Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thor, God of Chunder

This is a post about Thor, my new-ish baby, and my three year old daughter Beezus. Grief makes a cameo, as it always does. Lucy is mentioned too. But I thought I should warn you if you do not want to read about such things. There is also a video of the boy.

Most days, staring at Thor, I think I can actually see him getting fatter. He was noticeably chubbier this morning. He has more than doubled his weight in twelve short weeks. Chunk and smiles. Goos and kicks.

I have an easy baby. It surprises me. I am the person with a dead baby and a sick father and a thousand other small tragedies that have filled my half-empty glass for thirty-six odd years. I am the kind of person that might have gotten a colicky baby if my life were an independent film. That is what I would have written for my character. Colicky baby goes to grief-stricken mother. Cue pit of despair. Sometimes this new found lucky/happy/fortunate/things working out thing befuddles me. Where do I channel all this angst?

I have one little quibble. Thor has taken to vomiting on me a few nights a week, just to keep it interesting, but much in keeping with his Norse god nature, he never cries about it. He's not much of a crier. He just chunders and goes back to sleep.

I cry about it, though. Some nights. When the girl and the man are sleeping next to me, I realize that changing the sheets is impossible at 3:47am, so I cover the wet spot in two towels, flip around in bed and sleep upside down while little Thor snores away in his co-sleeper. Then I cry. I feel sorry for myself for sleeping in a puddle of puke, even if the baby was good-natured about it all. Sometimes I cry because there are certain puddles of puke from a certain little baby girl that I wish I could have cleaned up. Sometimes I just cry because the hormones and grief and fatness and shame and hard relationships and loneliness demand it. And in the dark of those nights I wonder when grief becomes depression that has nothing to do with dead babies. I never suffered with chronic sadness or depression, and yet I don't know now, when I look at all the happy-ness in my life, if this sadness is all about the dead baby anymore. The happy column is much much longer than the shitty column yet some days I cry.

I awkwardly realize that my sadness is like a handmade poncho which clings to the worst parts of my body and prevents my arms from freely gesticulating. It is also ugly and out of fashion. It was made by my completely made up aunt who picks synthetic yarn and obnoxious colors. I sometimes wonder if I am just being petulant. Perhaps if I just tried a little harder to get beyond my grief, or if I just sucked it up, I could stop feeling sad. Many moments in my day, I would say the majority of them, I am happy. I have a beautiful family. A lovely home. More creativity than time. But every day, there seems a bitter minute or ninety, where I realize I am stuck in the loathsome poncho, spinning around, yelling at the children and the dog to get out of my dang way, trying to take it off only to get more caught up in it. And I wonder if the poncho has the label Grief or Depression.


Thor coos now. Little noises that mimic words and sentences. Some days, in my most deranged, sleep-deprived moments, I think the baby is speaking real words. I swear the kid said "Audrey" the other day when my niece was visiting, and I am certain he yells, "Mama" when he beginning to squawk. I put my face about four inches from his face, and repeat, "I love you. I love you." He stares at me, working very hard not to smack me upside the face, and says, "Goo." Mostly he speaks in newborn gibberish, or so he is leading me to believe. I am not buying it. I believe he speaks English and is simply annoyed with me. Hell, I get annoyed with me too with all my goos and shit.

Whatever tongue in which the baby is speaking, the girl understands it. Beezus has taken to translating for him, telling me what he is really saying when "goooooooo" comes out. She does what I do when I speak for others. If it is a man, I make his voice really low and Southern. If it is a woman, she is always high-pitched and my mother's weird Spanish/Pennsylvania Dutch accent. Thor's words are always said in an incredibly high-pitched voice, her fingers clasp together point down, like she is tiptoeing through Planet Baby Animal.

As the children bathed together with me (don't judge) the other day, Thor spoke an entire sentence in baby gnome, or whatever language he is speaking. Beezus said, "Mama, Thor just said, 'I can't wait until I grow up to be a big girl with a vagina.'"
"Thor will always be a boy, Beatrice, with a penis."
"But I want him to grow up to be a girl."
"You do? I thought you wanted a baby brother."
"No, I wanted two sisters, not a sister and a brother." Her voice broke as though I personally controlled the whole gender selection issue.
"I'm sorry, love, but you will always have a brother."

Did you hear that? She said she had a sister.

