Friday, August 15, 2014

First (Erstwhile) Birthday

Dearest Pepper,

Today, you would have turned one. I so wish you could have.

I would have done what I've done with all your sisters on their first birthday: strapped you into your high chair and given you your first piece of cake, sans fork. Chocolate, of course. You would likely also have been sans shirt, since I've learned through my dozen years of motherhood that I'd rather wash baby bellies off than a baby bib, a baby shirt, and baby pants. Diapers are the best eating costumes for one year-olds, like you.

Except you never needed a diaper, did you? Huh. Advanced in so many ways, you heavenly kid you. Instead of just toddling your way out of babyhood, you've now spent over a year (in some timeless way) beholding the Eternal Light. Lux perpetua

It is you who continually teach me, little one. There is little I can teach you.

Other than to tell you stuff like what your birthday here would have entailed (you'd be stripped and grinning, covered in cake: a very classy, delicious disaster), and to tell you how I arbitrarily decided that August 15 was, indeed, to be your birthday, given that you were never, actually, born.

You see, your big sister Felicity (how odd and delightful it is to call my littlest one here a "big" sister) was born on September 15, the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, as I ruefully noted while getting checked into the hospital almost three years ago that day. I was glad her name meant "happiness," making up for a dolorous-sounding day.

So you were due around September 1st. I tended to give birth a couple weeks early. Therefore, August 15, exactly a month before Felicity, and also on a feast of Mother Mary... well, that just seemed appropriate when picking a birthday out of hat. Particularly since it is the feast of the Assumption, when Our Lady arrived at where you are.

Since today is a Holy Day, it will also ensure I'm always at Mass on "your birthday," in the presence of the Lord for whom earth and heaven are no further apart than a footstool and a throne. I like being close to you, little one, older one, sweet, sassy and super-involved one. Our whole family is saturated in your prayers; thank you for them! You've been busy, I can tell.

But because you're so darn cool and invisible and stuff, I can't treat you to a messy cake decorated by your doting sisters today, can't take a million pictures of you liking your frosting-covered hands before bath, breast, and bed. Instead... well, I've got a cute teddy bear "Happy Birthday" balloon which I'll take to your grave.

I'll kneel on that precious rectangle of dirt and try to drive it as far into the ground as I can so it stays long enough to be noticed by the other grieving moms who come to decorate tiny graves with little toys and cherub statues that the lawn mower frequently breaks and smashes into dust. Every token I've brought you has been destroyed or disappeared for the sake of greener, trimmer grass. Even the windcatchers and chimes I securely tied to nearby trees have been taken away.

Frankly, it sucks. The whole thing sucks. Children don't belong in "Babyland, Section 29B." They just don't.

Now I've done it: I'm venting in your birthday letter, but I know you're somehow okay with that, patting my hand, shaking your head and smiling, telling me it's all somehow okay in the grand scheme of things. Because unlike me, you understand much better "the Grand Scheme of Things," and you know things ultimately won't "suck."

And you can handle my poor language, because... you're more like my teen than my toddler. And in some ways, more like my mother than my child. How wonderfully strange, how strangely wonderful.

I love you Pepper. Loving you has taught me so much about that word: "Love." And about God. And about the person called Katie that I get to be here, while you get to be Perpetua by "the river of the water of life."(Rev.22:1)  It's sad, it's glorious, and it's many things in between

Meanwhile, I have your earthly sisters to tend to. I'm typing feverishly on my laptop while no less than two of the kiddos have tried to climb onto my lap, computer and all. One is now yelling "I'm hungry!" while the other is hanging upside on the couch bellowing, "Look! I'm a fireman!" Oh, and we are watching "Bubble Guppies." I'd explain that nonsense, but you really aren't missing much.

But I am missing you today. And I'll miss you everyday until my own soul pierces the sky to finally hold you again. I long to be where you are. And yet, you're now whispering, "I'm right here, Mom." And I somehow see you wink and hear you giggle until your sister demands a drink and I'm back to wiping mouths and cleaning floors in this vale of spilled lemonade and broken toys.

