October 5, 2012

We have moved. Into a house with green walls – bright lime green in the kitchen, a strange and muddy cross between olive and avocado in the living room, froggy green in the bathroom and a mix of these greens in the bedrooms.

A frog’s house. Cozy in the mud. It may not sound comforting, but it feels that way. And it will stay that way until we’ve sorted and unpacked and settled a bit. At which point, I’ll leave the lime green and the froggy green, and pull in some yellows. Find some big canvasses and cover them all in deep blues and ice blues with glints of gold and orange and green and hang them strategically. I have plans.

But for now, the unpacking.

We stayed in hotel rooms for a few days, living out of suitcases, which is a strange thing to do, really, if you aren’t on vacation or traveling for business. I packed mine with work clothes, pajamas, key toiletries, and Teddy’s ashes, wrapped up in the yellow baby blanket my mother knit for him. Grief goes on and on, and changes as it goes, but I don’t know if I’ll ever reach a point where I can not keep his pathetically small earthly remains close to me.

I wonder if any mother of a dead child has put that child’s ashes in storage?

Our bedroom is unpacked (mostly) and the ashes are now back in the dresser. Without television or internet, we read a lot of stories. N reads to Dot every night, I read to her frequently throughout the day, and she “reads” to both of us every day, too.

We read The Amazing Bone, and N glosses over the parts where little Pearl the Pig talks about not wanting to die after the fox decides to eat her. Funny how shy he is of that word, and by contrast, how not shy of it I am. I read the book straight, and part of that is because I can’t help but respect the integrity of a really good book, no matter who the audience is, and part of that is because I have faith in Dot’s two-year-old ability to process what she needs to, and part of that is because I don’t think that it will help her in the long run if her parents are so afraid of death they can’t even name it.

Part of it might also be because Teddy’s ashes are an arm’s reach away in the dresser and that’s a hard thing, but also a true thing about my life and about the nature of life.  I’m not sure how I’ll ever come to terms with that, but I owe it to myself and to him, to N and to Dot, to keep trying.

We had friends and students help with the heavy lifting and furniture. My desk stayed in storage, at my own suggestion. We have limited space, and N needs an office sanctuary more than I do, and if I don’t have time to myself, I hardly need a room of my own (or a desk of my own), do I? I could make this suggestion because it’s temporary, but having made it, I can’t help but be sad that motherhood appears to have cost me my writing corner and my art corner, even for a few years. Perhaps next year I’ll find out I will not receive tenure and then I can find a nice boring job that doesn’t own my heart. A job I can be reasonably bad at, but where I can have a Word document of my latest writing project pulled up on my work computer at all times. There are worse things.

Two nights ago, Dot was wheezing and gasping for air, and while N steamed up the bathroom, I stumbled through the house trying to remember where I packed the fucking thermometer, the damned baby acetaminophen, the stupid medicine droppers. When we travel, I know exactly where the first aid supplies are, but moving so quickly, I lost track. Major mothering fail. After a stubbed toe, and much frantic searching, I found what we needed; her daddy held her in the warm and steamy shower; her breathing eased.

And now – can you be exhausted from relief? I am so grateful for her working lungs and so scared of her vulnerability and so amazed by her strength and so angry (still, and still) that her brother’s lungs couldn’t sustain him.

And so amazed at how the tiniest things can change us forever.




  1. Oh I’m so sorry that your little Dot had croup. It’s very scary and I think, perhaps, especially so when you know how vital and fragile lungs are.

    I quite like the sound of your little green house. But I think it will be even nicer when you have made your additions.

    Georgina’s ashes would have gone in my suitcase too.

    I have never read The Amazing Bone but I know that I do feel a bit of tension when I am reading stories that involve death. I was recently reading a version of Chicken Licken, whose companions met a particularly unflinching fate at the teeth of Foxy Loxy (and their headless corpses were rather graphically stacked at the side of the den, this will teach me to read the story myself FIRST) but I thought about editing a la N.

    But I didn’t. Because sometimes life will come along and bite your head off. You’re think you’re going to see the King and you end up a decapitated corpse in a stack. Sigh. And it didn’t seem to bother J in the slightest. She’s far more robust than I imagine.

  2. You’re home! That’s wonderful news after the no-fun of moving. And when we moved I was neurotic as hell about where Sam’s ashes were and carried them in my purse (in the side zipper pouch) – I was terrified of them becoming one of those things that you can never find post-unpacking. Welcome home and so glad that Dot is feeling better.

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