Monday, October 31, 2011

La Llorona

See, I really do dress like a calavera and/or Frida Kahlo whenever I am feeling lonely or strangely unpresent in my skin.  Sometimes it coincides with Dia de los Muertos, other times it is a random day in July. I transform when I paint my face white, not just externally, but I feel stronger, more beautiful. I cannot tell you why. It feels more me than me. Today is Halloween, and tomorrow and the next day Dia de los Muertos celebrations. I have been writing a bit about my Day of the Dead preparations on my blog still life everyday. And today, I am over at Glow in the Woods where I am talking about the holidays and La Llorona. You know, I really considered reading this piece in face paint for the camera. There is a lot of Spanish words in the piece. I think it might give it that oomph, but perhaps you can tell me if that would be cool.

This year, I thought I might just dress like La Llorona, but knowing probably no one really knows who she is here, I thought it might ruin the whole dressing up thing. I am just a ghost to them. I'm going to share the background of how I became acquainted with La Llorona, hoping my ex-husband doesn't mind me sharing about his family a little. (I adore and adored them like they were my own. Just like I adore his wife, just like she were my wife. Wait, that came out wrong.)

I didn't grow up with La Llorona. She came to me one night over some almond tequila on the border town of Nogales, Arizona. I was nineteen. My ex-husband's abuelo told us the story as we sat around the table after dinner. My Spanish was strong then, but I struggled with unexpected words, particularly when his tia told a story that heavily featured a mono. I couldn't figure out what she was talking about.

I whispered to my husband, "Is she talking about monkeys?"
"Okay. I thought I was missing something."

His grandfather had a thick white mustache and thick white hair. I met him only a few times in my life, but I loved him with that deep soul respect you get when you meet a kindred spirit. He created artists and thinkers and writers. My ex-husband's aunt dressed like Frida Kahlo on random days when the spirit of the great artist moved her. My ex-mother-in-law created vibrant, large paintings of Navajo medicine men and rituals of the desert. When she created sculpture, she hiked to the mountain to dig her own clay out of a earth. She told me you can only create from your soul when you include your sweat. The old man, El Viejo, worked for the Southern Pacific Railroad as they carved its path through Arizona.

We had dinner with his grandparents this night. As the candles flickered, everyone began telling ghost stories. I sipped my tequila and translated in my head. El Viejo talked with his whole face, his hands gesturing as he told his stories. His story was about La Llorona, the Wailing Woman. He left his house in Nogales to drive to work in the back of a truck with four other guys. It was before dawn, and the trip took hours. In those days, the arroyos ran with water, and even small ponds were around Southern Arizona. Cattle farming has eradicated most of the water in the area now, but here and there, you would find veins of water, as precious now as the gold that once drew people there. El Viejo saw something on the small pond they passed. He told the driver to stop, and they all gaped. It was La Llorona, the Wailing Woman, walking along the edge of the pond. Though walk, perhaps, is misleading, she hovered and  wailed. She stared right into the Old Man's eyes. She was so beautiful, so white. She cried, "Dios mio, mi hijos! Mi Hijos!" She screamed, and the men shook in their boots. Tore off in the truck. La Llorona.

My ex-husband told me that every viejito has a story of seeing or hearing La Llorona. La Llorona means the Wailing Woman, the Crying Woman. The old people hear someone wailing, "Oh God, my babies, my babies" somewhere in the night. It is a ghost story, a nightmare, to lose your children. La Llorona is a warning told to children. Do not venture out at night or La Llorona will snatch you. (Us, babylost mamas, want any child to take as our own. We are so grief-stricken we will mistake you for the one gone too soon.) It is a warning to mothers--do not foresake your children. See, La Llorona was a woman named Maria. And she had many children. The father left, and Maria fell in love with another man, who grew jealous of the children, so she drowned her children to be with the man. She is punished for eternity by having to search the arroyos and lakes, swamps and ponds of the world searching for her children. I never believed that version. The other version of that story is that all her children were washed away in a flash flood in the arroyo. And she wanders the Earth grieving, screaming. Now that is a legend I get. La Llorona mourns, walks along banks and cries for her babies. Mis hijos. Mis hijos.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed a ghost story today. 

A toast to communing with ancestors!

Friday, October 28, 2011

everything in my heart, I love

Do you know how much I love you?

