THREE years SIX months old + ONE year old
Welcome to the end of being alone inside your mind
You’re tethered to another and you’re worried all the time
You always knew the melody but you never heard it rhyme.
-Brandi Carlile, The Mother
On the early May morning that followed the release of our book, I had the idea to feed Marion outside on the porch, instead of her usual nursery spot. She and I rocked rhythmically in a chair, as she snuggled into me and a fleece blanket. The fresh spring air met my eyes and nose and mouth and I breathed in a thankful breath, still awed by the sudden success of my writing.
Mother Sun ranked as a #1 New Release in three Amazon categories, overnight.
And as Marion continued to guzzle her bottle of milk, I saw a group of Blue Jays calling so loudly in their swarm, that even she turned her head to follow the echoing sounds.
While we both stared into the sky, I thought, Just drop a feather. It’s been so long since I’ve found one. Just drop me a damn feather.
And like a leaf leaving its stationed home on a branch, a feather fell from the fighting flock, side to side, back and forth, in the current of the wind.
I ran through our yard and took a big step over the fence, still while holding Marion, and there on the pavement it laid. I picked it up, turned it over, and the bright blue color lit my eyes and sparked my heart full of you. I stood in the middle of my street, staring at the strange piece of evidence that literally fell from the sky.
And then I cried.
It felt like your acknowledgment of my writing. Of all the hours I sat and typed and wrote and edited my words to you.
If you were still living, I know my ears would’ve heard your pride, as you called out my nickname and we hugged in celebration. I can still smell how the scent of your styled hair would make me feel, as it pressed against my cheek, warm and familiar.
But the blue bird message was much more powerful––it was proof of our ability to connect, even though I cannot see you…of the way you’re somehow still aware of me and my family and my children.
Marion just completed her first rotation around the sun––she is ONE!
Last weekend was her birthday, and we celebrated at our house with family and food and cake. It was a happy time. But my favorite moment of her special day, was going into her room at night, the way I always do with both kids, and watching her sleep. I couldn’t believe how big she looked. I couldn’t believe I really have a little girl with mermaid sheets.
I can finally understand why mothers say, Enjoy every second! It goes so fast! Because her first year just happened––and here we are, an entire October later, as a conditioned family of four.
Marion is a baby doll, in every sense of the word. She is so well-behaved and sleeps sound and eats good and still sucks her thumb in a way that literally makes Chris coo, as she once again, melts her Daddy’s heart by just looking at him.
She has a private personality and tends to snuggle in the nook of a shoulder, anytime we hold her. But even with the quiet persona she presents, she is always scoping out her surroundings, like she’s planning and plotting the kind of person she wants to be.
She is observant and interested in the details.
Besides mama or dada, her first word was “here.” She picks things up off the floor like a bottom dweller would––everything from odd pieces of string and paper and carpet fuzz…or there was also that one time she found a dead fly. And after thoroughly inspecting her found object, she’ll hand it to me saying, “Here,” in a tone I can easily understand.
We even bought a new Oreck sweeper to make sure we weren’t skimming on our suction power. But it didn’t make a difference. Nothing gets past her. And I hope that trait remains––it will come handy when she’s older.
She’s even hard to get to laugh––you’ve got to really impress her to get the giggles going, but no one does it as good as her brother. He’ll say, “Mommy, Mommy! Mimi’s laughin’!” (He has called her Mimi since she came home from the hospital.)
My greatest joy so far as a mother, has been watching my children together. They play in their rooms and take baths and laugh in their carseats, and during these normal moments, I’ll look at them, in their combination of fingers and toes and teeth and smiles, and think, I made those. I carried those babies and then safely brought them here onto this earth.
Speaking of, Jessie safely brought her baby into the world, one whole month ago.
She had a baby girl, and named her Willow Sage.
The entire time I knew Jessie was in labor, I was anxious and panicked and couldn’t see past my own excited thoughts. And even though the whole idea of delivery used to make her queasy, she did a fantastic job and I’m so proud of her.
Birth fascinates me, and she was my first friend to experience it. I had yearned to have someone so close to me, know what it was like to love a child. Because as any mother knows, you cannot explain it until you feel it.
The verse that opens this entry seemed so fitting, as I not only celebrate the anniversary of my daughter’s birth, but also my best friend becoming a mother. Jessie will now understand those three lines––and that’s special.
Everett is half way past three years old. He is the happiest child––it is obvious in the way he smiles and talks and within the way he prances around on his highest tiptoes, like excitement will shoot out of his body if he doesn’t extend himself upwards first.
He is still eccentric and contagious sunshine––there is no over-looking him.
Pre-school started this year, and he attends twice a week for a few hours. On the first day, he was thrilled to wear his new alligator backpack from Target, and he had no qualms about leaving me. He ran up to his teacher, exclaimed her name, and took a big stride inside the double doors without looking back.
I felt proud to have made it to this point in parenthood, knowing I sent a happily independent and loved child into the classroom.
