...but I am today. Because today Eleanor and Josephine got a new room. As their bodies expand, so do their things. Bigger beds. More books. Bigger, bouncier, less fragile bodies, means less room for sentimental things. So now there is a big peach chest emblazoned with S floating around the house. It squats in my room. In the living room. In the girls' room. It is in danger, in a sense. Constant ever present danger that it will be opened. I will take a shower, and come out, dry off, find its contents scattered. Rose petals, pictures frames, book pages. I am delaying making a decision, because I know her chest will end up in some closet. For the safe keeping I never meant to do. In the meantime, I've been digging through it. This is something I don't do. The wound picking I used to love that no longer feels good. Not that I don't miss it.
So much has changed since I folded her Christmas sleepers and ran my palms over the yellow striped bits of cloth. I cried, but I smiled. I even laughed. I laughed when I saw the rip in the back of that Christmas sleeper. Made by our dog. Who let me cry on his scrawny shoulder. And later bit Eleanor. And was put down. When I was hugely pregnant with Josephine. That's a story that is anything but funny. I guess. But what a life. That just keeps moving and changing. And, with time, even the shortest lives take on new significances. And I laugh because I know new, more important things all the time.
"Mom, are you a tiny bit sad about Sophie?" I tell her I'm very sad about Sophie. "But you're a lot happy about us?" I tell them that I am--that they are the absolute lights of my life. Those times make my heart swell. I am teaching them something about joy and sadness. And deep emotion. But my heart also beats for the times I hear Sophie as part of their daily vocabulary. "Josephine, GET OUT OF MY ROOM! I want to be alone. GO GET A SNACK! GO THINK ABOUT SOPHIE! GO MARRY A PRINCESS!"
A few of the things I saw in the chest:
A Gators uniform.
A Spalding shirt.
A pink hooded towel signed with curly letters written in sharpee.
A quilt from the Atlanta gift show.
A book called "When Sophie Gets Angry" from Barnes and Noble in Bowie. (Which now makes me laugh because it makes me think about Sophie as a scary angry haunting ghost. And that's nothing like anything I believe about her. And it's absurdly funny.)
A book called "My Friend Gorilla" which really does break my heart a little. Too much to read.
A picture of her that I scanned and printed and tried to pretty up and make presentable. So I could frame it in my house. And, fuck, it hurts that she died. That her skin was that red in places. But breathe. Remember that documentary about the moment of death, in which they say bleeding to death is like slowly slipping away. There. That hurts a little less.
A slip from the florist, regarding a tree, that later died.
Cards. Pinks and greens. Brights and pastels. Congratulations! Dated from my shower.
Cards. Subtle colors. Sensitive fonts. Kind words. From people I talk to daily still. From family and from friends. From people who still remember, and people who've moved on. From people who've lost their own babies. From people with whom I'm no longer friendly. From people I love. From the Dance Party. From the giver of the red rocking chair and the eclipse gazer, who've since both died. The world just keeps changing. Its makeup constantly shifting, as my sadness really does drift away to make room for my joy, and the joy and the sadness of others.
A box of crayons. And I gave it to the girls. I just gave it to them. For coloring, paper stripping, breaking, melting, and throwing away. Just for living.
I look at and finger these soft things. They smell old now. And they strum new chords. Or maybe the guitar is tuned to a new key. Or harmonies layer the sadness with joy. They don't hurt like they used to. What hurts is the way they make me laugh, and how the smiles come easier than the tears. But even that hurt feels so fucking good.
I'm not some great person. Changed. Or calm. Or taking things in stride. I'm not more brilliant. Or more patient (god, no). But I can look at these things that felt like a thousand knives twisting, and see a story that unfolds. That keeps unfolding. Doubling over, reaching into and out of me, in ways I never dreamed.