I was turning the lock on my front door the other day and I had an unbidden image of you come upon me. It was of you in the living room in your momma’s arms being your usual cuddly self. As I opened my door wide into my empty and dark apartment, the image was replaced by pink balloons. Your memorial balloon release on that chilly November morning; Aeva in my arms and the wind tangling the mass of helium filled latex into a nearby tree. It was almost funny enough to laugh. But it got caught up in my throat instead. Then and once again, now.
My children leave every other weekend, for a few days, to be with their dad. They were not here this weekend, but tonight, they are.
Gone. Then back again. Gone. Then back.
Their rooms are quiet always when they aren’t here. I like it that way. I can almost imagine that they’re just in the other room and their scent, sweet and mine, can be taken in from their rumpled sheets.
They are MESSY children. They leave their imprints everywhere in the house. I trip over shoes and dolls and find panties strung like little banners where a child tried to kick it into a basket. And missed.
But they show proof of existence.
Gone. But back again.
I have held on to hand-me-down clothing given to me for my littlest in a green tub that now stands in the middle of their room, overflowing with articles both girls have dug through. Clothes that, when I first received them, I could not imagine Aeva growing into any time soon. That was yesterday. Or so it seems.
You feel like yesterday to me. Like Friday evening, home without kids because they are visiting dad. Going down to VA to hang out with friends. Too busy to call home because weekends away are fun.
My Friday evening, before going home, involved a stop at the Postal Office. As I’m sure you know, I have a love hate relationship with the post office. Having to find one, getting in line, finding the right shipping thinga-majig…this all based on if I even REMEMBER to make it to the post office on time. Or at all.
In the post office I picked up a poster mailer. From my bag I pulled out a sketch book I hadn’t touched in a while, full of partial pencil sketches and abandoned ideas. The last few weeks I have been sketching in ink, drafting rough little images of Iris’s sweet smile and Aeva’s dramatic poses. I see these girls almost every day, and yet my sketches show messy lines and blurred features now and again.
In my sketch book there’s a drawing of you. Bold and clear lines. I never picked up a pencil, and once I had decided on your image, I never needed a second page. I wanted to draw you smiling, like I could see you in my Yesterday and like I described you a year ago.
My mind couldn’t wrap around your little smile that lifted just a little higher on the right. My fingers couldn’t curve it. I drew you as I knew you to be inside: Wise. Looking back at me as though the past two years you’ve been growing up somewhere away from here.
Gone. Not yet back again.
But when those balloons cleared from sight, I struggled to comprehend again that you’re gone. You’re not home in Georgia, or away anywhere I can reach you at. How can that be possible? I have a set of your PJs, worn down by Aeva’s insistent use of them. I have the little cast. The pictures.
How does anyone, anything, GO…and not come back?
I drew you with curls. It was one of the last touches I had of your sweet physical form. The crazy waves of curls crashing around your face, hiding all the traces of cancer on your little head. Refusing to be destroyed. I loved their rebellion.
Your momma and daddy just got that package. I didn’t tell them about it. It was my gift to them for your 2nd angelversary.
Every morning I pull my clothes from the same dresser where your memorial is placed. There’s a scent so sweet there I cannot explain but it smells of clean, and home, and love. I must havewalked by it a million times since I moved you there. Last week it made me stop. I sniffed every article of clothing, checking against the fresh laundry out of the dryer…trying to pin-point its origin. Why it seemed so nostalgic. It’s when I looked up at the Jasmine candle I set by you that I realized where it came from. It reminds me to start my day with love towards my children whom soon will grow up so quickly that today will only feel like Yesterday.
I realize now, you’re a messy little girl yourself. You’ve left imprints of your existence everywhere so thick that two years do not begin to diminish the memory of you in my Yesterday. Little banners of life that string up across everyday life, stopping me in my tracks and reminding me that you were here. Proofs of your existence that don’t fade like the strewn laundry and the toys of my daughters. Proof that is more resistant to time than your scent, which unlike my own twos’, can’t be replenished with a snuggled night. Your life made use of my grief and fashioned it into a compass. To remember. To cherish. To be messy with my existence and love.
The grief that feels like its gone. Yet rolls right back again.
My lost sense of direction.