Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Woman Who Cried a River

The day Angie arrived at storytime, no one in the village noticed.

Maybe if this morning were a folktale, that is how it would start. I had a beautiful morning with my daughter. First to the cafe to buy some coffee beans. Then we drank coffee, pulled out crayons and paper to draw. I brought my pencils and drew too. Bea and I do this thing where I have her tell a story and I draw it. We drew a story today about a girl who jumps in a puddle with her doggie. Her mother watches her with a happy face, and then her daddy comes too. We took out some gnomes and mushrooms, and played. We talked about whether gnomes have doggies too, and whether apple juice is better than milk (It is not.) When it was time, we headed over to the bookstore for storytime. All morning, Beatrice has been jumping up and down and yelling "YAY, Storytime."

I found the loveliest folktale book written in both Spanish and English about a woman named Lucia. It is called "The Woman Who Outshone the Sun." Outshone the sun, indeed. I needed it as part of our collection, if simply because Lucia is the heroine. It is just a lovely, heartbreaking story about a woman not accepted by the villagers because she is different and strange. When she bathes in the river, the entire river is absorbed in her beautiful long hair, hair the villagers accuse of blocking out the sun. The people call her cruel names, and one day she leaves, and takes the river with her. Of course, the villagers realize how mean they were, and that they want Lucia back. She eventually comes back, combs out her hair, and all the fish and otters and water goes back in the riverbed for the village.

Storytime starts with a handful of kids, and then, in the middle, a woman walks in with a baby in a sling. She was in my prenatal yoga class, and she greets another woman, also in my prenatal yoga class. Her baby was a few months younger than Lucy would have been.

It took my breath away. Sharply. Abruptly. And my beautiful Beatrice looked at me, not knowing anything but that my heartbeat quickened. She hugged me tight, "Okay, Mami. Okay." I held back my tears for the entire reading, and tried to focus on my Beatrice. She loves the stories, and the other children. This is about her. Let this hour be about her.

Neither of them acknowledged me, like most people who know and never said I'm sorry. She just pretends she doesn't know me anymore. I am persona non grata. The accursed dead baby mama. We talked, her and I, often in class. She looked at me a few times, and then away. The other woman, who may or may not have remembered me, walked her seven month old over to us. Thoughtless new mother enamored of her precocious beautiful baby. Maybe she thought I wasn't paying enough attention to her baby because I couldn't see him well enough. I braced myself. My Beatrice's eyes lit up. "A baby." And I, trying not to cry, said, "Yes, mi amor, a baby."

Swallow. I just thought over and over, all tense shoulders and clenched teeth, "Please leave. Leave. Just leave. Leave."

It didn't work.

She made him wave to us, then dance. I changed my tactic. "Please, Angie, kindness, compassion, love. Be love, Angie, be love. Forgive, Angie, she doesn't know. She doesn't know." Polite smile. He was an adorable baby, even if he was the same age as Lucy would be.

Sometimes our growth is measured not in paragraphs, but in small sighs. I stayed for storytime, something that simply would not have been possible four months ago. But as I developed my hundred yard stare through "If You Take a Mouse to School," I imagined myself in the folktale. I wanted to release my hair from its rubber band, and let it flow down my back, suck up the river around these women, and walk out of the village with the river and the fishes and the otters, leaving a dry winding riverbed of sad.

When I left, I sobbed in the car for about 15 minutes, head in my hands, as Josephine Baker sang through our car. Couldn't drive. Couldn't go back in. My goodness, how I miss the life I never got. That is what I cried for, my arrogance, my ignorance, my life. As I sat sobbing, I apologized to Beatrice who just said quietly, "S'okay, Mami." I saw people pass my truck, and look in, wondering if they should help me. And I wanted to just say to someone, anyone, "My baby died that's why I'm crying, because my baby died. There are still other babies in the world the same age, even though mine died. Cry with me, please, cry for her."

And so the tears pooled at my feet, and rose in our car, until they cover the seats, and our toys floated by us, out of the cracked windows, until the river ran back to the village, surrounding the babies and their mothers, guiding and protecting them from a sorrow they do not know.


  1. What a beautiful, heartfelt post. I am so sorry for your pain today. The lack of knoweldge others have is hurtful sometimes. It sounds like you handled yourself beautifully. Thinking of you.

  2. I'm crying too. For those babies who died. Life is not fair. That all those other babies live, whilst our died.

  3. Crying, crying, crying with you

  4. What a beautiful story.

    I'm crying with you too Angie.

    And remembering.


  5. You made a new folktale out of such a hard experience, your ancient soul, your big sore heart. Love and peace be with you and your very special Beatrice.

