And this would be one of the many reasons: he’s super in-tune with sounds of all kinds. He often recites things like stories from books and the words of songs, which I find terribly awesome. Somehow, however, his love for sounds themselves is even more intriguing and endearing to me. He picks up on sounds that I have learned to zone out. He doesn’t ignore any of them. He hears every creak, pop, ding, whirr, chirp, and squeak in the world around him.
Even before he could talk, he was an expert at mimicking the microwave, dish-washer, toaster, birds chirping, airplanes flying, and water running, just to name a few.
“Mommy, I hear sound!” flies off his lips with unbridled delight every day, still. I’m adding this to the “joys” category of parenting, and I’m once again incredibly glad that I always have my camera nearby. The days just seem to fly by, but I have these memories documented.
He looked for those letters among the rest and laid them out like that on the side of the tub.
Then he did this:
If it doesn’t sound familiar to you, here ya go:
We purchased this year’s tree on a Sunday while John was home for a day. That night, I put the lights on it. The smell of a real Christmas tree is something I love so much that I don’t exactly know how to put it into words. The olfactory sense can trigger some of the strongest sense memories we have, and I think this smell is linked into the magic and joy that laces my memories of Christmas as a child. We never had a fake tree, so when I smelled this smell – a real pine, cedar, or fir – it meant Christmas was coming. And that meant magic, love, and light. It meant my soul would lift and float for awhile.
This year, before we bought our tree, I went in search of something I’ve had in a cabinet all year long. It is a glass spice bottle with a black plastic lid. The glass is very heavy, and the plastic is thick and sturdy. It appeals to me in some way, and so I saved it to use for something when the spice ran out. I had no idea when I put it aside that later I’d be gathering fallen needles to place inside.
Last year, I lost a baby (Davin) right at three months into the pregnancy. It was my second miscarriage of the year and, for many reasons, it throttled me in different and harder ways than had the first one (in April).
I found out on December 9th during a prenatal appointment that he had died. A D&C to remove Davin from my womb was scheduled for December 16th.
I had carried him for a week, knowing he was no longer alive. It was both maddening and oddly comforting. On the one hand, I felt insane knowing he was inside of me and he was not alive; my body was incapable of doing anything to help him. On the other hand, I got to be with him and say goodbye, come to terms with him being removed.
On December 15th, the day before the surgery, I asked John to go get a tree. I didn’t tell him, but I wanted that tree in the house with all 4 of us. That’s how it was supposed to be, and in my fractured state of being, I was going to have it that way, regardless.
When last year’s tree came into our home with all of its wonderful smelling glory my child was still inside of me. The next day, he was all the way gone. I was sedated for some time after that. When the pills ran out there was still wine and liquor. I got tipsy regularly; I ate crappy food. No matter what I ingested, I was empty.
I was empty in more ways than the one that made my uterus ache as it healed.
That tree sat in the living room with me. I watched those lights flash and dance through my bleary eyes. I sat here, numb, with that happy smell. Each day rolled by and I tried whenever I could to enjoy them, even if it was an altered, forced experience.
I cried a lot. I was angry and sad. A lot of days I was just nothing.
The tree was there.
At some time way past Christmas there came a point when I had to admit that the tree was dried out and needed to be taken away. I cried about that, too.
When that tree came into my house, I still had my baby inside of me. Now the tree was about to leave, and I had to keep a part of it, because somehow, it was the last thing I could hold onto about Davin. Is that crazy?
I got down on my hands and knees with that damn spice bottle and I gathered up fallen needles until it was full. Then I put it in one of my kitchen cabinets.
Only a couple of times during the year, when my heart ached the very most for Davin, I went and opened that bottle. I held it, smooth, cool and heavy, in my hand. In my fingers, it felt strong when I felt weak. I stared at the needles. I opened the bottle and smelled.
Pain and joy mingle together in that smell for me now.
Not long before we got our tree this year, I went for that bottle for the first time in quite a while. When I smelled it, I wept for my lost son. The smell was still very strong and crisp. It wrapped me up; it sang to me of both sorrow and delight. Afterwards, I felt a sort of peace.
I put the bottle out as the very first Christmas decoration in our home this year.
I will think of them both every Christmas: the baby who we thought would be born in December 08 as well as the baby who died in December 08. I don’t think I’ll ever smell that happy smell or watch those dancing lights again without a twinge of sorrow. But I believe I will always still smile at them, as well.
