Monday, July 25, 2011

Heart like an Ocean

Well, I had this post I had written earlier, edited, photos in place and was about to hit publish, but it just didn't feel right. It seemed forced, and not quite what I was feeling in my heart, and when I decided to start a blog, that is the one thing that I wanted to do: write honestly what I feel.
What I honestly feel is a deep loss. One that always simmers just below my surface, usually at a low manageable boil. Sometimes though, on days like today, it feels like it's on the brink of exploding, and I feel this panic inside to keep it under control, keep it in check, because if not, the threat of the black abyss that took so long for me to climb out of looms in the distance, and inches towards me like a slow storm on the approach.

On November 23rd, 2002, Jeremy and I lost the one thing that we loved the most. Our daughter Vanessa Rose.  She was ten months and one day old. To say it was the worst day of our lives is an understatement.

There are no words that can describe the devastation of losing a child and not enough time in the world can ever go by to get over it. Time is not a great healer but a deceiver. That wound can always rip open and sear you to pieces in a split second. It is always there hiding behind minutes, hours, years, camouflaged in the fabric that makes up your life.  That scar will always take over my soul and I have made a peace with that, knowing that nothing will ever, ever be the same or ever turn out how I want it to be. My life will never feel whole no matter what I do or how much I try and fill it with random things and I'm okay with that because it is out of my control, and there is nothing anyone can ever do to make it better. Not that it's fair, but I will carry that weight with me always, because that's what mothers do. We bear it all, even if we can't.

Not a day has gone by that I have not thought of her, prayed for her or wished for her. She permeates this family with a very soft presence and how I wish it was tactile, but no matter how much I wish it is just beyond my grasp. Our hearts will forever be intertwined with vines that are unbreakable, and even though some days I swear I feel her, I look, and she is not there.

Gracie has grown up with this, learning about her from a young age, going to the cemetery for visits and I have scolded her about not counting her as a sister when at school at circle time she stated to her class that she had no siblings. We argued after school in the car and my heart reopened to a new hurt as I understood where Grace was coming from. She lives with the ghost of her, having never met her, only stared into the eyes of an infant that looked similar to her gazing back from a picture hung on the wall. A sister by blood yes, but a sibling in her mind, no. "A sibling is someone you live with, mama, at your house, and I don't have one," she told me, as my heart tore a little more. She's right. Sort of. She lives with a mother and father that are constantly distracted by grief, living in a world of what ifs? and I wish, and a long lost sister that sounds more like a fable than the real deal.  How are we not going to damage her with our grief? I vow to try my hardest not to, to keep myself from going there, to keeping myself in check. It takes all my effort to save face in front of Grace, and also to the rest of the world. That smile you see is forced.  laughter? I feel guilty about laughing. quietness? I'm afraid of questions that might come back at me, so I don't talk much, and if I do, it's about you.
Today is just not a good day, and I fall hard and fast, but my sweet Grace pulls me back into reality where I belong. I have hurt beyond manageable limits and pull around baggage that is unhealthy, yet here I am, almost nine years later, not at all pain free but functioning, and I am grateful. Grace is deserving of my healing, so is my family, and somewhere in that broken heart of mine I should feel deserving too, but that's a hard emotion to ask for. Baby steps. Put one foot in front of the other. Slide your weight forward. Balance. And before long, that inch turns into a mile, and as you glance over your shoulder to look behind, you see the distance you have covered is what you never thought possible.

The sky looked similar to this on the day she passed, so now, to our family, these are known as a "Vanessa Sky."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Let her be

My daughter loves to dress up.

She has a trunk full of princess dresses I've carted home from thrift sales over the years and she loves each and every one of them. Pink she wears when she feels slow and wistful, purple when she feels bouncy and pixie-like, cream with gold cross stitching when she feels like being a powerful ruler.
For years they have transported her into stories where little girls hold kingdoms, and villains are fun to chase but never pose a serious threat, where time moves from minutes to years in a split second, and magic wands really do turn mud pies into delectable mouth watering desserts. They are her uniform just like a policeman has one, as does a soldier.

 Her day starts with a dream and a wish and the chances of them coming true rise dramatically with a couple yards of pink, purple and lacy silk taffeta pulled over her sweet little head. It is not uncommon at all, especially during the summer months, to run into her at the Thriftway or the beach in full princess attire and rubber boots. "The shoes don't make the queen, the dress does," she says about this. It's all about the dress.

She gets lots of attention when she does this, most of it positive, but every once in awhile we'll get an annoyed look and even a "is it Halloween?" And to that I say, Let her be. If she wants to be a princess, or a queen, or ruler of all the land, Let her be. The world tells you soon enough who to be and if I can just extend this little slice in time where innocent play takes you to a place of endless magical possibilities, I will, and I do, because this time is too precious to say no.

