Journey to Portland

March 21, 2011

We set out later than we’d planned, driving under a blanket of clouds toward where the sun was setting. Dot signaled her appreciation of her new (forward facing!) car seat by napping in it, which made me feel comforted somehow. There will be difficult days ahead as we explain that she has a brother, that we love and miss him, days when she has to come to terms with how she feels about all of this, too. But for now, she feels safe and loved and the momentous nature of the trip is not even on her radar.

Portland Bound

Portland Bound

We drove into Portland in the dark, passing by streets we traveled often, once upon a time, when we carried so many hopes and fears here. We were welcomed by kind and efficient hotel staff and watched Dot’s exuberant discovery of a toilet paper roll that she could reach without assistance, and laughed as she ran through the room trailing toilet paper and giggling. We fell into soft, clean beds and woke to rain. We found our donuts, returned to the book lovers’ paradise that is Powell’s, foraged for snacks and lunch at Whole Foods, napped, bathed, and met N’s friend and his wife and watched as Dot charmed them. We brunched, returned to the Japanese Garden, had tea in the quiet, lobby of an old hotel, surrounded by dark wood and cushions. We walked by parks and museums.

And, on our last day, we made our way to the children’s garden where Teddy took his last few breaths.

It is so different in the spring. When last I was there it was mid-August, lush and leafy, and so warm that I remember sweating even in the shade, even in the thin, cotton hospital gown. Now it seemed so much less shaded, so much more open, gray and bright at the same time. Dot was asleep on her daddy’s shoulder as we entered. We walked to the place where we sat with our son as he died and we sat on the same bench, under the same ornamental plum tree, now bursting with pink blossoms. We cried and clung to each other as Dot slept on oblivious. It felt like forever, not long enough and too long at the same time.

And who knows how long we would have sat there, lost in the flood of memories, plum blossom petals drifting down on our heads and shoulders, if we hadn’t been called back to reality by the decidedly earthy and mundane smell of a fresh diaper. Which is some sort of perfect metaphor for life, isn’t it? The divine and the ridiculous, the sacred and the profane? And thank goodness. Because as much as I needed to lose myself in those memories, I needed to be pulled back to the present. This present, where I miss my little huckleberry every day, but where I also watch his sister grow into this amazing, joyful, immediate (and occasionally smelly) little person.

We passed the Tin Man. He looked enigmatic and sad, holding his flower pot and red shoes. I thought about kicking him, but in the end I didn’t. I still wish he had meant what I’d hoped he meant, but maybe I’m starting to accept that there was nothing I could have done that would have saved Teddy. Maybe this is why I felt sorry for the statue who’d betrayed my hopes, my last feeble belief in miracles.

Poor Tin Man, it wasn’t your fault. Nor mine. Nor mine.

Tin Man

Tin Man

Oh, darling boy, I still miss you so. I wish I could hold you again, that love had been enough to help you breathe, that you were in the back seat, too. I will always love you, always miss you. I will always want you back. That’s just part of who I am now.

I’m glad we went. I’m glad we found our way back to this place. I’m glad that Dot was with us when we did. I’m glad I didn’t shatter into a thousand pieces. I think it will be easier to return again, now that we know it won’t kill us. I think we’ll go back soon, and maybe I’ll bring a brush to clean up Teddy’s memorial brick. Or maybe I won’t.

There’s something beautiful about time and moss and tiny leaves.

Teddy's brick

Teddy's brick




  1. Oh Erica, my heart swelled reading this. My heart is still broken for you, of course, that Teddy is not here. But this post was so tender and loving. I get what you mean about those divine and ridiculous moments intersecting. Like Angus tripping over in the freshly mown grass at the cemetery visiting Hope. If you don’t laugh, you’ll certainly cry.

  2. Dot is such a cutie pie! I am sure she will grow up knowing that her brother will always be with her in spirit no matter what.

    I love her car seat also! Is she forward facing? I saw recently they recommended littles stay rear facing till age 2 (minimum)


  3. Oh, tears… The brick is lovely, just as it is.

    I’m so glad you had the opportunity to go and survive it and know in your heart that you did everything you could to take care of Teddy, and show him how much you love(d) him. And also come back to the present, with your little huckleberry in your heart.

    Thank you for sharing this.

  4. Thanks so much, all of you. I’m going to be processing this trip for a long time, I think, but I’m glad we went.

    And I’ve been reading about backward facing till age two, too. Guess I’m turning the car seat back around – poor little Dot. She’s been loving her view.

  5. Dot is such a dear. She looks very peaceful snoozing away in her car seat.

    I’m glad you forgave the Tin Man, I think that the original post you wrote about him meant a great deal to me as I also still held out a belief in miracles and signs before G’s death. Seems silly now. But you are right, it wasn’t his fault and it certainly, certainly wasn’t yours.

    It is a strange world, where one grows, changes and lives (and yes, occasionally, smells!) and the other doesn’t.

    I love the tiny leaves on Teddy’s stone.

  6. Oh my lovely. Teddy’s brick. Dot’s lovely cheeks.

    There’s something beautiful about time and moss and tiny leaves

    There is.

  7. this brought me to tears. ((hugs))
    I love the brick, esp with the moss and tiny leaves hugging it. xo

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