  6. oh Angie. People who don't acknowledge, when *they know* irk me to no end. They and their kids are nonexistent to me, in turn.

    You are brave, and healing, learning how to carry this grief.

    And Beatrice is just wonderful. That's one of the names on my list, which Triple S hates. I might have to whip out this post to convince him!

  7. Angie, this post knocked the breath out of me. I'm so, so sorry that you had such a dreadfully tough day. I think you can be extremely proud of yourself for your strength and courage.

    It was also lovely to hear about hoe sensitive and thoughtful you Bea is and I loved the Lucia story. Ilove thatyou find so many ways to hold Lucy close to you. xxx

  8. A beautiful post. I am crying with you...

  9. ya know, ang, you bought that book for my children years before you even had children of your own. that story has always made me cry. and now i cry with you as well. te amo, hermana.

  10. Those shadow babies really wield the knife well, don't they.

    Had a v. similar experience in Bella's music class, except it was way too soon for me, and the parents actually physically moved away from me, as if I were ebola. And because I cried in the car afterwards, Bella decided the following week that "music makes me sad" and we never went back.

    I miss your old life too. It sounds a lot like mine. Thinking of you all.

  11. Sometimes silence from others who *know* exacerbates the pain. Thinking of you.

    Peace, my friend.

  12. Ugh. Just ugh. I am so sorry, Angie. And so amazed by your ability to stay there for Bea when all you wanted to do was run for the hills. What a beautiful mother you are to both your precious girls.

  13. Angie, you're so strong for staying there and doing what you needed to do for Bea. I'm sorry that you got hit with both the mother who ignored your pain and the mother who flaunted her perfect, healthy baby. It's all so hard. I'm crying for Lucia today, for the life you're missing with her. Much love, M

  14. So beautiful Angie, truly.
    Love Lindsay

  15. Oh, I am so sorry you had one of those moments. It's breath taking, and not in a good way. I wish I was there to give you a hug.

    And I would love to meet up with fellow PA/NJ bloggers..just not sure how I can swing it with a full time job. But keep me posted.

  16. I'm just so sad Angie. Sad for you, sad for me but more sad for Hope and Lucy and all the music and stories they were cheated of. I don't understand how or why this happens. It will never make sense to me, and sometimes, well it is just really sad. And today I think will be a sad day. I might even churn out a few tears myself.
    Love you lots.

  17. Crying with you Angie. Beautiful post. Beatrice sounds so sweet. My son is the same way. xx

  18. Angie, I'm so sad with you today and as always, in awe of you and your writing. xoxo

  19. You know, Danielle, I think that is what seemed different today, that my first impulse wasn't to run, but to breathe, and focus on Beatrice. Four months ago, I would have ran. Hell, yesterday I might have ran. Today, I didn't, but I also cried a river after it was done.

    I just want to be fair to these women. I have no idea if they remember me. I remember them, so I assume they remember me. I don't know if they know Lucy died, or anything about my story. That yoga instructor took months and months, and many emails, to even acknowledge my loss.

  20. ugh. i know exactly how you feel. i have run into so many women and their stupid babies from my prenatal class lately. its heartbreaking.

    love you angie. xo

  21. We all cry together. I wonder if I'll ever enjoy the presense of babies again.. this is such a hard life we've been dealt.

  22. Angie,

    Oh stuff it, I will email you x

  23. All it takes is someone to LOOK US IN THE EYES and say, "I'm sorry". Not ignore it, not pretend that it didn't happen, not change the subject, not flaunt the baby in front of you.

    Yes, being able to stay there with Bea took courage and strength. Be proud of yourself.

  24. Beautiful post. So moving. I am crying for you...and for all of us.

  25. oh, Angie... this made me bawl.
    ((hugs)) to you, I wish people can be more sensitive and compassionate.
    It broke my heart to read this, broke it wide, wide open, so we can fill it with tears, and remembrance.
    Big love to you. xo

  26. I'm so proud to know of you and your grace. I wish we'd met under different circumstances. You have a friend in me.

    (like it or not)

  27. I found you through Ferdinand's Gifts.

    Your words could be mine. I'm crying with you, perhaps filling a river full of tears, while other mommas protect their children from our flood.

  28. You just took my breath away.

    Crying for your beautiful sweet Lucia and crying for your broken mother's heart.

  29. I think I've read and re-read this post a dozen times. Each time it leaves me with tears. Breathless.

  30. So so familiar. I feel as though I have lived this moment exactly. Thank you for sharing it.

    My two year old now sees me crying and quietly asks "Margot?"

    - Kari


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