Lucy shows up a lot in our conversations now. Just ordinary conversations about the boy/girl ratio in our family, or who looks like whom. I love those moments when it feels like Lucy is living a normal life with us. And it hits me that I have three children, not just the two I am looking at. Not that I ever forget Lucy-girl, it is just easy to get wrapped up in the two whose butts I am wiping.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


As I drove through the underpass, the dark mass swooped in front of my truck. I pressed the brakes quickly, watching the huge bird land on the roof of the local brick company building . Traffic came to a sudden halt. The driver in front of me pointed to the creature, perched ominously, turning to his passenger as traffic moved in front of him. Passerbys stopped and turned, like on command, resembling a sidewalk of  Easter Island figures, all facing west.

A vulture, ugly simply by dint of its role in the ecosystem, creepily turned towards me, its back to the yard at hand. They are massive heaving creatures. Last year, the omens would have been writ. The vision all but condemning me to walk the land of the dead. I would have imagined my little fetus Thor doomed. My family thrust into a world of darkness.

This year, I beeped the horn. "Move it, jackass. It's a vulture, not Jesus."

This is New Jersey after all. If we heeded omens, most of our towns would have been abandoned. But it occurred to me that I am in a different place than last summer. Still, the most googled way to find my blog is Dead Bird Omen or any such variation of that phrase. Written in questions. Written in sentences. Misspelled. Desperate acts of anonymity.  Last summer, I had a series of unfortunate experiences: my mother's house caught on fire a few feet from where I was sitting upwind, I almost amputated my finger in a hand blender, dead birds were ending up in my house. I clung to superstition. I clung to fear.

After Lucy died, I lost my faith in science. I once believed that science could basically answer all my questions about this physical world, and then they couldn't answer the simplest of questions, "How did my daughter die?" And so I lost that particular faith. And so I was left, doubtful of God, hateful of science, unconnected to nature. I began heeding omens. Burning sage. Watching for eclipses. I even consulted a five buck psychic on Etsy. And that psychic told me some amazing things, but most important, she said, "You are creating your own bad energy by worrying about omens."

I think in psychological speak, I am integrating my experience into my being. There are proverbial before and after pictures of me. Before: a warm welcoming smile, direct eyes. After: a huge scythe and a kind of Orphean guilt/depression frown saying, "I turned around, goddamn it. I wanted to wait, but I was impatient. I brought this on myself by not understanding the mysteries of the universe and my own human failings.". They are now juxtaposed on one on top of the other giving the eerie illusion that I am a smiling Angel of Death, or perhaps more accurately, a happy person grieving.  Whatever it is called, this feels more me, a little guilt, a little smile, a little depression, a little scythe.

I am not a believer in signs anymore. I am not contributing to fear anymore. It has enough fuel without believing that the gods are telling me something terrible. And so, I am hereby giving the proverbial finger to all vultures, scarabs, dead birds, disembodied chimes and wails, hooves outside my door, cracked mirrors and owls in the daytimes. Fuck all y'all.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father's Day

Every few months, I ask my husband if he would like to write a blog post. He then reminds me that he is in the medical profession for a reason. Writing feels like a form of torture to him. But when I asked him if he wanted to guest post for Father's Day, he seemed enthusiastic. Well, almost. He wanted to write something. Well, sort of. Here's how that went:

"Are you going to write something for Father's Day?"
"Sure. I don't know what to write."
"How are you feeling about Father's Day?"
"Happy to have these perfect babies. All three of them. I miss Lucy and am thankful for Thor."
"So you still feel like you are actively grieving?"
"Yes, absolutely. I think of Lucy all day at work. Just like my other children."
"And Father's day is a double whammy because you miss your dad."
"So you are grieving Lucy and your dad. Being a dad and having a dad."
"Yeah. It was hard tonight with those ladies at the restaurant."
"'You have the perfect family. A boy and girl and now you are going to stop.' I wanted them to shut up."
"Me too. But it seemed like too many people, paying too much attention, to tell them about Lucy. I feel protective of her and us in that situation."
"Yeah. I hate that, though."
"Me too."
"People see something different than what we are."
"Yeah. So are you going to write a post?"
"I don't know what to write about. Aren't you interviewing me? Can't you just use this?"
"I'm not taking notes. Write about what you are talking about."
"You have a good memory. Just use this."
"I just thought it would help if you wrote about this stuff."
"No, writing isn't an impulse for me. I get nothing out of it."
"It is for me."
"Yeah, I know."