After a few weeks of pleasant drop-offs, there was one morning he began to softly cry, as soon as I turned my car into the parking lot. I knew he wasn’t crying out of stubbornness or exhaustion; he was hesitant and scared––two rare emotions for Everett.
And immediately, it was like his nerves projected into the pit of my stomach.
He had a few little fingers nervously held up to his lips. And his mouth was in a completely flat frown, with eyes brimming full of water. He was looking right at me, in a fixated stalemate, wanting me to take away the overwhelming feeling.
So we parked the car and I said we could sit for awhile. From my driver’s seat, I reached back towards him, situating myself awkwardly on top of the center console. I looked straight inside his eyes and explained there was nothing to be scared about: that his teacher was waiting for him…he could play with his favorite toy sweeper….and there would be snacks. (That’s the first thing he talks about when he comes home from school: SNACKS!)
He was quickly nodding his head as I listed the positive aspects, but still cried.
I knew the melt down wasn’t a big deal; there are always children losing their shit at drop-off. I saw one little girl shin-kick her mother and thought, Thank god that’s not me. Because I knew it very well could be; we’ve all been there, and what makes a public tantrum all the worse, are the rubbernecker mothers who think their kids are above toddler behavior.
He reluctantly walked up the the big sidewalk steps towards his teacher, and I held his hand while Marion was on my hip. I kept saying, Come on, you can do it, bud. You are such a big boy and you’re going to have a great day. And his bright blue Crocs would take another stride upwards.
His teacher knew exactly how to handle him. She assured me it was completely normal, and then gently grabbed his stiff arms, got him inside, and closed the door. And ten minutes later, she had left me a voicemail, reassuring he was fine and happily playing.
The whole morning felt like a lesson learned for Everett, even though I’m certain he won’t remember it. But I will. I won’t forget our talk in the car, when I realized I get to teach my children how to be strong and face things head on, just the way you and Dad taught us kids; onward and upward. And that feels empowering.
The morning after you died, pictures were scheduled at the high school for the cheerleaders and football team. So even though it had only been hours since your body was taken from your bed by ambulance men and hospice workers, I got ready. I did my hair and makeup and put on my uniform and right before I walked out the door, Dad said, “Hayley.” He was standing twenty or so feet away, in the kitchen.
I had the door handle in my hand and turned to look over my shoulder. “Yea?”
“You know.” He said it kind and gentle and slowly kind of nodded his head, like he was getting me to silently agree to the two-worded statement.
Because I did know. I knew I was to show up and be brave and face my friends and some of their parents––not for the reason of ignoring what had just happened, but because I was your daughter. And he knew I could do it.
I can still remember parking my car and meeting Jessie at the top of the hill. While we were approaching the field, I asked if we could stop for a second. I don’t know what was said or done, I just know I needed a moment. And then I walked toward all my senior classmates, knowing they all knew you had just died. Chris was one of them.
Fear is all relative. And the more you overcome, the braver life you live––like you keep moving up a symbolic ladder of strength, where each level calls for a higher level of yourself. And people either stay stagnant on the rails or they continue climbing and keep evolving.
It seems simple enough, but we’re all so bogged down by the current blockages in our life (myself included), even though we know with certainty, that everything passes. We learned this during those scary pre-school days.
One last thing I want to share with you.
The other night I had a strange dream. I was in a city library, and I had heard you were somewhere within the building, so I was going up and down these elevators, frantic, feeling ready to catch you being somewhere you weren’t supposed to be.
I would get to one floor and search through the aisles, only to find students studying on tables with books and blank stares. I even asked a security guard if he knew who you were, describing your tiny build and blonde hair.
And when I finally found you, standing in front of a corner bookshelf, I had to say “Mom?” It was in a ummmm hello? kind of tone. You then turned around, holding a book in the nook of your arms, the way a college student would when traveling across campus. You were caught off guard. Your awed expression meant you either didn’t know who I was, or you were scared for the inevitable scolding.
Furiously, I spit out, “Where have you been?! Why haven’t you come to see my kids?” My voice was pleading for an answer. I seriously thought there was a reason you hadn’t seen Everett and Marion, aside from the fact you’re dead.
You had no response. You just remained confused and frozen.
And that’s all I remember.
I planned to be done writing when the book ended. I was actually quite relieved by the thought of having nap-time free: I could use the two morning hours for folding laundry or prepping food or sitting on the couch watching a show that’s just mine, with a cup of coffee and a frozen pizza.
I seemed to have thought that once the book was published, my founded faith would remain, and I’d never have to practice believing in you again. But the above dream was a perfect example: my body and brain still imagine there’s a possibility that you’ve been secretly hiding all this time, in a library or another country or somewhere far off in the sky.
There is no permanent epiphany to understanding where you are with certainty. And the completion of the book brought that hard realization.
I know for all my life, I will have to choose to see you. I will have to continually remind myself that your physical body is not shrouded somewhere, waiting to be found. And for some reason, writing in this journal helps me understand that; it helps keep my faith muscles strong. So even though I feel hesitant and scared, I must keep writing, as I climb each of those ladder rungs upward, onwardly growing into the self that will never cease becoming.