Double Agents

August 6, 2010

It’s Dot’s first concert in the park.  Performing is Victor Johnson, very much a local celebrity, and with him is an absolutely brilliant fiddle player who reminds me of how much I wanted to learn to play the fiddle (not the violin, the fiddle) when I was growing up.  The music is lovely – guitar and fiddle and tunes that, even when they are completely new to me are imbued with the sense of the familiar.  There’s a baby mosh pit up in front of the musicians, with children ranging from very tiny to pre-teens, and they’re all spinning and hopping and dancing with the abandon and energy of the very young.

We’ve walked here, pushing our stroller, and Dot is very glad to get out, to be held up to look around the park.  She is so interested in things now, and the noises and bright colors and sounds make her eyes grow wide.  N dances with her, lifting her over his head, moving to the rhythm of the music, and she smiles the beautiful, gummy smile that makes my heart plop right out of my chest and dissolve into adoring goo.  Other parents see us and smile, probably remembering when their own kids were so small.

We are surrounded by parents.  We are part of a large group of parents.  We are part of a large group of people I went out of my way to avoid not too long ago.  And here’s the second strangest thing: we look like we fit in. The strangest thing?  For this moment, surrounded by music and life and good will, we feel like we fit in. We are happy to be here, happy to be a part of this.  The part of my brain that used to look forward to the future suddenly jerks to life and says, next year, she’ll probably want to join the baby mosh pit.

Then he goes into “You are My Sunshine,” and Dot starts to wiggle – she knows this one, you see, from all of the times I’ve sung it to her.  This sweet, sad song is one my grandfather taught all of his children and grandchildren.  After his funeral, we held hands and sang it around his grave.  As the first verse goes into, “Please don’t take my sunshine away,” tears well up in my eyes and even though I should be used to it by now, to the way that a wave of sadness can hit me out of the blue, I’m almost indignant. We’re still dancing; Dot’s still happily kicking and wiggling.  I know what’s coming next and try to brace for it, and then –

The other night, Dear,
As I lay sleeping,
I dreamed I held you in my arms.
When I awoke, Dear,
I was mistaken,
So I hugged my head and I cried.

I look at N, and see the knowledge in his eyes, too.  We look like we belong here, but we’re misfits, marked with grief that can be brought to the surface so easily.  We are achingly aware of our missing almost-two-year-old.  The sunshine and general air of happiness, our joy at being able to do this with our beautiful and vibrantly alive daughter – these are wonderful things, and part of who we are.  But the fact that grief lies just below the surface and can be easily whistled up – that’s part of us, too.

We leave before the concert is completely over.  We’ve enjoyed it, we’ve enjoyed pretending and not-quite-pretending to belong to the throng of families, even though we know we’re double agents and will have to report back to Grief and Wailing headquarters before the summer is over.

I look over my shoulder before we make the turn that will hide the park from view and wonder how many more of us double agents are there.



  1. I have that ‘double agent’ feeling so so often now that M is here. And that song makes me cry everytime.

  2. oh, Erica, this is such a heart-achingly beautiful post that speaks right to my heart.
    I too sometimes wonder if I may be around a double-agent who wonders if I am also one, or who looks at me and thinks I am such a blissful mother…
    thinking of you, sweet mama. xo

  3. Yep from me, too. Feeling like I fit in all of a sudden, but still feeling like a complete misfit at the same time.

  4. Grief and Wailing HQ is a brilliant description … and “You are my Sunshine” is one of the songs absolutely guaranteed to floor me too.

  5. Such a sad sweet song.

    I often wonder who the other ‘double agents’ are in the seemingly happy crowd. I sometimes wish we could identify one another somehow.

    See you at Grief and Wailing HQ sometime. Sigh.

  6. I am still trying to active “The part of my brain that used to look forward to the future”

    And the grief is there just below the surface. Lovely post.

  7. I always choke on “Please don’t take my sunshine away” when I sing that song.

    I know well the feeling of looking like I belong, but not quite belonging. After a long time, it started to get easier for me, but I still don’t fully fit.

  8. you always get me with the last lines. i totally understand. and i don’t think i’ve sung that to any of my children since losing Ireland

  9. I recognize many things of what you write, even though my story is very different. Grief lying just below the surface for one. Also feeling like a double agent rings true, especially since my daughter started pre-school. I join in with the other parents, but at times their concerns are completely foreign to me, or mine (secretly) to them.

  10. Here from CdlC. Thank you for sharing this post. It is so beautifully written.
    with love – Foxy

  11. This really moved me.

    (here from creme)

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