Watching your best friend grieve is just another cruel layer of this shit cake. My best friend's daughter died. In me. We cling to each other, like we are lost in the desert, some days.

"I'm sorry for you."
"And I'm sorry for you."
"Your daughter."
"Your daughter too."

Our shades are perpetually drawn, and the outside world feels very far away. This is the life we created. Or rather, this is the life we live.  It is a house with art supplies and a pull up bar in the dining room, sleeping bags leaning in the corners of the room, and handmade balance beams to trip over. Some mornings I find a tent set up in the middle of the living room floor with looooong man legs, a black dog's tail and a princess wand sticking out of the half-zipped door.

Grief does such a number on all those little things that make a marriage great. Laughter, sex, lightness. Somehow, though, we are still here. Even though I often feel weak and sad, I am sure I would not be nearly as strong and happy as I am if he wasn't standing beside me. Even when I am sad, he can always draw a long chuckle out of me. His irreverence frees me. Makes me feel understood. He will listen intently and mirror my indignation. Some days, that is enough for me.

The way he wipes the mouths of the children with the back of his hand makes my heart flutter. It is a subtle movement of a finger, or the turn of his wrist. It is innocuous to anyone but me, but I get all gaga. "This is the father of my children." That is what that movement says.

We have been through so much in five years/four years of marriage--the birth of three children, the death of a two grandparents, one parent and one child. Accidents. Sickness. Fear. Grief. Many bottles of wine. Some beer. One movie. Lots of baths. And through it, I can say that I am always amazed at his fathering. He is the jungle gym. The snot remover. The temperature taker. The bandager of boo-boos. The Giant to Beezus's princess. I wish I could give him the one thing that is impossible to give him for Father's Day. But I just give him this:

Husband, you are the most noble man I have ever met. Thank you for standing straight and tall and loving me, despite my flaws, or because of them. Thank you for helping me make up the rules of the house. Thank you for being on my team. Thank you for teaching our children that men can cry. Thank you for thinking Cussing Wednesday is a good idea. Thank you for allowing Lucy to play a significant role in this family. Thank you for participating in the talk about where babies come from. Thank you for playing Chutes and Ladders when I want to answer emails. Thank you for being beautiful and kind and funny and weird. Thank you for letting me cry. Thank you for putting up with my snarky comments about your elf books. Thank you for being an incredible father. I love you.

Happy Father's Day to all the fathers missing a little one. May it be a gentle day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I have a special love of terrariums. The self-contained atmosphere. A jar of world. Moss. Layers of rocks, charcoal, peat, ash, dirt and green. Staring at the terrarium, I sometimes find myself daydreaming of living in this humid, wet, mossy world cut off from the outside. The smells of loamy earth and damp existence. I breathe it in and ingest all of the greens and soils.

My terrariums are slowly dying. Be it too much sun, or water. Too much neglect. Too small of a jar. Too big. I fumble. Spray it. Move it to the office. I add a glass ladybug. Sing to it. I put my kitchen gnome in one. Spray it again.

Why are you dying, Moss?

Part of the appeal of terrariums is that only idiots manage to kill them and I am just such an idiot. It is simply moss. Moss grows uninvited between the bricks of my patio, or in the wood under my deck. And yet, in this space, they are sad, wilted, angry. Glass keeps them safe. Glass separates out the bad air, wind and water. Glass separates life. Glass separates the other beings who may trample their delicate, unnoticed beauty. They are not thriving in this world of separation.

I have layered a glass with dirt, water, air, love and planted my heart, far away from the reaches of those who ignored the last crack right through its center. Now my heart's edges are turning rust-colored, drying out, and smelling of emptiness.




Shit, my chat is on. A name I remember like a dream. We haven't talked in two years. A lot has changed in two years.

"I had a dream about you."
"Weird. What happened in your dream? Please say I wasn't naked."
"Well, you were. We all were."
"I am married and can't have this kind of chat."
"Ha, no. I was a polar bear, and so were you. Well, all my really important friends who I have known for twenty years were polar bears."

We have known each other twenty years and you said nothing when my daughter died?

"We were all speaking polar bear which I understood. And the cool thing is that even though every polar bear looked exactly the same, I knew which one was you."
"Yes, everyone was arguing about which ice floe to be on. You were wise."
"Polar bears are good mojo. I heard about your friend's death. I am just so sorry."
"Yeah. I am really angry. I don't know why he did that when so many people loved him."
"Love doesn't always penetrate that kind of dark place."
"I know. I owe you an apology. I'm sorry I didn't say anything when your daughter died. I didn't know what to say. I'm an idiot."
"I didn't know what to say either."


