There is a school bus stop outside my house. If Kathleen isn't in an early nap (or strangely still asleep), we go out and say hello to our neighbors. Today was the last day of school, and as I stood holding Kathleen watching Meg get on the bus for the last day of first grade, I remembered holding Henry watching a younger, much more tentative Meg get on the bus for the first time on the second day of kindergarten. And I smiled, a bit wistfully, but I smiled.
Wednesday I made jam. Strawberry, strawberry rhubarb and a batch of double strawberry rhubarb. The pectin I use doesn't specify amounts for strawberry rhubarb, but I knew I had the recipe on a little scrap of paper somewhere. I sifted through my recipe box and a pile of papers tucked into my jam book—and there it was. I dropped it, and picking it up realized it was written on the back of an appointment card, one of Henry's pediatrician visits. I took a deep breath. I sighed. And that was all. It didn't break me. Not that day.
On Tuesday night, we went to a regular potluck dinner hosted by friends, the potluck where two other bellies grew large at the same time mine did when I was pregnant with Henry, the potluck where we went numbly after Henry died. It has gotten easier over time to be there, to see the other spring 2007 babies, but there are still twinges. But this Tuesday, Zoey, who adores Kathleen, wanted to see her as I was feeding her in the high chair, so I scooped her up on to my lap. And it struck me. This should be Kathleen's little brother on my lap, this child of just the right age. But again, it was strange, rather than crushing.
Earlier, or perhaps still now on a different day, any one of these things could have flattened me, reduced me to a sobbing heap, wiped me out, left me useless for the rest of the day and worn out the next. I feel in some ways stronger, but also more distant. Is the distance part of the strength? Am I simply letting go of some of pain to make room for more pleasant memories? Or is all this just a fluke and tomorrow a memory, a scrap of paper, or another child will take me down? I'm not sure. I'm hoping for b) the less pain, more pleasant memories option. Though that thought makes me sigh again—I wish there were more than memories.