Wednesday, May 29, 2013


Everyone slept in today. Elizabeth stirred around 6 and then settled back and so did I. I woke with a start at 7:30 and hurried up to get started with the morning. I felt beat up. I felt old. Everything tired and dragging.

Elizabeth Mitchell in the car.
Egg sandwich for breakfast.
Gardening in the rain.
Cemetery and chocolate cupcakes.

This birthday snuck up on me. I knew it was coming. But I have a deadline at the end of the week and I've been finagling my schedule around this day that I take off even if I don't do anything. Yesterday, I kept needing the date for a check I was writing and a tracking sheet for my project, and I kept having to check, even though it was the day before this date I can't forget.

I have been feeling stronger, but today I just feel beat up. Six years ago right now, I was in a hospital bed. Henry had, I believe already been transferred to the other hospital. Our dreams had already cracked but we had no idea what the road looked like ahead, how those cracks would keep spreading and everything would finally shatter. Six years ago today, Henry had been born, but in some ways, I was still waiting to meet my baby.


Brian went to our friends' weekly potluck last night. I haven't gone in months because it's too late for Kathleen on a school night. They celebrated a six-year-old's birthday, the little boy born just days before Henry, the one I ran into at the hospital, his mom back for a lactation consult while I was waiting for to get released to see my own baby. I'm glad I didn't have to see six in action last night.


I should have been bringing those cupcakes to his kindergarten class today. Kathleen has been peppering me every night recently with ideas for her birthday party. I have been impatient with them, coming as they do in a flood at bed time. "Just go to sleep. Your birthday is far away. We have lots of time to plan." Maybe I've been impatient too because I should have been planning a party now, cake and games and favors. Would he have liked dinosaurs or trains or animals or sports? Would he have wanted a pirate party or a farm theme? Pin the tail or pinata?

We had chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkles at Kathleen's request. She picked a gorgeous red gerbera daisy to put in his garden and helped me plant it today. My babies, two, four, six.


Sunday, May 26, 2013


A few months after Henry died, Brian and I drove to Boston every other week  for a grief group. One of the images that stuck with was the layers of the onion. We kept peeling away those layers of grief—all the little letting goes, the fears, the traumas one after another after another, all the hurts that piled up afterward—layer after layer after layer I peeled it away. And like an onion, all those layers all made me cry.

That image came back to me today at church. We were sitting up front for a change and I kept looking at the baptismal font right in front of us. Before Kathleen was born, I would well up just looking at it, remembering that he had been here and now he's not. Today, I remembered Henry's baptism. And Kathleen's. And Elizabeth's. I did not cry. Time healing old wounds? New skin grown over the sensitive spot in my heart? Perhaps. But today, what it felt like was that I have been adding layers to our story instead of just peeling them away, new layers that soften the jagged edges.

His birthday is Wednesday, and I may find that I don't have as many layers as I think I do or that they all fall away too easily. I may find myself crying over my onion again. Or I may grow another layer on my story.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day

All over Facebook, friends are posting open letters to pastors about how to deal with Mother's Day and Anne Lamott's comments about mother's love and mystical unicorns. People are thanking their moms and saying happy Mother's Day. The sign in front of the pharmacy says "Flowers for Mother's Day," the greenhouse down the road has "Mother's Day Gifts." Even our farmer's market last Thursday offered jewelry, just in time for Mother's Day.

Last year, I remember reading about people sleeping in and breakfast in bed and homemade brunch and quiet time, and I got jealous. I don't particularly care about  flowers or jewelry or chocolate. I don't need a Hallmark card. I really, really would have liked to get to sleep in though. Instead, Brian rolled over and said, "I need a little more time," and I got up and got breakfast and got everyone dressed. It was not Mother's Day, but a mother's day for me. And as grumpy as I got, and I did get grumpy, I was thankful for the little girls who were there needing me. I was thankful that the trip to the cemetery wasn't the only part of the day with my kids, because I remember the Mother's Day five years ago when that's all there was, when I knew and wasn't sure if I was a mother.