 He shakes his head, both back and forth and right to left. Smiling. Flirting.

I love you as much as the sky, and all the stars, plus infinity and an apple.

He shakes his head again. No. He says no with his whole body, moving from leg to leg, like a vehement, Tribal No Dance.

Oh, but I do, my love. I love you as much as everything. It is too much for my heart to contain, so I must scoop you up and shower you with kisses.
He giggles. A full-body no turns into a full-body giggle. It is the dance we do together. Nos and kisses. He says no. We kiss. We sit nose to nose. Lots of nos and noses. They are starting to look alike, Beezus and Thor, and like me. Can you ooze gratitude? Can you stink of love? Because it emanates from me. I reek of it.

Thor's eighteen month appointment was yesterday. He has grown two inches in three months. He cries when he sees the Dastardly Nurse and her evil sidekick the Doctor. Everything is terrible in that place. Everything is terrible when you are eighteen months and have to sit still in your diaper. The nurse asks me every appointment how many siblings he has. It is the question that follows, "Does he live with both parents?" and precedes, "Any pets in the home?" And so I know they mean, "How many siblings in the home?" But it always catches me up. I don't know how to answer it. So, I stammer a "One" and wonder for the next half an hour if I should correct it. This is my pediatrician. The same one I have had since Beezus was born four and a half years ago. It seems strange that they don't know about Lucia, but they don't. I was pregnant, then I wasn't, then I had another baby. They never cared for our second daughter. She died before pediatricians. They skipped over that chapter in our daughters' lives. Maybe they didn't realize Lucia lived and died and Beezus and Sam and now Thor and I grieve and mourn and scramble. Maybe they didn't care. (And it is okay that they didn't and don't care.)

Our family is beautiful with him. It was beautiful with the two of us, then her, then her, then him. And a little tail wagging him in the background. Even if the second her died. Even if. Maybe because. Sometimes I think Lucia created our family's beauty, just like she would have if she lived. I have to think that, or I will think something else. Each member of our family is a different element of its beauty. I used to say things in the beginning like, "It isn't supposed to be this way." "She should be here." But now, I don't.  It just is this way. I don't know if that is resignation or acceptance. Those things are different, but they get you to the same place. Just like defeat and surrender.

Thor carries a baby doll around now. Santa brought him a little cloth boy doll named Lucas. In boy style, he played with the box rather than the baby. He was eight months old at the time. I thought I could use the doll as a bartering tool when he grabbed Beezus' doll Stella, or Babydoll. That never worked, incidentally. But in lieu of a blankie, or binky, or wooby, or strange shoe, he has grown attached to the doll in the last week. He sleeps with Lucas in the crook of his arm. Sam tried to remove him one night, just ease it out slowly imagining horrors of suffocation by baby doll, but Thor's eyes opened suddenly. He gave Sam the stink eye and he grabbed Lucas again, pulled him close, closed his eyes, and fell back to sleep. He has taken to carrying the little boy doll with him everywhere, kissing him, making the little boy kiss me. He cried yesterday when he didn't have it in the car, and I ran inside and searched for it.

He can have his baby, even if I can't have mine.

He smiled, shook his little hands in exuberance as he tucked Lucas under an arm. When he grows up, he will be a Daddy Bunny.

The soundtrack of our life is Beezus. She sings now, all the time. She writes her own lyrics. She skips and sings, arms raised above her head.

Everything in my heart, I love love love. (click click)
Everything in my heart, I love.
Everything, everything, everything.

When she isn't singing, she is talking. The teacher told me she is very quiet at school. I thought she was teasing me. But then I pictured Beezus tucking herself behind my knees, peeking out. She has always been shy in front of others, a quiet observer, so yeah, I get that. I accompanied her class on a pumpkin picking field trip a few weeks ago and sat next to the teacher. The teacher told me that a boy has a crush on Beezus. He chases her everyday, but he never catches her. I asked Beezus about it, and she said, "All the boys chase me, but I am too fast." And I say a little prayer, "Let her be too fast for a long time, Lord."

As we drove to Thor's eighteen month appointment, Beezus sang a brand new song.

The Earth is better than my heart. The Earth is better than my heart.

Are you saying, 'The Earth is bigger than my heart' or 'Better than my heart'?


Oh. What does that mean?

It means the Earth is better than my heart.

Oh, okay.

