"Yay! There's mine!"
Cecilia's ever-enthusiastic mood sharply contrasted with my own today. The beginning of March had kinda smacked me in the heart. Distracting myself with a fit of fresh organization attempts, I was putting up coat hooks, using a hammer to beat nails into wood.
"Yep, that's done." Cecilia proudly stuck her pink puffy coat on the hook. "Felicity's turn!" More taps. Another gleeful chortle, and a smaller, darker pink puffy coat's hood was hung up. Good. They needed something their own height. Straightening up, I looked around for something else to hammer at.
"Mom! What about pwetend fwiend? She needs a hook!"
Suddenly the hammer looked blurry. I turned to the toolbox and shut it tight, leaning over it. Deep breaths.
My four year old has two pretend friends. One is a boy slightly older than herself. He's been around as long since Cecilia could talk. So what if his name is "Coco."
But the second pretend friend is a girl, "smaller than baby" I'm told, who oddly only made her appearance this past year. Cecilia carries her around sometimes, makes her go first or last, buckles her into the car seat, gets extra toys for her to have, and occasionally blames messes on her. Ce changes her name all the time. Sometimes she's "Lily," sometimes "Sparkles." But usually, she's just "Pwetend Fwend."
I suppose I can be forgiven if I sometimes like to pretend they're there, too. It does seem unusually apropos for my daughter to have this particular set of playmates.
Cecilia doesn't know about the events of last March. She just witnesses that we sometimes bring decorations to "Pepper" at a field of stones where mommy cries a little and then we all sing a short song and depart, making sure that she [Cecilia] has not absconded with any floral arrangements.
Someday this odd routine will all make more sense to Cecilia. Someday I will tell Felicity that she is not the youngest; that she is--in fact--a big sister. Some years from now, though.
For the present, it makes me smile to witness the attention the pretend friends receive. Ce often wants "Sparkles" to get pushed in an empty swing beside her. She insists that I "Look, look!! Pwetend fwend is chasing me!" And shrieking with laughter, the stomping, shouting four year-old tears away with the dainty two year old, not seeing the lack that I see, not realizing anyone is missing in the merry pursuit. On foot in the house, or on trikes at the park, pretend friends are rarely far behind for Cecilia.
|"Mom, Pretend Friend is chasing us!"|
Oh I'm not trying to be morbid, or "wallow" in my loss, or whatever people who haven't "been there" might assume a person like myself is doing in such a situation. I'm just not the type to "move on" by forgetting. I do want to remember how old Perpetua is up there. In case the baby ages and stages apply in some vague way in eternity. And if it does makes any difference outside of time: she's almost six months old now. That noticing, grabbing, smiling stage where she would learn how to sit up with that green Bumbo thing I have that her sisters loved to sit in, watching me intently as I cracked eggs and swept floors.
No, getting a break from carrying around little people hasn't been an issue for me. My smallest is an active two year-old with an immense vocabulary. She'll be out of diapers before long. Her face is changing, taking on the look of a child. She's no baby anymore.
I guess it makes sense that this month will be difficult. A year late, I am keenly aware of her struggles in March. Every day, throughout the day, I wonder if this is the day she last fell asleep. A frantic inner monologue commences:
"What was this day like for you last year, Pepper?? I'm so sorry I didn't notice. Mommy is so very, very sorry. I just hope I wasn't yelling at your sisters when you... Oh. I just hope not. I hope I was singing or humming something soothing. I hope that's the last thing you heard when you went to sleep but oh it's just that I can get so sick and grouchy when I'm pregnant... I mean I hope I was at least talking softly, or heck, just breathing softly. I wish my own breaths could have helped you. Darn it, I was probably just sleeping here in this bed, stupidly and tragically unaware... helpless, either way..."
I wonder if this is kind of how Peter felt when he remembered Good Friday. "I couldn't do anything to save Him. But at least I could have been there, been beside Him till the last. Why wasn't I? Why wasn't I..."
Not that any of these anxious ruminations matter in the end. How can you be more "with" someone than with your unborn baby, anyway?
Pepper, I know for certain that--at least--you heard my heart.
Whenever I visit her resting place, I sing her a song. I try to make up for the fact that I likely didn't sing her into her last sleep. Figure if I sing to her each time then, throughout my lifetime, I will sing her all the songs I know. I will chat with her about everything. She will know her mother well.
I can't wait to get to know her. Certainly something to look forward to.
I'm finding that one can, kind of, with lots of wincing, get more accustomed to the parallel universe of "if" and "what would have been." I mean, after such "what if's" teach you exactly how many hours you can cry at one sitting, and drive you to sleep nights with a large teddy bear in any bed than the one that could have been where That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Dwelt-On happened while you just slept and had no clue, no inkling at all...
"No, Ce. Pretend friend doesn't need a coat hook." If she had needed one, it would have been for the pink crocheted coat, with a short zipper and a small hood. I know exactly which one, and exactly where it is: deep in storage.
I snapped the tool box shut.
Fliss is smiling up at me. She doesn't have pretend friends. I paste on a smile.
"Look at what, Fliss?"
"Tinkerbell! Right there." She giggled. "Right behind you!" Her tiny finger pointed emphatically.
I almost expected to see more than air when I turned. But it's just my living room. I looked for a Tinkerbell sticker, toy, book... something. Nothing there.
Fliss was still smiling. Looking over my shoulder.
Aww shucks... Pep, Sparkles, Tink, whatever you go by these days:
You know I believe. You know that I love you.
I will tend to your sisters now.