It is just too much energy anymore to be angry. Perhaps this is a good place to get to. People trickling back into my life are met with Defeated Angie, not Raging Angie. Or Confrontational Angie. Or Raw Angie. Just Defeated, Slightly Bitter, Angie

For so long, I was obsessed with this idea that my friends didn't realize how much their silence hurt. That they didn't get it, or me. That my daughter's death was among the tragic events they heard of everyday, but not something that required anything of them in particular. Sometimes they seemed to react as though it were my job, and not my daughter, that I lost. I was not sacked. I was stripped of my safety. I birthed my dead daughter. I was robbed of the family I had always dreamt of.

As friends sheepishly contact me again, I realize that they know exactly how much they hurt me and how big of a deal it was that they said nothing. Nothing seemed enough, they say now.

Nothing is enough and anything is adequate.

I have no more energy for umbrage. I have no more patience for living in the State of Righteous Indignation: Population 1. I have a lot of single friends. People already confused how to deal with the choices of me with house/wife/kids. Throw stillbirth into the mix. We no longer speak the same language. We stand facing each other like the Victor dog. Heads cocked.

I feel like declaring some kind of Angie Amnesty Day. I am in a particularly forgiving mood these days, willing to translate for those on the other side of the divide. "If you didn't know what to say after my daughter died, come. Say something now. Let us get that one awkward exchange out of the way and get to the business of being friends again." But am I? Am I going to be able to really forget that they said nothing? I will never know unless I try.

And so, tell me, what are you willing to forgive these days? What is the name of the land in which you reside?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Legs

When I was a teenager, my mother brought home a pair of mannequin legs. Not the entire mannequin, just the legs from the hips down. She found them at the thrift shop for three bucks. They sat, flat severed hip section down, on a side table in our living room for weeks. The feet pointed to the ceiling, like an upside down pirouette frozen in time.

People would come in to our home and jump back. "Woah, that scared me. Are those legs? From a dummy? Really? What is wrong with you people?" I too was curious why my mother brought them home. She said she just wanted them. She wished it was the entire mannequin, with or without the head, which was even more enigmatic. "We could set her up in the corner of the room. We could get a cigarette holder and dress her like Joan Crawford. Can you imagine?" No, I couldn't, but I guess I could see her point. Mommy Dearest in the corner would be, um, something. The three of us would circle the disjointed legs, squint at them, step back. What the hell are we going to do with these things? And yet all of us, the angry teenagers usually crippled with ennui and the working single mother, wanted to do something with them. Something artsy and profound. Something important. Something surreal.

My mother is a consummate thrift store shopper and auction devotee. She would get up early on weekend mornings and head out to an old farmhouse with her large cup of coffee. She would wait for "the box." That is it. Just a box. They never listed what was in it, and I suppose that was the point. You could get crap, or some rare antique kitchen item. At these old Pennsylvania farmhouse auctions where they are clearing everything out, they load up a box and put it up with the word "Kitchen". Sometimes she would bid five bucks or ten. It didn't matter how much, it was all about the story that the box told about people she would never know and a community in which she didn't belong. She has an entire drawer in her kitchen devoted to the old mysterious kitchen tools she collected from those buys.

Some evenings after the dust of the day would settle, my mother would fix a glass of wine and pull them out. "What do you think this was for? Making baby food?" And we would speculate on the use of the rickety dented old thing. My mother is not American, so the objects, potato ricers or fancy butter scrapers, common in rural-ish Pennsylvania, intrigued her. Wood. Metal. Decorative holes. Practical. Beautiful. Oddly shaped. Many years after I moved out of my mother's house, I asked her if she ever found out what those tools were. "Some," she said. She was fascinated by the prosaic uses of such fascinating objects, but more she liked the story she could tell about each piece. I still love leaning back into a dining room chair with a glass of wine as she invents histories never lived.