Friday, October 21, 2011

spoken word blog round-up

I am just going for it.

TODAY IS HERE! The Spoken Word Blog Round-up has arrived!

Can you feel the excitement buzzing through your screen?

My idea is simply this: I love hearing writers read their words, and blogs suffer from an immediacy problem. Our feelings are temporary, we capture them in a post, we move on. But I don't want you to move on. Some of the best essays I have been privileged to read have come out of this community of writers and readers. And I don't know, I would love to hear them read by the person who wrote them. What was the writer's intention? What was tongue and cheek? What was pure pathos? I know it is hard to critique your work in this way, but think of it like this: did you love a post but you feared the nuance of your humor was lost? Do you have a piece that captures this journey for you? Is there a piece you want to revisit and repost because it says something you want to share with the world?  Did you write a poem that you'd love to delve into aloud?

But for this project, I am asking bloggers to read through their blog and pick a piece that they think would translate well into spoken word. Tell us why you chose it, if you want. And then, read it for a microphone or camera. Like we are doing a reading. You can even drink coffee and play the bongos if you are so inclined. Then post it on your blog. When it is live, come back here and add the link to the Mr. Linky below.

As you may or may not know, blogger does not host mp3s or podcasts. You have to use a third party host, which gets complicated. So, for this project, I videotaped myself reading at my computer with my computer camera. See, you can't really get easier than that. I am offering my still life 365 You Tube channel, if you want to upload a video for this project. I also have movie making programs, so I can put your audio to a picture or pictures, if you have an mp3. Anyway, all I'm saying is that I am here to help the world hear your words. Okay, I am hear to help you so I can hear your words spoken.

I posted this on Friday, because I am hoping that if you don't get a chance to do this today, you spend some time this weekend and just do it. It really will be so amazing to hear your favorite bloggers read their words. Email me at uberangie(at)gmail(dot)com if you have questions or need help getting your spoken word published.

And so, to show you how game I am, here is my spoken word piece. Just an FYI there is one F-bomb in this piece at 6:19/6:20.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

news and a new project, maybe?

The barns begin to pop up right off the highway. Red dots on the horizon, silver columns rise next door. The familiarity of those pieces of landscape touch something sacred within me. It is home. It is a home I walked around but not in. I am a stranger in the suburbs. I belong only because we all don't belong.

I try to clear my mind as we drive. I never know what to expect when I walk into a room of others like me. I am sharing my Lucia, sharing my walk through hell. There is always so much more that I want to say, and also nothing left to say except I am here. I can't say I feel nervous. I only ever need to be me, but I still have those old vestiges of anxiety to shed. I used to be terrified to speak in front of others. My voice quavered. I tear up. I once broke out in hives every night for a full month before being in front of people. I took public speaking courses. I still cried every time I spoke aloud. And then, something changed after Lucia died. I stopped being afraid. I stopped worrying about that part of me. I speak in front of people all the time now. I volunteer for it. It suits me, I think.

I have attended a number of readings from the book They Were Still Born, the book where my essay "Mothering Grief" appears, and I always feel such a deep soul-satisfaction doing that. Thank you for everyone who turned out for the reading and to share their stories with us. Jennell Paris also read, shared her story and her cards and art with us. And of course, Janel Atlas. She spent the day in the area, speaking at different places. I feel fortunate to share this journey with so many amazing women and men, truly.

I have heard others from the collection read their words before. There is something so different about that--hearing intention, breaths, emotions. I find myself so drawn into a story I have read twice, three times. And conversely, I think others hear something else in my piece when I read it aloud. You hear the humor. Janel said that, "Your piece is funny." And I retorted, "Yes, I meant it to be hilarious." And I really did.

It had been nine months since I read my piece in front of an audience, a piece written at one year out. It caught me up in places I hadn't expected. I was in so much pain.  I don't know. It was so visceral. I could feel that agony written into every sentence. I write because I can dissect that pain, remove it from my heart a little and play with words, rather than tears. Writing separates me from the ache, while connecting me deeply with it. Could you hear it when it was read in your head? The other strange sensation this time was that I was so...little. That is what it feels like. Like I reading something by someone so young. Two years ago, I was so different, so lost. I have forgiven myself for that.

