The OBX were fun but not remotely relaxing. Not remotely. With big family dinners every night, followed by children waking up at 6:30 a.m. demanding to go hunt for seashells, I arrived home a sleep-deprived mess wondering how on earth I ever considered that week would be a vacation. I believe my parents were pleasantly surprised by the availability of good food products at the local stores, thank you for asking. And unlike last year where the repetitive rush of waves was an appropriate meloncholy backdrop to my mood, this year we all braved the riptide, got soaked, cracked jokes about my uncle's fishing prowess, and went crabbing. On the last day, I made all the small second cousins sit on a ledge, and constructed sand mermaid tails for the lot of them. It was only getting stuck in traffic on the way home due to a fatal accident about a mile ahead of us that I grew distant, and remembered how last year I insisted on taking Maddy's remains to my aunt's during this very trip so they wouldn't be alone. How far I've come, I thought, and made sure I walked directly into the family room after our 13-hour odyssey in order to say hello to the zip-lock on the shelf.
There were Bella birthday parties (no less than three of them), dinners composed of either take-out or stuff cooked on the grill, negotiating car usage, blistering heat, the occasional water or electrical outage thanks to renovation. The second car got a flat, a head cold cum flu symptoms is making it's way through the family that amassed last week, and in the free 20 minutes I had to weed over the last three weeks, I seem to have contracted a case of poison ivy.
Bella and her cousin (who is a year older) had a typical, heartfelt, and hilarious love/hate relationship: They exchanged clothes freely, played marvelously together, and only came close to blows once. "Want to play a game?" "THAT'S MINE!" "I'll push you on the swing!" "SHE HAS MORE THAN ME!" They slept in the same room, and did so marvelously save for one night (well, early morning if you must know), and of course the whole thing gave me much pause to consider what might have been. Ultimately, I'm so relieved she has a cousin, who will hopefully remain a confidante even if they do feed on each other's worst attributes: whining, and wearing age-inappropriate clothes provided by MIL's.
Because this 3.5 week time-suck was preceded by getting the kitchen ready for demo, I really feel as though I'm emerging from a six week business trip abroad. A lot has been left unattended during this lapse: our yard desperately needs weeding, our architect needs some final decisions on faucets and sinks and powder room tile, our car still has flat, my blogging life is in disarray. My family doesn't know I blog, so it was damn near impossible to carve out time for surreptitious "bill paying" or even reading/commenting without someone looking over my shoulder.
Blog time is Maddy time anymore, and as such, I feel as though I've rather left her memory on a back burner in the past six weeks as well. Save for a couple quick posts here and there, she didn't come up much: there was an odd discussion about how much auto-insurance companies suck during which "the incident" was mentioned. And of course on the last night with her cousin, with both of them curled up on the air mattress, Bella selected "I'm a Big Sister" for her book of the evening. I hate reading that book, even though I know it's her right to hear it. I really hated reading it to the both of them. In sum, I simply plowed from one activity to the next, one meal to the next, one evening to the next.
So it came as some surprise when my SIL sent me the following thank you note. My SIL is one of those people, one who wrote me daily and then weekly during my social time-out last year simply to tell me she was thinking of me without asking for anything in return. She has been nothing short of supportive and kind, and apparently, aware and unafraid of the subject (let's hope she doesn't google her own email):
I can't believe how much Bella has grown and I love her old soul. Maddelena's spirit is strongly present in your home and in all of our hearts. We all think about her all of the time but being there, I found myself thinking about who she would look like and what her personality would've been like. You and [Mr. ABF] are amazing.
As relieved as I was to go to bed Friday night, QUIETLY, with my husband, daughter, 2 dogs, and 2 cats, knowing the mason would be arriving for a rare Saturday work day promptly at 7 a.m., it's reassuring to know that family like this exists.
I hope you all are well, and haven't written too horribly much over the past few weeks. Thank you also, all of you, who wrote me to make sure I hadn't fallen off the edge of the earth. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some pendant lighting to consider.