It began slowly with the legs. First my mother put some old stockings on the legs that were not quite grey and not quite black. The legs seemed more naked with just the stockings on--no panties, no skirt, no shoes. Cripes, that is depressing. Someone put a skirt on her. Then, some drastic heels no human woman could wear but somehow ended up in our house. Depending on one's particular mood or whim, the legs would be dressed in varying states. The trick would be to dress them and set them up when no one else was home. I often came home to find them set up in the corner of the room with a pair of stripper heels, a disconnected garter belt and one thigh high stocking. Who the fuck is feeling that twisted today? Personally, I was prone to covering them in ripped fishnets, slutty skirts and combat boots; while my mother, depending on her particular state for any given day, might put on some cream hose, sensible work shoes, and a nice pleated skirt that fit no one in particular. The legs became our banshee scream in the aloneness of a house full of women. When my sister was feeling particularly lonely, she would dress the legs like Mrs. Roper, long 60s large flower print skirt, beaded belt and espadrilles wedge my mother hasn't worn since 1978. I would find her huddled in her room, listening to Pink Floyd, smoking cigarettes. "Come on, dude. Let's go get some coffee."

Despite our clear inclination towards immaturity, the legs were never in compromising positions. They were just dressed up. Reflective. Staid. Eventually, though, the legs leaned, starkly naked, against the wood paneling of our rec room. Discarded and sneered at by the lot of us. "Why do we even have those legs in our house? It is so creepy. Mom is so weird."

The legs no longer serve our needs.
The legs no longer speak for us.
The legs are nostalgic for a time when they had a body.
The legs are more trouble then they are worth.
The legs need a torso, some arms, a neck and a smile.
The legs are not our communication device.
The legs are just macabre.
The legs are not us.

My mother still has the legs. They are wedged in her garage between some boxes, covered in spiderwebs, still pirouetting. Eternally pirouetting. Eternally naked.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Monday was a low day for me. After talking about the happy/sad thing, sad ended up kicking this shit out of happy. Sometimes the ache in me for Lucy is overwhelming. I miss her like I knew her. I miss her like we lived a lifetime together, which I suppose we did. We lived her lifetime together. My eyes would catch the glint of her urn, as I passed through the living room with a load of laundry, and I would be crying before I realized it. Where do these days come from? Why, on some random Monday when my husband is off work and the children are happy, am I reduced to a puddle of self-pity over Lucy's death? Will there ever be a time when I am not in turmoil over this turn of events?

I did it again. Signed up for a thing. I always do that when I am depressed. I have failed at NaNoWriMo. Twice. My RAoK Fridays petered out after a few months. Okay, when I signed up for a century ride, I did it, but I bitched the whole way there. Yet this seems decidedly more doable. It is the 21.5.800, which means 21 days of doing yoga, 5 days a week and writing 800 words each day.

Eight hundred words is really doable, I thought. And maybe I could get somewhere with my personal writing. I will try really hard not to pull a Proust and word-fill this space, obsessively checking the Word Count feature. I promise. Maybe I will be story telling a bit more this month. But let's be honest, I never really need motivation to write anymore. I write 800 words in emails on a daily basis. (poor you who emails with me.) I just need the time and space to write. I suppose the part that appealed to me most was the moving part.

I feel the heat of Summer Solstice bearing down on me. Eighteen months. One and a half years. It seems so long now, and then also not so long. One and a half years of having every idea I had of the universe and myself completely obliterated. I think that is why this challenge appealed to me right now at this moment--the physicality. I want to rebuild myself, physically. I want to make peace with this body. I want to forgive this body. I just do not know how to do that anymore. I thought birthing a living child would give me confidence again in the strength and health of my body. It didn't, sadly. Among my losses, I count a healthy, loving relationship with my body. I hate it. Really despise its curves, its rolls, its betrayal. I was utterly convinced that my body, which I once trusted to carry me through apocalypse, was a dying animal. A failing. I have nothing left to trust about these limbs, these organs. My daughter died for no reason but this body. What is it next capable of?

I once was an athlete. I have to say it out loud, because I don't believe it now. I pushed my body. I punished it into muscles to take me further and faster. While I have never been a waif-y creature, I was always self-confident because my muscles stood as testaments to my hard work.

Yoga after Lucy's death became a taunting ex-lover. Yoga was my time with Lucy, my moment of peace in the week. I loved yoga, the meditation, the movement, the physicality of the spirituality. But Lucy's death and the weird relationship I had with the yoga teachers made yoga feel so far removed from my circle of healing.  Sure, this last year, I still did it, fumbling in my fatness and depressed exhaustion, but I didn't love the power of warrior position anymore. I didn't feel exhilarated and at peace. I felt like I had so far to go to love this flesh and to relove yoga that mostly I would detach during sessions. I could only feel its bloody limitations, not the freedom of movement and breath.