All this is to say, that it inspired me to start another project in this community. This last reading makes me want to hear blog posts out loud. Can we do that? Can we organize a blog round-up where writers read a blog post aloud, post it on their site? Either via camera, or mp3. Let's pick posts that you feel would be helped by being spoken, words meant to be connected to with a voice. Let me know what you think about that project. I can post a Mr. Linky, and we can connect that way. I can pick a date that is a few weeks from now to give every one time to choose a post and record it. Please please let me know if this sounds cool. I'd love to hear you read a post of yours aloud.

In other news of the Philadelphia area, Saturday is the MISS Foundation Kindness Walk. Please please come out to walk with other families in the area. It is being held at Ridley Creek State Park. Registration starts at 9am. And then the walk starts at 10 am. The Kindness Project starts at 11a. Everything goes to support the amazing work of the MISS Foundation, a group that helps supports families after the death of one or more of their children. As you know, I am a HOPE Mentor.  I'll be saying just a few words (It's not a speech, just a quick word about MISS.) So, please catch me after to talk, if you are going. I'm hoping this identifies me a little. I am also donating a painting for the raffle, which includes a number of other items including gift certificates and other amazing treats.

This is the exact painting I am donating.
Mizuko jizo.
9" x12" watercolor on canvas.

So, come, win a mizuko jizo painting, walk, remember our babies, do a kindness and connect. You won't regret it, I promise. I would love to meet you. If you are unable to make it, please consider supporting Team Lucia. We are so close to our goal. We just need a little push.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Three months after Lucy died, I wrote this:

I am both drastically different, and exactly the same. I am exactly the same person living a drastically different life that looks exactly the same. 

In the beginning, I told myself my own story. I had just quit drinking and was going to meetings listening to people's stories of drinking and recovery every night. I stopped drinking and stopped being able to sleep. I tucked into bed, read books about alcoholics who make drastic changes in their life, thought about the layers of lies I told myself through the years about my drinking. Everything was beginning to make sense about me. Alcoholic--that is my tribe name. Now I know. I wondered how I could be here at 37. I felt lost, but on my way to home. And then I would tell myself my own story, in the dark.

Hello. My name is Angie. I am an alcoholic. I took my first drink when I was four.

At four, I blacked out and threw up and asked for more. I was a four-year old sot, a drunk. An alchy, I think. A four year old boozer. I couldn't stop, even then.

It is a family legend. Told around the Thanksgiving table. A party at my grandmother's house, I began drinking wine glasses filled with frozen berries and a Riesling when my aunts, uncles and grandparents walked away from their glasses. All my older relatives thought they were distractedly drinking too quickly. They repeatedly filled up their glasses. I would drain them again. Before long, I became violently ill. After hours of throwing up, I asked for some more berries with juice. And also asked if we could go to McDonald's. I guess I got the munchies. I was four.

There is a man I know who always says that the first time he drank, he drank too much and threw up. To sober him up, his friends gave him coffee, and he threw that up too. And he never drank coffee again. Because alcoholics will keep drinking, even though we are dying.

I was dying spiritually, emotionally, physically.

Beezus is four. She has never seen me drunk. She has never been drunk. She once pointed to the liquor store and said, "Remember that time you bought wine there?"

Yes, I do.

I am sober nine months. Nine months without a drink. I have gone longer without a drink. Still, it means something to me. I had never done the work to get out of the way of thinking that makes me an alcoholic. I have never really comprehended the wreckage of my drinking. I thought it was victimless. I thought I was a drunk Buddha. I thought I could have it all--spirituality and drinking. Looking at God and myself through a bourbon bottle distorted everything. Made it wiggly and aggressive.

For me, those two things are not compatible anymore. Drinking was but a symptom, that is what they say. I believe them. For most of my drinking, I was alone in my apartment.  I stopped going out to bars, because it seemed to get in the way of me drinking the way I wanted to drink. And the writing. ("You know, I'm a writer. I have to go home, because I am working on something.") I started isolating a long time before Lucy died. I thought I should tell you this because I have complained about my friends and my support on this blog. I complained about how alone I felt.

I did that to myself.

Maybe you didn't know that. Maybe you parsed it together through the years. But we used to drink together, my friends and I. Then, I guess, I crossed that invisible line between heavy drinker and alcoholic. Maybe I crossed that line at age four when I stopped drinking like the other four year olds. I didn't realize how isolated I had become. I would treat people like we were having a conversation:

Sure, we'll get together next week.

