We had our first sugar shack breakfast of the season yesterday: pancakes, French toast, eggs, homefries, ham, bacon, sausage, and of course syrup. Mmm. And Kathleen was there sitting next to us on top of the vinyl covered picnic table. She was smiling, and we were telling her how much she would like coming next year when she could eat too. It was another in the long string of bittersweet moments comparing what is to what wasn't, what will never.
March 2007—I pulled out the full-panel maternity pants for the first time to go to the sugar shack. I watched kids at the little plastic kids tables, saw babies in the clamped to the table baby seat, and imagined bringing our baby there the next year.
Fall 2007—We thought Henry was coming home. On oxygen. Medically fragile. But home! I told him all the things we would do. I was overwhelmed by the idea of taking care of him, but I believed he would come through. I was looking ahead. I talked about March and sugar shacks. I figured that we'd go early when it wasn't too busy to minimize germ exposure. We'd sit in the outer room to keep the oxygen tank away from the wood stove. He'd taste maple syrup.
And then he died.
March 2008—Last year Brian and I did the sugar shacks as we had for years. We sought out normal things, so we made two trips to High Hopes, our favorite (they have an all you can eat buffet): once with my parents and once with Tricia, my friend from the hospital, and her husband and daughter. We went when they were busy and waited in line. We sat next to wood stove and enjoyed the warmth. We went for the sweetness, but those visits were bitter.
We tried a new place, too, and I ran into Carol. She scanned the room for me so that I could be prepared for Henry age baby boys—none. Brian and I sat in a sunbeam waiting for our pancakes. It was bright and cheery. We were just there; noise and life and syrup smells swirled around us.
March 2009—We went back, as usual. We went early, not to avoid crowds, but because we were up early with Kathleen. We sat in the room with the wood stove, but not near it. We took turns sitting with her and going up to get our food. Like so many things, our sugar shack breakfast brought back memories of expectations and dreams, memories of the depths of our early grief. And it brought a new set of dreams and expectations as we anticipate bringing Kathleen back next year.