, R or his mom, had picked them out for me, and a few minutes later, R’s mom pressed them into my hand, gave it a quick squeeze. She didn’t say anything, but I knew they were for A, a reminder of the little girl whose ghost hovered close even though she was so rarely acknowledged. I was enormously grateful for that one moment of acknowledgment, though, that moment where R’s mother and I – briefly, briefly – grieved together. The earrings were for A and for that day at the beach, for the wide Atlantic ocean she should have known, the sound of the waves pulling relentlessly back on the rocks, for sisters who should have played there together for years to come.
Yesterday we went to the aquarium with friends. It was a rainy Sunday afternoon, so the place was packed and we were in and out from the jellyfish to the penguins to the tropical fish to the belugas. I took my coat and scarf on and off several times. I was distracted by the people, trying to keep track of E, laughing with my friends, envious of babies in strollers. I was busy. And in all that shuffle and noise and distraction, I lost the earring.
It is an underwhelming metaphor, but it feels apt. I was busy, I could not pay attention, I lost the earring that meant so much to me. And in a similar way, my life is so hectic, so full of things I have to do (and, yes, I have to do them) and some things I even want to do, and A gets lost in it all. She recedes further and further back into the corners of the room as I struggle to do everything, to take care of everyone, and too much time goes by before I can reach out again and pull her back in toward me.
This has been a common theme here: my inability to find the time to grieve her in the ways I’d like. Except that now I am not even sure what those ways might be. And perhaps it is only this, this writing, this writing that makes me feel so vulnerable, that I doubt every time I hit publish, that I have kept secret from the rest of my world. But this writing, as scared as I sometimes am of it, is the way I connect with her, and in doing so, I connect with other bereaved mothers and other babies, too. I don’t know if that is enough, but I also know that I can’t bear to feel like I am failing at grieving; even if this isn’t enough, it is what I can do, and so I will keep doing it, keep conjuring her here, my little gone girl who seems more gone each hour until I write her here again and again and again. My love.
I wish I hadn’t lost that earring.