Six months go by and I would contact them ready to go out. Alcohol exaggerated everything for me--grievances, time, depth of friendships, people's tolerance for my bad behavior. Maybe I stopped hanging out with my friends because I stopped drinking like my friends. Maybe I stopped hanging out with people because I wasn't able to hold it all together, because my alcoholism was seeping through my every move--the self-pity, the resentments, the anger, the depression, the desolation. Maybe I stopped hanging out with people because alcoholism wanted me alone. Isolation is a symptom of this disease, but one not every alcoholic has.

When I got married and had kids, I thought I had kicked all this bad drinking business, if I even had drinking business. I drank infrequently after I had children. But when I did, I drank until I fell asleep, or passed out, whatever your perspective, because I had trouble sleeping. That's what I told myself. Drinking in the last few months before getting sober, I realized that I immediately could not quit. My alcoholism had been doing push-ups during my years of birthing children. It was getting stronger. Sure, I still was accomplishing things. I still had my marriage. I still was parenting. I still was waiting until the kids went to sleep to drink. But those things would have fallen away. Sometimes I think I got sober the day before I lost everything. Not the day before I lost many of my friends, that was a process happening for years that was my first indication that something was seriously wrong with me.The only thing all those friendship break-ups had in common was me.

I thought I was a person who made no impact on the global suffering of the world. How could drinking affect the way I treat people? It seemed as though it didn't. I deserved a drink, for the love of God, because I worked hard, and helped others, and my daughter died, and eff it, because I am an adult. It's just a drink, for the love of God. I had no idea that drinking was simply a symptom of a larger, more profound, spiritual malady. That might sound dramatic, but I am downplaying it.

Today, I am drastically different, and exactly the same. I am exactly the same person living a drastically different life that looks exactly the same. And I am incredibly grateful for that.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

sunday haircuts

"Are you ready for your haircut, baby?"

He tugs on his hair. His long nods move his entire body. He teeters into the bathroom.

We debate whether or not to undress him. We debate if I should hold him, or let him be. Meanwhile, he sits on the stepstool, waiting. This whole ordeal has something to do with his hair, he has figured that out. He bends his head down so I can see his mop of a hair. I kiss him, and muss it all up. I love when he gets his hair cut. It makes him look like a big boy. I ask Sam to keep the top a little long.

"The Ivy Leaguer, please." No one laughs.

Thomas sits for a moment before he realizes Sam is pulling out the clippers. And then he remembers that they are loud. He cries, exaggerates tears. He covers his face in his hands and buries them in Sam's leg. Sam is always so skilled at these things. He just starts, through the tears and stomps. He knows how to hold more reassuringly than me, more adeptly maneuvering the children into place to cut, tweeze, pull, brush, dress, or wrap. It is the nurse in him. Something he must have learned in a classroom, I think. Or perhaps it is just the confidence that he possesses. He exudes trust and ability. I used to watch him dress Beezus in the first days of her life, head tilted like the Victor dog trying to memorize each gesture. I'd try to imitate his movements the next day, but would inevitably, somehow, make the baby cry. It took me six months to figure out how to get a shirt on and off effectively. I would end up just pulling hard, upwards. It is the way of my people. If you pull hard enough towards the hole, it will come off.

I sit in front of Thomas, cross-legged. Trying to comfort him, my hand brushing his leg. "It is okay, mijo. It is going to be okay. It won't be long." I am making it worse, I think. So I grab the phone, set up the camera. It is an elegant dance between father and son. Sam adjusts to the boy, moves with him. He manages to cut his hair in the back and sides without holding him down. It isn't until the last clean up, that he gently holds his jaw in his big Daddy hands, steadying his head for the last details.

Beezus always collects the hair in a little bag. She saw me do this when I first cut his hair. A lock of hair for his box. Now it is all of it. She keeps it in some magical treasure chest. I still haven't found where, but I suspect it will be a creepy, horrifying affair when I do.

"Mama, do we want the birds to make a nest of our hair or not?"
"Oh, okay. I'll keep it safe for Thomas."

The baby hears his name and screams louder. He is eighteen months now. There are words. There is running. There is rule and instruction following. There is a little ego in there, trying to scream its existence. There are complicated strategies involving the stealing of dolls and opening food bits just to get Beezus mad. She laughs at it, but he still tries.