Just like I have to do now: calls for "Shaun the Sheep," the need for baths and yet another snack (really kids? really!?) are becoming increasingly apparent. I've gotta keep being Mom over here.

You keep being you, beautiful girl. Say hi to Gabriel for me... I'm so proud of my two "heaven kids."

Happy Birthday from your family here, where with baked goods and candles we'll tick off the years till we hopefully join you in eternal bliss. Well that and such celebrations offer a perfectly good and reasonable excuse to eat chocolate. I'd tell you all about that, but I know there's chocolate where you are. Like, duh. ;)

A thousand kisses and a million hugs,

P.S. It's kinda neat (though the art is kinda weird) that people have calendars turned to this page this month, with my quote about you. Thanks for that, baby girl.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Way Things Are Now

I'm in an odd writerly situation over here: there's much to write about, but not terribly much I can say because of how events involve other people's business. At least, so it seems so far...

When I lost Pepper, I could write my heart out because it was "my" story and she didn't mind a bit. But it is different at the moment.  Perhaps these frustrating clarifications don't help much, but I thought I'd try them anyway: I'm doing much better than some people fear and somewhat worse than other people expect...

That help any? No? Sigh...

Let me try this: life has been about finding "the new normal": paying household bills, arranging visitations, and managing--on my own--anything that goes "bump" in the night. (It's usually my sleepwalking 10 year old; she tried to go to school last week at 3 AM. Keeps things interesting, it does.)

Alone at night, with kids asleep, I never turn on the TV now; it's much more important to try to sleep (though I find the harder you "try" to sleep, the harder it can be to achieve.) I occasionally scroll through Facebook news feed, and stop because there are so many pictures of the traditional type of family I so wanted to be, and it just hurts too much to see sometimes. I'll lie in bed and think about whether I set up auto-pay right on the electric bill.  I wonder where I put that book I'm supposed to read about "Rebuilding" your life as a single. I finally fall asleep, and wake up 20 minutes later with a preschooler who wants water. When she has to go potty an hour after that, there is no one else to "take turns" getting up with. It's just me.

I'm tired. That stinks.

Life is trying to address the very kindly-meant questions I have no answers for: Where are you going to work or earn money? When? How about here or there? Are you going back to school? Are your kids? Are you moving? When? Where? How?

Sometimes the even harder questions seem to be "Are you okay?" And "What do you need?" I don't really know sometimes. I tend to say I'm okay, because there are so, so many worse problems than my own First World issues.

As for what I need.... I mean, I know what I want. But no one can simply hand me an intact, reasonably happy family, and restore plans for my future: the at least imagined security of "knowing" when and how and where one will retire; if another baby could ever (somehow?) be in my future; when the next "vacation" will be; and the darker thoughts of who I will grow old with, or if I will grow old alone, or even if I will grow old at all.

I try not to brood or give myself over to anxiety. I'm fully enjoying the summer with my kids.

Well, enjoying it most of the time anyway. :)

And during my child-free time, I'm full-tilt pursuing a long-neglected hobby of mine: acting. I'm finishing up some short, "original works" plays this weekend at a local theater, and just got cast in "Guys and Dolls" at this coolly historic theater.  I'm now one of the "Barker Players." While I dearly love my married and mommy friends, it's been good for me to spend time with "theater people," who overall seem to be a sensitive, kind group of singles with an appreciation for silliness, fun, and good stories: performing them as well as sharing their own. It feels like where I need to be right now. As a Christian, I appear to be rather a minority in these circles; it's been a neat opportunity to here and there share what I believe, and why.

I'm in an awkward phase of my life where what I'm doing doesn't necessarily present--from the outside--like the best idea. But then again, neither does walking on water.

"But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, 'Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.'" 
Matthew 14:27