Pain and joy mingle together, and that is not such a bad thing to experience, or acknowledge.
It is far better than pain sitting in the heart by itself.
Elementary school lunch. Remember that? What was it like? At first I think that surely I can’t remember something from such a long time ago. I mean, if I were trying to call on a specific, dramatic memory, I’d have more confidence in my ability, but this? I’m doubting I’ll reel in anything of describable value when I cast my line into what have become the murky and age muddled waters of my memory.
Elementary school lunch wasn’t important. It was just another thing that happened every day – same place, same people. I don’t need that information anymore. It has to have been crowded out by important things, right? Surprisingly, instead of fishing a boot or an old tire out of those polluted waters, when I close my eyes I see into my mind, as if through the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. It is almost like I am actually standing outside that cafeteria, looking in through the rectangular windows at rows and rows of tables, each one lined with chattering children.
Then suddenly, I’m not standing outside the windows anymore. In a flash, I’m inside the room where the ambient noise rises ferociously with the spark of my transition. Utensils scrape across and smack into plastic, segmented tray plates that clink against one another and slide along table tops and counters in search of final resting places. Chairs scratch the floor both meeting and departing table tops, as diners come and go. Bags, books, and other items thump and bump as they drop into waiting places, becoming items of secondary importance now that the task at hand is eating, socializing.
Above and beyond these sounds there are the types of audible events that come only from the mouths of humans: talking, laughing, yelling. The majority of this is of the child variety, mostly high-pitched, squeaky, and giggly. Most of the yelling is happy, jovial, prankish. Occasionally, there’s an angry yelp or an adult admonition. The overarching effect of the mingled, youthful voices in all of their utterances is a feeling of busyness, of pleasant fellowship and mirth.
I feel, in my mind, as if I’m standing there now. Having entered suddenly, but still separate from all of this, I stand apart from it all. I’m just taking it in with my eyes closed. But the deeper I go, the more I process. I’m allowing myself to sink into those waters and wade out to a place where eventually there’s a drop-off.
I’m going to fall right in.
It happens, and the next transition hits me with cool, hard plastic under my posterior. My legs dangle towards the floor, and I grasp a metal fork with curiously uneven tines in my right hand. The fork is poised over a pretty ugly example of fruit cocktail, slimy with syrup and unnaturally vibrant.
The cocktail isn’t half as bad as the rectangular piece of gooey mess masquerading as pizza. I know this and at the same time, I also identify with the unarguable fact that I love this disgusting mockery of a real pie, just as I indiscriminately adore the grease-laden tator tots that neighbor it in the adjoining tray segment.
I look up and now I’m taking in a sea of faces at my level. Instantly I’m overcome with emotions that blast me almost simultaneously: wonder, excitement, insecurity, awkwardness, need, desire, invincibility.
This is youth, glorious youth. I have more than just miles to go; there’s a path stretched out in front of me to what seems infinity. All I can see is shining horizon and I know that forever is just over the hill up ahead, a sparkling, unknowable treasure of eternal proportions.
For a moment the sounds disappear. For just a heartbeat every smell of sickeningly delicious grease puddled over cheap cheese on soggy crust is undetectable. The cool, slick cardboard milk carton under the curled fingers of my left hand disappears. All the children move in slow motion.
I feel like a time-traveler in my own mind, and for just that one moment, there’s a distinct and deep pain that knifes through me, witnessing this slice of my past, this irrelevant little reenactment of an any-day sometime so long ago in my life.
I want to stand up and scream, “We are all here again! Back here again! Have we made mistakes!? Let’s do better this time!”
But then it all rushes back in with its loud busyness, its irreversible hurrying of children forward into their fates. For a moment, I feel defeated, and then I blink my eyes, and it all swirls away in the same way that bath water flows down the drain – pulling away both the bright, gleaming bubbles and the dirty scum that once clung to you, in the same smooth motion.
As I open my eyes in the here and now, I reflect on that moment at the end, that painful longing to hit the “restart” button. But I’m here, for better or worse, and it’s okay if I can’t change the things my momentarily enlightened “little” self so worried about for that brief spell inside my mind. She forgot for a beat that out here on the other end, I’m not too shabby, and even all of the mistakes and occasional bad decisions have had a hand in making me who I am today. No regrets.
Well, I do kind of wish she had grabbed one of those tater tots and slammed it. This lagging metabolism is a bitch. *wink*
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