Friday, July 20, 2012


I needed to find pictures of my mom with my kids for a book we're making with her. And we need to finish the book by Sunday morning, so the time had come to find those pictures.

I sat down tonight and started flipping through the folders of photos on my computer. I didn't have time to look at them really, just scan for my mom. Still, I couldn't help seeing, noticing.

2007 almost stopped me in my tracks, because as far away as it sometimes seems, it still comes pouring back. The NICU and the fear and coming to terms and accepting and waiting and anxiety . . . the oxygen and surgery and home and back to the hospital . . . the fear and the waiting and the anxiety.

In among the photos that Brian and I shot are sprinkled a few that people have sent to us that they found on their cameras. Among them, three photos from the friend who commented on all our children. Months after Henry died, she found these on her camera and emailed them to me, and it was a little gift getting these new pictures of my baby who I could take no new pictures of.

The 2008 folder is almost empty until the very end. We were too tired and worn and grieving to take pictures. There are a few from a trip we took to Maine. I remember crying in the car with Brian. Among them are two of the very few shots of me pregnant with Kathleen.

And then things pick up. Baby pictures, family holidays, playing in the yard, working in the garden, hiking, visiting family, enjoying the beach, jumping in leaves, playing in the snow, introducing sisters . . . We look so happy. We look so normal. I suppose in some ways we are.

I forget sometimes to get out the camera or don't want to be bothered, but I found pictures I love. I found pictures I don't remember taking that I now love. I found pictures that weren't that great but that reminded me of how one of my babies used to be. I flew through five and half years in an hour. Sometimes it feels like time is moving that fast.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

All, and the editor in me

I had a lovely (I almost typed lively, and I suppose it was that too) visit with two college friends today. We met at a half-way point park, the three of us and eight kids.

Right before we left, we grabbed a quick picture of the kids (there is a kid hiding or trying to escape in each). One of my friends posted it on Facebook:
Great morning with Sara and H and all 8 of our offspring. 

I want to get out my red pen and add a caret and the word living before offspring. Or maybe delete the all. Yes, that's better. It's the all that gets me. Had she said just and our 8 kids or our 8 offspring, it would not have bothered me. But all excludes.

I only have to keep track of two kids on the playground, but I have three children.

I know it wasn't intentional and in many ways isn't a big deal, but I had to say this so I could move on.

Saturday, July 7, 2012


I'm back from five days with my family. I unpacked the car and a couple of bags; I did the first load of laundry. There are still bags strewn about the living room and dining room and kitchen. That first load of laundry is ready to be hung out in the morning. The second load of laundry is ready to pop in.

I make this trip every year to laugh with my sisters and cousins and aunt. I make this trip to see my kids play with their cousins. I make this trip to remember how it was to live at the beach in the summer. 

I make this trip every year to go to the beach. Each morning we pack beach chairs and umbrellas, snacks and drinks, towels, sunscreen, and beach toys. It looks like we are going away for a week. We cart all the stuff onto the beach and set up a compound my cousins slowly roll in with their kids, one day there were thirteen kids altogether, aged 6 weeks to 8 years. We usually go early on the Fourth to claim a spot before it gets to crowded, but a rainy morning got us there afternoon. Most days we stay until dinner. Those late afternoon hours, when the sun isn't so intense and the breeze off the water picks up and crowds start to shuffle off the beach, are my favorites. On the Fourth we leave early to get everyone fed before the parade.

I make this trip every year watch a parade full of firetrucks and Little League teams tossing candy and a band wearing crazy mixed up costumes led by a guy in a ratty red nightshirt and boots waving a plunger. There are fewer floats, fewer kids walking through in what likely was their Halloween costume, but otherwise it is much the parade I watched when I was a kid. Kathleen sat on the sidewalk in front of my sister, not liking the sirens. Elizabeth sat on my lap and only teared up at one sudden loud blast. She pointed out and named doggies and horsey and truck. She waved and clapped.

After the parade this year, crossing the street back toward home, I skirted by a stroller and noticed the mom. I knew her, but couldn't figure out how. "Look at all my candy!" her son exclaimed holding up his bag. "Good haul," I smiled. Two steps later it came to me. The candy carrying boy had a heart transplant while Henry was in the hospital. I remember his parents haunting the hallways, the drawn looks, the ecstatic night his heart came in. He looks good now.

"I'm five!" my cousin's daughter announced to me. This shouldn't have surprised me, but it did. Five is making all Henry's would-be peers more obvious to me, more than they were at four or three.

Just before I left for my trip, I read a book called The Shape of the Eye. The beginning of the book brought back so much of the early days to me, the days of getting used to the words Down syndrome and cardiologist and 02 stats and Early Intervention as part of my baby's life, part of my life. It brought me back to the day of Henry's surgery and how stressful it was even though we thought everything would be fine. I sat outside with my girls splashing in the water and took deep breaths and fought back tears.

"You're not going to have three are you?" my neighbor asked. How to answer that one. "I do"? "No"? I went with "we're done." I watched my sister and two of my cousins wrangling their three kids at the beach. I have three, but I will never do that.

I walked the beach and found heart-shaped rocks that I tucked into my bag. Tomorrow, I'll tuck them into Henry's garden.

I don't know what it is about my time away for the Fourth of July, but each year I seem to come back with these little scraps of stories. I don't have a lot of say about each, but I feel the need to unpack them, just as surely as I unpack the dirty laundry and the bathing suits and Elizabeth's blankie.