It is all so tragic--this haircutting business. It is all so horrible. He is trying to tell us. He is angry and scared. And yet, I can't help but want to bottle this moment. I take more photos.

He cries, yes. It is painless. Hair cutting is just sitting still and getting gently tickled. We know this, us seasoned adults. But something changes in them from baby to toddler to kid. And suddenly, they stop crying when their hair is cut, their teeth are being brushed. It is only a short time until they understand that this scalping thing ends. Then we will all gawk and oooo and aaaah, and say "How handsome." And they stop crying. But at eighteen months, it is all so immediate. I just want to capture those times of his still being a baby. The moments I will forget. The moments of tears and clippers.

Sunday haircuts.

There is nothing special, or unusual about the event. No feasts to be cooked. No baseboards to be dusted. No special serving dishes to be washed. No gifts to be made or bought. But it is a holiday nonetheless.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

on opening doors.

I lead with my head, like the boy. When in doubt, tuck your chin into your chest and ram.

Smash. OOooch.

             Try the knob.

Crunch. Oooch.
Excuse me?

             Turn the knob. You know, the handle.

What knob? Kerputz.

             The one under your head. Open your eyes.

Crack. Oh. There's a knob.

             Stop ramming your head into the door. It will take forever to open that way, and you may get a headache.

But my head worked once.

            What kind of door was it?

A swinging one. Without knobs.


Sometimes I feel so human. All skull, no brain.

Hair in odd places. 
Scratching asses. 
Rubbing overhanging stomachs. 

I strive. Not for a golden apple, but for the ability to taste an apple for what it is. I try praying. I pray a lot now, actually. Not for things, but to be an instrument. I am praying to be a knob instead of a thick skull. Sometimes I don't think I can be anything but a thick, meaty skull, scarred and dented and perfectly effective in only .17% of the cases.

I don't mean to speak in riddles, really.

I don't know any other way to talk about this journey. It is confusing to me.

I think I need a helmet.

So, tell me, what are you smashing your head into these days?

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I forgot to put music on. That was the first thing that popped into my mind after everyone was gone and I took off my shoes. I wrote little tags with ingredients for the food, placed miniature pumpkins in strategically festive spots, displayed the travel journal, bought two different kinds of plastic spoon, but I forgot to put on music for ambiance.

There was a hum, a collective chorus of love running through the day, maybe I didn't hear the silence before everyone left. There was shrieking and laughing and playing. I hadn't expected so many children, though I had a little sheet of paper with hash marks of the number of children. I knew technically how many children there would be, but then to see them run through the house dressed as princesses and kitty cats, painting and drawing and skipping and...

the house flickered.

I bought a box of yahrzeit candles with a plate of milagros and put a little sign next to it.  

Feel free to light a candle in memory of your little one(s).
Pick a milagro, an origami crane or stickers for your candle (if you are moved to do so.)

I didn't want the day to be maudlin. There is a joy here. A joy in this community that people outside of this community don't understand. I mentioned the Open House to a friend. I didn't call it a party. Perhaps I should have called it a party, but I suppose even I fear that we come across as too glib calling this thing a party. "You can stop by," I said. "There will be lots of food and really interesting, amazing people." And then I mentioned how I met everyone. She said she didn't think they could make it. I wanted to explain.

We don't cry. Well, nearly never. Almost rarely. We don't even really talk about death, or how it came to be that we gathered together facing a box of yahrzeit candles and a plate of milagros on a chilly day in October. Okay, sometimes we do, but it really isn't as sad as you think.

There is a joy here. It is a kind of gratitude-joy current. It runs through everything, like electricity, like power. I can't explain it. It is like coming home after being held a prisoner of war for a long time. "You," I want to say, "thank You. You are amazing." It is the simple act of you existing that make me thankful. I hold on to people a little too long, a little too tightly. I say thank you again and again. I ask if they are okay again and again. Not even, thank you for being here in my home for this open house, but just thank you for existing.  Thank you for being normal and beautiful and kind and even-handed and just and noble and open. Even though I hate it. I hate that other people, I hate that You, suffer the way we suffered, and yet, I am so grateful for you. To not feel alone, to have you as part of my extended family, to help us feel normal, to come to my house and thank me. And so I hold on to these women. I want to whisper, "Don't leave. Stay. Live here, if you want. We have room and don't stink (much). We can start a commune. We can light candles every day. We can sing."

