No one in this house dresses on Christmas. I don't cook. We play with our toys in front of the fire. Nap. Watch the movies Santa brought (Kung-Fu Panda I & II). We listen to the last of the Christmas music. We read the books once wrapped in red and green paper while under blankets (this year, the kids got the Last Wild Witch, Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Conejito). I drink coffee. We eat leftovers and large clunky candy canes from Hammonds. I don't want to go anywhere. That is the last of the grief rituals we have. Prepare for a bad day. Hunker down. Make a weep-friendly zone. Play when you can.
My children were Santa-happy this year. Santa this and Santa that. Beezus told me this morning she heard Rudolph's nose when the reindeer were on our roof. You know, the noise his nose makes when it is blinking on the 1964 TV special. I thought I saw the Easter Bunny when I was a kid. Standing in my living room. I was four. And the Easter Bunny looked like the one from Hess' Department Store. He filled our baskets. The crazy thing is that my sister has the same exact memory. So, yeah, the Rudolph thing, I get it. I also completely support that delusion, because it might buy me a year or so before she notices me and Santa have the same exact taste in toys.
This year, Beezus wanted robotic animals. Perhaps in Japanese Astrology, 2011 was the year of the Robot Kitty. Specifically, she wanted a white cat that meows and purrs and walks, and a dog too, with a leash. A robot dog. I remind her that she has a real dog and his name is Jack and she is welcome to walk him any dang minute of the day. She rolls her eyes and sighs. This robot doggie is white and has a leash. It is small and fluffy and has a pink bow and is named GoGo, she explains. I roll my eyes and sigh. The robot kitty cat has been meowing for weeks in the basement. It drives me insane. I would hear it and say something like, "I think I just got a text message."
This year I received some glass blown straws, and silver Mexican earrings, and socks I wrapped for myself. I love everything. Particularly watching Thor open one gift at a time and just play, even though more gifts sit there wrapped. Beezus tells me repeatedly that Thor still has gifts to open and should she help him? "I have a new matchbox car," he seems to say like a little monk, "Why do I need more?"
Something has been nagging at me all season. It is this thing I haven't quite articulated yet. And I'm not sure how to explain why it is so difficult. So I will just explain it. Beezus and Thor are almost exactly three years apart. His birthday falls five days before hers, but essentially, they hit the same milestones at the same time of the year.
You know what I am saying?
So, Thor is exactly the same age Beezus was when Lucy died.
I don't remember Christmas 2008. Lucia was dead four days. After the funeral home picked up her body on Christmas Eve, the funeral director was at our house asking what kind of urn we wanted. On Christmas Eve. Christmas morning, I was three days post-partum. Beezus received a play kitchen that year. I only know that because I saw a picture of her playing with the kitchen Christmas morning. There was a bow on it.
See, I don't remember much of Beezus at this age. I have been told I was a good mother to her, that I seemed completely absorbed in whatever she was doing right at that moment. I remember reading my journals and blogs around that time that being with Beezus made me very present. That I felt moments of happiness because her spirit is this large happy Buddha spirit and I could turn off some of the refrain: "Lucy is dead. I can't believe Lucy is dead." But that Christmas, I wailed most of the day. I have snippets, like a dream vignette in a movie. I remember wondering how I was going to live this life. I remember wondering if you can die from obsessive thinking and heartbreak. I remember being so afraid of Beezus dying, and wanting to hold her and not let her out. I wondered if every Christmas would be so fucking terrible and gut-wrenching. I didn't think I would ever like the holidays again. I wondered if I would have a stocking for Lucy or not the next year, because I had already filled her stocking when she died. (Incidentally, we don't hang a stocking for her, but we do hang all the ornaments with her name sent to us on her first birthday.) In 2008, we ate carrots for Christmas, because we simply couldn't function enough to cook anything else. We didn't even peel the carrots, we ate those little silly carrots that are made little by some machine.
Thor is still so little. I can't believe it. It keeps catching me off-guard. He doesn't quite talk, nor does he not talk. He communicates through a series of half-words, grunts, hand gestures, real words, and emotional responses like kicking shit and throwing himself on the ground. This week, he began grabbing a pillow, putting it down, and then throwing himself on it to have a tantrum. I admire his dedication to comfort. He likes cars, and making roads for his cars. He likes making off-road terrain for his cars, like my belly or my head. He kisses and draws and paints and sings songs. So many songs. So many heartbreaking songs.
There are so many layers to her death, so much that changed that day. I remember one thing specifically about Christmas 2008. I sat with a heating pad on my belly, uterus still contracting, on the couch. My milk came in that day, so my breasts formed hard painful pulsing lumps of grief. I tucked cabbage into my bra, and ice packs. Milk ran down my belly. Beezus wanted mostly nothing to do with me. The baby was dead. And I was sad. On Christmas, she came near me and crawled on my lap. It had been the first time nearly in two days that she wanted comfort from me. Sam left the room. I had begun to cry because her distance was so hard for me after Lucy's death. I couldn't bear it. Beezus rested her head on my breast, and I said, "Do you understand what is happening, Beezus?'
She shook her head no.
And I said, "Remember the baby in Mama's belly?" And she touched my belly.
"The baby died. Something happened. Lucy died. She is never coming to live with us. That is why Mami and Daddy are crying and sad. We will not always cry this much, but right now, we are so sad." And she stared at me. I had no idea if she understood what I was saying, but I cried and she kept hugging me.
That is what I remember about Christmas 2008. And I guess, stupidly, I thought Beezus understood that Lucy was dead. I thought that conversation gave her a kind of compassion and understanding. I see Thor now, and I can't believe how little he is. He is 20 months old. And I don't know if he gets that he has a sister that died either. After I post this, I am going to lie on the floor in front of the fire and drink a cafe au lait. I warm the milk in the microwave and use the little frother and pour in Kenya AA. It is a respite and a comfort to drink coffee that way. That is something Lucy's death taught me, to enjoy a moment of peace even if it is couched with a thousand torturous moments of grief.