Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Amazing Grace

I joined this mother's group online a few months ago. They do outings and have all sorts of subgroups, like Stroller Striders, SAHMs (well known acronym in the world of Stay At Home Moms), New Moms, Depressed Moms, Overly Happy Moms, Moms who Love to Cook, Moms who Hate to Cook, you get the idea. One group, I noticed, was called "Motherless Mothers". I had to read it a couple times before I figured out what it was saying and I thought, "oh God that's sad." And then I realized I could belong to this group. It hits me unpredictably, I guess.


She told me she would send a good one down. About a month before she left us, she spoke to you through a recorder, a message I haven't the courage to listen to since I heard her say it. Someday we will sit down and listen together, and you will hold me as I listen. I think if I had really believed she was dying, even as I sat in her hospice room with her, I would have made her say more and write more... to you, to Noah, to me.

I learned I was pregnant with you, dear Grace, in my mom's, your Grammy's, room at the Haverhill hospice house. Yes, I took the test in her private bathroom. I choked back my happiness throughout the day and waited to have Grandpa in the room too, before I told her, so that he could see her reaction and remember it always. She cried a little and she laughed when I told her where I took the pregnancy test: "I bet that's the only pregnancy test anyone has ever taken in this place." It was funny and the truth of it is painful. That in hospice, life only ends.

She told me she would send a good one down. She heard your heartbeat; we recorded it at eight weeks. She heard your heartbeat weeks before she left me and she smiled and whispered, weaker now,"strong heartbeat" and later, to my dad, "it's a girl."

Your Grammy sent a good one down. She sent the best one; she sent you. You, who clear my mind from everything as soon as I see you each day. You, who instead of screaming when I wipe your face, stick out your tongue and try and lick the wet cloth. You, who reaches out and grabs me around the neck and pulls me as close as you possibly can so often (what baby actually does that?). You, who giggles and laughs and then laughs harder when I pat pat pat the bottoms of the shoes I'm putting on you, trying to get you to uncurl your toes. You, who loves doggies as long as you're looking at them from my arms. You, who crawls up the stairs laughing as you look behind you when I forget to close the gate. You, who dances and sings with music always. You, who starts to laugh your contagious laugh when you see me laugh and then we're both laughing and it's all over. You say so much with your two words, "dada" and "hi....". (Maybe all any of us needs is a couple words and just a lot of expression).

I believe mom hugged you closely before I ever met you.

The other night, at your first birthday party, I got to sit next to you. The table was a circle and so we got to see Heidi and Anna, Annie and Scott, Daddy, Noah, and Grandpa and Aunt Jan all at the same time. I was the luckiest girl in the world. Noah on one side, Gracie on the other. You wore an off white lace dress and your bald head was adorned with a giant red bow, and on your feet, sparkly red shoes. I dressed my little girl in her lavish birthday dress, proudly, unapologetically, frillilly. And yes, mom's voice was of course in my head (oh, the dresses she would have found for you!). "Oh... Jaaaanet. Oh! Where did you find it?"

Her voice is so often in my head, Gracie. And I am so sorry it won't ever really be in yours. I guess I do fit into this category of Motherless Mother, but the truth is I've never felt motherless in the 19 months wherein I've technically been so. A mom, as I hope you find and never question, is with you always. Always in your head, always in some way engrained in your beliefs. And in my case, her casual pirouettes (in the kitchen, always) have become part of what I do when I'm waiting... or showing off for you guys. And her expressions, you hear those from me every day (though you don't know what they mean yet... don't worry, I still don't know what some of them mean..."I looked all around Robin's barn"... what does that mean?). Her opinion will always matter to me and I think I will always know what it is. You will know her through me, your Grammy in "heavena" (as Noah has often said), even when I'm not spelling it out for you.

Mom and me
It is hard for me not to think of you as her final gift to me. I do the math and (sorry, avert your eyes if you want) it seems, Grace, that you began one or two days before we learned her doctor was out of treatments, that this fucked up cancer-chemo-cancer-more chemo-more chemo-more cancer trip we'd been on was, in fact, going to be terminal for mom too. She and I had time to celebrate the thought of you, she lying alert in her bed, me in the chair next to her, leaning over limply, lying on her lap. We allowed ourselves to dream again of the little girl we'd talked about me having since I was a little girl. We thought about names for a boy and then just in case it was a girl, we thought about girl names. We had time to share this thought of you. And you were with us that whole time. And after she was gone, you were still here, and I was never alone.

Gracie and me

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Molehills to Mountains

I must have been about eleven years old at the time, climbing Tuckerman's Ravine with my family and some family friends. It was the most simple thing, this tiny moment of time, but I've thought of it so often since, this little footstep in my life. I had been blankly staring at the ground throughout the hours of this hike, thinking of things I don't remember now, taking in little to none of the beauty that surrounded me. Something subtle took me out of my fog, perhaps a change in pace, a stronger than usual gust of wind, a laugh from a family member. And suddenly, strangely, it occurred to me that I would never have this moment again.

I stared down at one particular, unremarkable rock and committed myself to this thought: I won't forget this moment, no matter how ordinary it is. Someday, hopefully... okay... IF I ever become older, clearly older than I am right now and I know more about how my life turns out to be, I will appreciate where I am and remember where I was one normal summer day on a mundane walk up another boring mountain. I promised myself I would remember that moment and say, wow, eleven year old Janet, you are not at that rock anymore, you are not on that mountain. You are not eleven nor do you care about most of the things you cared about at eleven. I couldn't imagine I would ever be anywhere else. And I knew I would never remember that moment. But I do.

I have tried, through the years, to have other such mundane, uneventful moments, times where all I was doing was *being* who I was in my life then, where I could remember that moment later in life and appreciate it for all that it was and stare plainly at my past and how real it was to me at those moments. But throughout the past 33 years (damn, 33 years), only the day on the mountain has stayed with me.

Two nights ago, my baby girl Gracie whimpered for a moment when I put in her crib to sleep. So, instead of letting her settle on her own, as the books and the experts would say to do, and as I will typically do at such moments, I picked her up in my arms and walked her into our darkened bedroom, where I sat down at our rocking chair. She sank softly into me, hands wrapped around my neck, head nuzzled onto my shoulder, soft wisps of hair slightly covering the warmth of her tiny head. We have been here before, holding each other a little bit past her bedtime, rocking slowly, taking one another in for our own reasons. Here was my new moment, my current ordinary me, one that I had a feeling I would remember always. It hit me in the same sort of way, with nothing particularly unique to trigger the thought. This moment was fleeting; I could not imagine any other me than this me.

I know that I was afraid when I was eleven. I was afraid I would never be here. I don't think I thought of it as such when I was eleven, but I know what I've always wanted to have. Here it is, in my arms, the other sleeping in his bed. And now, at 33, I am suddenly all too aware that moments, even mundane moments, pass quickly and so does time, no matter how tightly it is held, no matter how long we try and draw our moments out. So, thank you, Grace, Noah, John. Thank you for now, for this.

Noah and me, March 2009
Grace and me, March 2012