With the joy, we don't speak of our grief, the debilitating days that don't come nearly as often as they used to, but maybe still come. I don't know, we didn't speak of it. In the early days, I found it to be so comforting that we didn't even need to speak of the birth and death, the day-to-day hardship. But when we did, it didn't kill conversation. There was no uncomfortable silence. No explanation. No disclaimers. No apologies for tears, or laughs, or not knowing what the hell to say. No wondering if this all was too fatiguing for a normal person. No nothing. Just part of our life. And so the candles became a way to speak of it without speaking of it.

Let us light a candle to remember the ones that aren't here, but who brought us together. Let us light a candle because if we do not speak our children's names tonight, they will still be heard. Let us light a candle because that is what we do now, light candles. Let us start music without sound.

The house hummed. I don't know the song, but it was joyful.

I was self-conscious at the amount of children running and playing. I don't know why. I think it is that moment of ache we all have, even those who have living children, when we see children hugging and playing and being good and picked up and parented. It aches. Each of these children, they are like my children. It hit me that they share something so powerful and important, that though we are all fumbling through this parenting after loss thing, perhaps we are doing something right  by bringing the kids together too. It reminded me of a few months ago. Janel and I hung out at her home with our girls. Janel's second daughter, Beatrice, was stillborn at 37 weeks. I had never met another Beatrice, and to meet one in this way, it seemed providence, something drawing us together. But it occurred to me that she might not feel the same way. I asked her if she minded her name being spoken to my daughter, and she said no. When our girls played, her two girls seemed to say Beezus' name before every sentence.

Beatrice, come to my room.
Beatrice, let's run.
Beatrice, watch this.
Beatrice, let's be lions.

And Janel said, "I think they like to say it to a living girl." And it broke me open and filled me with gratitude that I have met such amazing, compassionate parents in my life. We teach each other how to get through this. That day, when we sat together for lunch, Janel's four year old daughter asked Beezus if she had a sister. Beezus looked at me, and I said yes for her. And then I said, "Beezus' sister died." Janel and I had spoken about how we navigate parenting the siblings of our dead daughters. We have talked about how we speak of death, so I knew that her daughters expected the truth from me, not platitudes, or mysterious words about lost children and passing sisters. And she asked, "How did she die?" And I said, "She was stillborn." And this look came across her face, like she was both amazed and excited. Then she screamed, "WE HAVE A STILLBORN BABY TOO!"

There is a joy here. There is a joy in the collective space between us, even if it is borne of grief. There is a kind of joy in screaming in excitement, "I HAVE A STILLBORN BABY TOO!" We eat and talk about jobs and families and sickness. The kids run through the room and cry and ask for more food. Even Thor cried when Sarah's son left, then again with Janel's son had to leave. His baby friends are going home. He pointed and cried. "Boo hoo, and they have stillborn siblings too."

The candles were a living thing even though they represented the dead. They sang the song behind our day. They warmed the space, they warmed our party. After most everyone left, except TracyOC and family (T. and C.) we sat in the living room with the candles talking and laughing. The light and warmth was so beautiful, even more beautiful that I thought they would be. A powerful unspoken presence in the house. I didn't see one person light a candle, not all day, and yet there were ten lit at the end of the night. It seemed magical. As we sat, talking about the ritual of it, T. said each candle would be a child running around the house. Ten extra children, where would they go? Would we have had room? It stopped me. It sounds strange to say, but sometimes I forget that she would be two and a half, almost three now. And that two and a half, almost three, has a depth and a breadth and a weight and a height and a personality. I miss a being who would be running and playing princess kitty cat. I miss Lucy. It gets so abstract in my writing, a moment in time and space where everything changed, yet stayed exactly the same.  But she was a person with a smile and a light.

I light a candle and the candle is a warmth that feels like her. And all those candles together were kind of joy here. The joy is like a song without words. The hymn of community, I think, or maybe that is too simple. Maybe it is just a feeling without a descriptive. A current that is the most beautiful silent opera in the world.

A special thank you to everyone who came to my home and made the Open House to see the still life 365 travel journal and share in food and friendship. I want to shout out to everyone and just declare my undying love. But you know, already, right? RIGHT?!?!?! And all that didn't. We missed you (and talked shit about you the whole day [I'm just joking.])