I was married once to someone who is not currently my husband. (Okay, maybe that convoluted sentence was a bit of word filling.) We were young and stupid and married on a whim. We believed we were different. We weren't.  As the young and stupid and married are wont to do, he cheated on me and I stayed, resented him and made his life hell. I am not proud. I was a shrill harpy devoid of compassion for his joie de vivre. We slowly destroyed each others' spirit. (We are friends now, and I think he would agree.) You really never know how you are going to react in the moment you find out your life is about to fall apart, but when I found out that my husband cheated on me, I hung upside down.

No. Really.

There are a thousand things I thought I would have done in that moment. Punch him. Kick him. Call him a rat bastard. But hang upside down like some new age lunatic, no. But I said something akin to "La-la-la-la, I didn't hear that." I put my proverbial fingers in each ear, ran outside to the laundry line and hung upside down. I let the blood rush to my head and closed my eyes.

Now what?

I flipped down, and we talked. I cried mostly, and called him a shit. After a few hours of finger pointing, asking for details and otherwise doing things which would cause long-term damages to my psyche, I asked him for a moment. I walked outside with a pack of cigarettes and begun running. Even though I have always been an athlete, running was something that was part of sports I did, but not a joy in and of itself. It was a summer night in the desert. I ran for miles, through the stadium and campus and on roads near houses I have never seen, and turned around and ran home. There was a calm in the sweat. A block from our house, I sat on a stranger's stoop and smoked a cigarette. I had nothing positive to say, so I stopped speaking. I just cried. And practiced kung-fu. For months.

There was something magical and beautiful about those moments of complete devastation. They were so completely, un-selfconsciously instinctual. I wanted the giddiness of blood rushing to my head. I wanted to be away from the hell, so I ran. And yet no matter how long I hung upside down, or how far I ran, my problems were still right side up at home. But somehow I still was panting and sweating and feeling powerful. My youthful visceral reaction to devastation was to move.  My soul was on hot coals and I kept bouncing around my life.

That was not my reaction to Lucy's death. My reaction was decidedly staid. Static. I only wanted to sit and be still. To lie still and become part of the landscape. To be a pebble at the feet of the universe. I catch my reflection in the mirror, and it isn't the fatness that bothers me, it is the weakness. The decidedly unpowerful person I have become.

This is my first concentrated attempt at reconciling the old me and the new me.  I want to be an athlete again. I want to be the cyclist again. The basketball player. The kung-fu girl. Sure, I am starting with a meager twenty minutes of yoga a day. I am ready to make that commitment to and for myself.  I know yoga and writing won't fix my grief, but it might take me out of it for a moment or two. And sometimes that seems powerful enough. A moment or two of peace, because that is a moment or two more than I had yesterday.

Monday, June 7, 2010


I am happy. And sad.

I keep saying it, because I can't quite describe it any other way. I realize how fortunate I am that my third child is here. Breathing. Living. Cavorting (in a newborn way) with my first daughter. But it is more than simply knowing I am fortunate, I feel fortunate. My soul is welled up with love happiness making me feel full. I think I feel fortunate, because if I believe that nothing I did killed Lucy, then Thor's existence here feels simply like good luck. I have never been someone one would refer to as lucky, and yet, these days, cooing, smiling Buddha baby and Big Insightful Sister make me feel exceedingly lucky. I also have an older daughter who amazes me everyday. I tried to describe her this weekend and just kept coming back to amazing and wonderful. These amorphous words of praise...the thing is I just like her so damned much, even though she is three and three year olds are the original masters of the non sequitur, which I totally get.

"Are you hungry?"
"Jack the dog is black and I am pink."

What she said there is, "Stop stressing, Mama. The dog and I are playing." No one told me how much I would like my kid. I mean, I knew I would love her, but like her. I had no idea. And all that good fortune wrapped around a nugget of dead baby. It makes the happy sad. I have suffered enough to recognize how fortunate I am that I haven't suffered more.


I used to think of those emotions as opposites. Happy/Sad. Up/Down. Left/Right. Quiet/Loud. You can't be one if you are the other. When I was a child, I also used to think of vanilla and chocolate as opposites too. You are either a vanilla person or a chocolate person. But then I had a twisty cone with rainbow jimmies, which is my favorite. They are two flavors that exist next to each other creating its own beautiful, delicious flavor. That is how I see happy and sad now. Not as opposites, but as two flavors of emotion.

