Today, I should have been baking a cake. I should have had presents wrapped. Family should have been here eating a dinner with courses picked out by a ten year old little girl. Candles should have been blown out. Laughter and singing should have been heard. Hugs should have been given with a pinch to grow an inch.
Today I wanted to stay in bed. I awoke late, warm, in my flannel sheets. They felt so comfy, and I snuggled further into them as I gazed at the weak light that came through the curtains that let me know there was nothing but gray behind it. After I got too lost in thoughts that made it hard to breathe, I reluctantly slid on my slippers and paddled downstairs.
Today is Vanessa's Birthday. She would be ten years old today. I should have a ten year old little girl.
What would that feel like? I wondered all morning. What would she look like? What would have been her favorite food? Would she have been a redhead? What little hair she had was a deep red. Would Gracie be here too? Would they have got along? Was her health always going to be a struggle? What would have been her favorite color? Favorite flower? Would she have been happy?
These are thoughts I think about all the time, but today, that's all I thought about. Over, and over, and over, but with no answers, only pretend fantasies for answers. Ten years ago this day pushed me headfirst into the deep end of unconditional love, and one thing I have learned from this, is that love is beyond the flesh, beyond time, beyond worlds. It's infinite nature is secure in the heart, and even through a loss, love burrows itself into the deepest part of you, and cannot be taken away from you. Ever. If you have love in your heart, it is yours to keep. No hammer can break it, no fire can burn it, no thief can steal it, it is secure in the most sacred of places, the heart. Love is a survivor. I believe it is one of God's most greatest gift. It is yours. And that is grand.
I spent a good part of the day wandering around the house. Too lost to get anything significant done, but not lost enough to get some minor things done. I used to bake a cake every year on her birthday, but never felt like eating it afterwards so it would sit on the counter all neglected and slowly cave in until I'd finally get tired of staring at it, so I'd throw it away. I don't do that anymore. On her first birthday I bought a Yankee candle called "Rainbows End" that we only burn on her birthday every year and it is now half way gone. It smells like a cheap dryer sheet and makes my throat burn when we burn it, but I still do it. Each year it leaves a light wax ring around the glass after we blow it out, and each year I peer in and can't wait until it's the last ring, so I can throw that smelly sucker out. I don't know why that's the way I feel, but I do. It is a tradition I keep, but very reluctantly so.
Another thing we have always done is release balloons at the cemetery on her birthday. This is a fine thing to do, but it's getting harder and harder for me to go to the cemetery, and again, I don't know why, after all, it's been almost ten years. I suppose it has never been an easy thing, but I have never dragged my feet about it like I do now. I miss her terribly and going there feels like rubbing my nose in it.
We go by her age, as to how many balloons we release, and this year they took up the whole back of the car. That is so many, I thought. Too many. Ten whole balloons, and a different color for every year. A couple years ago we were at the cemetery letting off balloons and I saw a car go down the highway, then turn around and pull into the parking lot and park behind my car. A stranger got out and headed towards us. Greeeeeat, I thought, as I got my hiss ready in my head. I was sure he was going to start laying into us about how bad it is for the environment for us to do this. Wrong day to pick a fight, mister. He stuck his hand in his pockets as he walked up to us and proceeded to tell us when he realized what we were doing he just felt this need to turn the car around and tell us how beautiful he thought it was. He didn't know us, never asked who it was for, then he turned around and left, after we thanked him. My heart melted, as I really needed to hear that, that day. A stranger recognizing beauty and loss. Her beauty and loss. All these years later and she was still able to exude beauty. It makes me smile whenever I think of that stranger.
Today the stranger was no human, but snow. This is the first time in ten years that there has been snow on the ground on her birthday. When we got there, there was evidence of an earlier visit, fresh footprints, carnations, and a heart drawn in the snow. Thank you, Nana and Papa. Love you. And thank you Mom and Pop for the beautiful roses. Love you too.
We wrote messages on the balloons, kissed them, and cut the strings off at the base so birds wouldn't get tangled in them. Some struggled through the trees to find the sky, some found their calling right away and like a magnet bolted upwards, carrying our love with it.
We sang happy birthday as the sun briefly put a halt to the rain and then we left as the clouds crowded back. I always hate to turn my back to her as I leave. It feels guilty, and wrong, so I turn my head as I walk, eyes always towards her grave.
Grace likes the balloon tradition a lot, so we will keep it. There is something to a release, and watching something fly upwards into the sky. Not quite letting go, but setting free. On her birthday those balloons remind me, the release is one of love, not of letting go. Setting a love free, allowing it to glide across the sky with no map to follow, visiting with wishes and dreams, entangling itself in rainbows and falling stars.
Who knows. Maybe the balloons do find their way to her. I will take that fantasy and run with it.
Happy Birthday To You, My Sweet Vanessa Rose.
Your Mom, Dad, and sister.