I’m stuck for words. I feel…off. I want to write; I open a new post, stare at the screen, close the window.
I feel stuck. Again.
E has ‘homework.’ She brings home a little list of simple tasks to do each evening. Last night it was to write out the names of everyone in her family. She writes her dad’s name, mine, her baby brother’s, hers. I wait…I don’t want to ask, don’t want to ‘pressure’ her…but then I do, anyway.
‘What about Anja?’
She screws up her face, shakes her head no, and says, ‘She’s not really part of our family, is she?’ Looking up at me sideways, gauging.
And, oh, it breaks my heart. I think it’s because it’s for school and there, for her, Anja is hidden away, a secret. I wish it wasn’t so, but I won’t force her to talk about her sister where she doesn’t feel comfortable. But, yes, it breaks my heart.
Mother’s Day. I have been stewing about Mother’s Day and what it means to me since the weekend and getting nowhere. I have been thinking about what it means to have living children in a community dedicated to dead ones. And about having a dead child in a community dedicated to living ones. I feel I walk uneasily, unsteadily, along the edges of both these days.
I tucked E into sleep the other night, a somewhat rare occurrence, unfortunately, since M was born. I sang to her, the same old songs, until she fell asleep and then I stayed and watched her face at rest. I realized how very much she and M look alike when they are asleep. I thought about how grown she looks sometimes, and sometimes how like a baby, how she is poised between little and big, my first born.
And I thought about her sister, whose face I stared and stared at for all the time I had her. How I never took my eyes off that face, whether she was in my arms or in her father’s or in the nurse’s. But it was only four and a half hours. For four and half hours I searched that face, tried to memorize it, knowing I would fail because I am terrible with faces that way and feeling sick with that knowing. Four and a half hours, staring at her face. Her perfect, beautiful face that the few photos we have did not properly capture. Four and a half hours and a lifetime of missing her: there is just no sense in that, and sometimes I wonder if framing it that way would make people see better. Instead of saying, imagine you had a baby, but she was dead and you didn’t get to keep her?, what if I said, imagine you had a baby and you only got four and a half hours to stare at her face and memorize it forever and then she would be taken away from you, forever? Would that help people see how it is?
The other day at the playground E’s friend’s older sister said to her, ‘I used to have a baby sister.’ E looked up at her, sharply, and I could feel her attentiveness. And then the friend’s sister said, ‘But she grew up and now she’s just my sister,’ and E turned hesitantly toward me, needing to find me there. She didn’t say anything. Your sister is a part of our family, but I know what you mean, dear Goose, when you leave her out. I do. She is a part of our family, but so little space is made for her in the world we live in. It is so much work to include her, and you are so small, still. It’s too much for you.
Mother’s Day. I am a mother of three. I say it to myself over and over again as I eat my bagel in bed, watching an eagle circle over the park, noticing how full the leaves are on the trees now, how quickly we are moving from spring into summer, and still another season without her.