 Time is a constant reminder that is slowly starting to push the boundaries of her imagination and replace it with reality and I reluctantly feel it starting to catch chase. The days of watching her flow through the yard with a stick as a sword and a dirty pink hem that keeps inching up her shin as the years go by are starting to wane. It will hurt when that trunk is rarely visited and those dresses, as tattered as they are, lay dormant. I love those dresses, and I love her, and even though those dresses will be replaced by other things I will miss them and that time in her life where dragons visit regularly and fairies appear to buy her homemade perfume made of muddled rose petals and dandelions.

 Her favorite character to be is one of the Three Musketeers spawned by Barbie and the Three Musketeers. She holds practice in the front yard frequently and even ripped her curtain rod straight out of the drywall trying to swing from her curtains just like they do in the movie. Didn't make us happy, but we chuckled at the visual in private. If you ask her what she wants to be when she grows up she will tell you " A Three Musketeer.....and, a school bus driver." Instead of bursting her bubble I Let her be, and support her all the way. You go, girl. Whatever you want to be, is fine with me.

 The other day we were walking through our local thrift shop and tucked in the corner smiling at us with a come hither look was a raggedy old scarecrow. He was standing there so pitiful, a little weathered from spending at least one season in the elements, and I swear I saw his lips move and heard him whisper Grace's name. She sucked in her breath as they locked eyes and she ran to him, her face lighting up a thousand watts. In my head I knew exactly why she wanted him. She wanted to beat on him. Just like Corinne does in the movie when she is practicing her crazy cartoon fight moves. A couple pleeeeezes and I really neeeeed it, and we are lugging him to the check out stand as the other moms raise their eyebrows and snicker. I know what they were thinking. Pushover. Why would you drag home an ugly old scarecrow? Why, for my daughter to beat on, of course. Best two dollars spent in a long time.

And so, "Beaterman" stands tall in out front yard, and boy does he take one for the team. She has happily used him for practice and her fancy sword moves have steadily improved since we've got him. He lends a little he-haw quality to the yard, but I've gotten used to it and also to the wicked grin Gracie gets when she saunters up to him with her "sword."  And, in the cloak of fading sunlight on a dark and stormy night on the way to the chicken coop to tuck the hens away for the night you will not see the silhouette of a thirty something year old woman pick up a stick and show him a thing or two.
Nope, not me.
 En garde, monsieur scarecrow. : )

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Making friends with the fourth

This year, the fourth of July found me at the tail end of a stomach bug. It didn't surprise me much since my body self sabotages itself nearly every holiday by sidelining me somehow. I was bummed to miss out on some nice invitations to connect with friends I haven't seen in awhile and was determined to at least get out that evening and eat and watch the fireworks like everyone else. So I did, attending a delicious BBQ at a close friends house hiding out every once in awhile to double over and breathe through a cramp in private. Not great, but I was happy to be mobile.

No shrimp on the barbie, just chicken this time.

S'mores cheesecake, a closely guarded family recipe

Ahhhh, to be six again....

 Fourth of July is not my favorite holiday. I dig the patriotic side but fireworks send my brain sideways. I pretend to like them just to be cool, but I really don't. And, I don't like spending money on them since I'm stingy that way. I got the "are you serious?" eyes from Jeremy when I handed him a ten dollar bill to take Gracie to the firework stand with. I smiled and shrugged but in my head all I could think was "gimme back that ten dollars, it's just going up in smoke." Sour puss, huh? I'll blame the grouchi-ness on the stomach flu.  Gracie though, dug every aspect, which is not surprising for a rowdy wiry night owl of a six year old, and the ten dollars was well spent seeing her bouncy little self bouncier. They came back from the stand with a tub full of mild little fireworks and one single one that she clutched tightly in her paw: a chicken shaped firework that goes off then blows a balloon out of it's butt. We had to light that clever little firework off right away, and true to form, it produced an egg sized yellow balloon. Cute, but brief.

The chicken picture was too boring, smoke bomb was better.

 During the long weekend we also got to cross off something we had been talking about doing for years, and built ourselves a nice little fire pit. It's temporary, or not, since we thought someday we would build this awesome stone monster of a pit, but this little one we built in a hour I am falling in love with. It's small. It's very rustic. Simple, and perfect.

 I hope you all had a great long weekend and fourth of July. I have to say, the evening did end beautifully, watching the big boomers in a dry sky from a vantage point we've never been to before, cuddling with blankets on a grassy knoll with friends and silhouettes of quiet strangers that dotted the skyline.

     Okay, maybe it's not that bad. : )

Friday, July 1, 2011

Baby Magic

No words this time, just images of the last week, and proof that babies are magic...

The dog is snoring at my feet. Gracie is awaiting a kiss goodnight, and twilight is slowly giving in to the dark of this still summer evening. Have a happy and safe fourth of July, everyone. Celebrate. Love. Smile. : )