My mom and sisters came today for a work day to help me get some things organized, and we did. I can actually enter the walk-in closet in my office; the four open boxes of outgrown baby clothes are arranged by size and ready to go in the attic; and the clothes we are transitioning in and out of in the next few months are tucked neatly in Kathleen's closet.
As we were clearing out one closet, my sister pulled a fancy white box off the shelf. I said it was just a gift box, but when she opened it, there was a fancy card a heart of silk roses on the front. My friend A. sent it for Henry's first birthday. Hanging from the heart is a small elephant charm because she remembered elephants were significant to my family. I remember that box coming in the mail on his actual birthday. There was no question I would keep the card, but I figured I didn't need to keep it in the big box it came in. Yet, I didn't want it to be crushed.
I remembered that the memory box from the hospital was practically empty. It would be safe there. I pulled the purple box of the shelf in Kathleen's room, where it sits for want of a better home. I sat down in the rocker, untied the ribbons binding it closed, and, Oh! It sucked the breath out of me.
I had sorted once again through the pile of blue clothes that we got when he was born. I identified the box my mom started to sort through with his caterpillar toy and his little old man plaid romper as a Henry box. Both of these without a pause or a catch or a cry. But the purple box stopped me. I cried looking at the barely existent wisps of hair, the bit of umbilical cord, the purple hand and footprints. I just sat there and cried.
My baby died.
Will that ever cease to surprise me? shock me?
I sat for a few minutes and cried. Then I put the card in the box, closed the lid, tied it shut again. I put the box up on the shelf in Kathleen's closet. Then I walked back downstairs and answered questions about where to find a rag and whether it was okay to make a box for ribbon and where the popsicles were. I didn't tell my family that opening that purple box was harder than expected, that I had cried, that I could still be sitting crying in that chair. I didn't keep it to myself because they wouldn't understand, but because my bed was piled two feet high with clothes to be packed away and you couldn't even walk into my office. There were things that needed to be done, and we didn't have time today for me to sit and cry for hours. The difference between now and two years ago is that I could have my little cry and then stop it.
But I keep thinking of that purple box now. There are pieces of Henry all over our house, but I keep remembering that box now and sighing.