Perhaps it should be named something new--sappy. Or maybe I am just had.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Wisdom in small places

When Lucy died, I suddenly understood the context of "Grieving Woman" side character in movies. The wailing woman. The clicking group of Arab women. The fainting mother. The drunk. The psychotic bereaved mother. The angry, adrenaline-infused mother bear. The chronically depressed mother. The strong rock of the family. I felt like all of them.

I had a deep need for the sacred. Something painful. Something beautiful and tragic. I remembered the Jain nuns, such strict vegans that shaving one's head, as is custom for monks, was thought to be cruel and certain death to the lice. A nun pluck each hair from her hair, one by one. The monks pluck the hairs from their face, one by one. I wanted to wrap myself in orange linens, rock, click, and pluck each hair. Then I would become bald, austere, emotionless and silent.

My grief has been the complete opposite of that. Angry. Loud. Messy. Emotive. Fat. Depressed. Lazy. Everything but sacred.


The other day, while driving through this God-forsaken humidity, I watched a smiling homeless man wheeling a cage full of found objects through an intersection. He was blowing thousands of bubbles with some kind of hand-held bubble machine. Cascading over the cars and people, static from the traffic and heaving with exhaustion, my daughter exclaimed, "Look, Mama! Bubbles!"


I think I have a Black Thumb of Death. I killed bushes, the hearty kind that every jackass in the country has against his foundation. Azaleas fear me. So this year I am cultivating a garden of "native plants". Plants I did not sow. Plants that are beautiful and not very needy.

Weeds are only a matter of one's perception.

This year, the flowers are abundant and gorgeous. I will not pluck their unsanctioned beauty. I will not force my beds into an unnatural union. Daisies I planted a few years ago sprouted, next to the wild yellows. My clematis has exploded in purple elegance as a backdrop to the tall grasses of my once barren vegetable garden. My grape plant, which was nary more than a leaf or three last year, has overtaken our fence and covered the mass of brown dirt.


I have begun to find routine in this new life with baby, toddler and dead daughter. I have taken time on the computer as Thor has begun sleeping more regularly. I have begun painting and crafting more regularly again too. It is all jizos. Mizuko jizos. I collage them. I paint them. I illustrate them.

I paint jizos when I miss Lucy.

Yesterday, I painted a prayer jizo painting. In my scrawly handwriting, I wrote the prayer. That is the wild card. The prayer. After I have finished the painting itself, I write the prayer. It can easily destroy the whole painting. When I stood back, it read:

Mizuko jizo, heal my mounds.

A few months ago, the amazing Jenni posted this quote on her blog, "What most people don’t understand is that holding, seeing, touching our dead babies is the 'fucking highlight' of this experience: it’s the living without them for the rest of our lives that is truly awful."

Yeah, that.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Doll Lucy

I fucking hate Little Bear.

For those of you not in the know, it is a preschool show. Maurice Sendak of the Where the Wild Things Are is somehow involved. Due to some evil harpy deciding it should replace Maggie and the Ferocious Beast, it is now on during that half hour when I clean the kitchen and Bea is allowed to watch television. Let me say, it is a fine show. Benign, generally. Annoying, but fine.

This is what I hear today in little cartoon-y voices.
"Lucy is dead."
"Isn't she a doll?"
"No, she is just dead and we have to bury her."

How many times can a preschool show say the sentence Lucy is dead?

Apparently, quite a fucking few. I asked Beatrice to turn the damned television, and she declared that she was in the middle of the show, and it is her "only television time." Her voice was breaking up.

It was sad all around.

The thing about this fucking stupid evil show is that they go around searching for a box, and have a funeral, and try to bury her, then the silly evil girl, who declared the doll Lucy dead, suddenly decides "Lucy was just pretending to be dead."

Mother. Of. Pearl.

This is the thing about living without your baby. No matter how many good days you have, you still will have a bad one. Even if your day starts out beautifully, a sentence on a fucking children's show can knock the piss out of you. For hours. Tears may be running down your face before you register crying.

PS. I googled Little Bear and "Lucy is dead" because it is my nature to hunt the things that hurt my soul and this brilliant post on a site called the Creepiest Children's Shows came up. I totally agree with the writer. Maybe it is important to talk about death for preschoolers. I wish they hadn't used my actual dead daughter's name, but you know...but bringing her back to life is fucking confusing.