I suggested to Kathleen that she make cards for her nana and big nana (my mom and grandother) for Mother's Day. "And one for Nana B too," she said, "to send to Papa, because she died and we miss her." We mailed all three out yesterday.

 On Thursday, Kathleen brought home a magenta flower in a peat pot and a card she had made. I looked a the flower she had cut and glued for me at preschool, but when I looked closer she told me it was for "another day." My girls both wanted me to look and not look at the flowers they hid up at my neighbor's house. So there will be flowers and cards this year. I won't sleep in, but maybe I'll get a run in along with plenty of time with my girls. And we'll go to the cemetery or I'll work in Henry's garden or at least stop to admire the bleeding heart that I planted last year.

I won't see my own mom on Sunday. I'll call but she may be out to lunch with my sister and aunt and nana. In my card, I thanked her for among other things for letting us go out and explore and get muddy and dirty. I was thinking of Elizabeth at Easter in her white dress and rain boots running and jumping and slipping in the mud, but tonight I honored my memory of being allowed to wallow in a huge mud puddle one summer on vacation. My kids had mud in every crack and crevice. Their clothes are still brown. We did showers and hair washes even though we just did them last night. Coming in to get ready for bed, Kathleen said, "Best day ever!" I got them both warm and cozy. I read the stories and sang their songs and hugged and kissed and tucked them in. Tomorrow I will be up early. I'll snuggle with Elizabeth on the couch and read stories through bleary eyes. I'll referee arguments about who turns on the coffee maker for me and get Cheerios and toast. I'll fix the fort that's taking over my living room when the blanket falls and remind Elizabeth to go on the potty. Brian will get up eventually. Those flowers will appear. Lunch, nap, outside time or movie time for Kathleen. Snacks and snuggles and meltdowns and dinner. A mother's day.

Monday, May 6, 2013


Six years ago I was getting ready for this little being I didn't yet know as Henry to be born. I knew there was a small hole in his heart, and yet I wasn't freaking out. Otherwise, all was well. I felt great. The house was chaotic as Brian tried to finish up the painting projects we had begun before I got pregnant, but the glider was up in his room, a few clothes were washed and ready.

I was busy digging in my garden, trying to get things planted. I didn't expect to have much time to work in the garden, but lettuce and tomatoes would do their own thing if I could get them in. I think of this in flashes, remembering squatting, moving around my belly as I worked. I remember my simple expectation as I get my garden ready this year. And here's the thing: I still believe.

I still believe that my work will pay off even though unforeseen circumstances could pull me away from home come July or August or September as the bounty really begins to flow; we could get late blight on the tomatoes again this year or drought could shrivel up my plants or a late freeze could kill them before they begin to thrive. Squirrels will undoubtedly get the peaches from Henry's tree long before they are ripe. I don't think about what could go wrong when I'm out there digging and moving compost and spreading ash. I don't worry the what ifs while I sprinkle seeds or wield the hose while Kathleen flaps about the yard with the rhododendron branches I pruned recently. I dream. I look at where I might shift and expand. I try to figure out where to put a new strawberry patch next year and where to finally start asparagus. I contemplate fruit trees and blueberry bushes and how they fit in with dog runs and clothes lines and open space for play.

I see the magic in the rhubarb that is already humongous and the chives that greened up before anything else and the cilantro that seeded itself for me and is ready to use now. I see the wonder as little bits of green poke up where weeks, days I ago I planted seed. I, who am usually so linear and organized and planful, can't seem to finish prepping a particular section because there is so much work to be done and I see so much potential. I have new energy. It's been growing in me, and maybe I've talked about it before. I am refilling after the complete and utter wring out of early grief. I am refilling after the needs of the early days of mothering my girls. I am refilling by claiming a little time and space for me to run and write and dig in the dirt.

I am not thinking ahead to the rest of May, to Mother's Day and Henry's birthday, except to think about what I will get for his garden this year. His birthday isn't easy, even separated from the day he died by several months, but somehow, part of what I relive right now is the anticipation, of him and a garden of vegetables, this time of joyful waiting and wonder.