I didn't mean to leave you hanging. December is notoriously crazy, a swirl of emotions and etail as it were, and this one no different, really.
It starts the second Sunday, with the candlelight ceremony. This year: a chilly pouring rain, and putting the lot of us in yet another new venue, this time the lobby of the brand new research center at Children's. In some respects, this was the best of indoor services we attended -- it was large so we didn't feel crowded and hence overly-warmish and claustraphobic. The bad news was we were divided by partitions (which I think could have been moved? Like for a conference? But were weren't? Why?) so the live part was taking place a few sections over and our sound wasn't the best so our room decided to get up and leave once the names had been read which really isn't the end of the ceremony. Bug. The good news was the one on the far left had no seats set up in it so the people with strollers and kids tended to go in there and plop on the floor. We sat next to a gaggle of tweens who were there to remember someone ("Do you think you'll cry?"), and were extraordinarily well behaved, and I remember at one point hearing them gasp and one say, "He only lived one day." A rough lesson to be learned on top of their reason for being there, I'm sure.
I have a missive in my head about how Ale-drool chewed on the memory book, and Bella didn't want to go but then behaved like it was second nature, which is both refreshing and depressing as shit. Every year there is something about the ceremony that grabs me, and this year it was the pictures of kids who looked . . . perfect. Healthy. Like my live ones. And I wondered in dumfounded curious silence what on earth struck them down -- the eight year old in the soccer uniform, the two teen brothers standing by a car (with different birth and death dates), the cherubic smiling one year old. The kids with no hair and tubes and wires and physical deformaties all get me too, believe me, mine is among them. But I suppose I could see those and figure the parents knew by the time the picture was taken that something was up, no matter how surprising the time right before the picture had been. But these other kids? I wanted to know what happened -- was it meningitis? house fire? Unknown heart defects? Were the two brothers felled by something genetic or something external? Gun fire? Car crash? Cancer?
I'm tired of surprises, in this month of nothing but whispers and lists and sly glances. I looked around the room and realized nothing was surprising to anyone, perhaps save the tweens next to us, and even them -- I imagined- had received a bad one last calendar year.
Your names came with, and thought of them all along with the beautiful children and babies on the screen ahead of me. None of us alone. All of them remembered.
I feel like I have a ton of stuff to write about and no time to do it. Take this picture for example. I came downstairs one morning in December to find this mack-out on my end table:
Once I picked myself off the floor and took a picture, I waited until Bella was in the room and asked her, "Soooo, does Barbie have a new boyfriend?" and she turned a delicious shade of purple and stammered, "Mommy, I was just acting out the Nutcracker!"
"Hmm, I don't remember that part," I said eyeing the two still liplocked in the midst of my Nutcracker Tableau. But really, I should: The Nutcracker is, let's face it, the coming of age story of a girl who gets a crush at a Christmas party, ingests way too much sugar, and has some fantastic sugar-high hallucinations that night in dreamland. If anything, someone needs to sex up that ballet and take it where it really needs to go. Though maybe not in my living room.
The second Sunday is followed in extraordinarily quick succession by the third Friday, where we host the annual neighborhood holiday party. This is our fifth one, and irregardless of my physical condition (pregnant, depressed, pregnant) the week prior is the same: I am a stress monkey leading up to the party, manage to enjoy myself immeasurably, wake up Saturday and announce: "That was great! Let's do it again!" It's a week of ignoring Christmas while I clean and clean and decorate and clean some more and run errands (and this year spending precious me time churning out some writing for something else I signed up for that came due that week, gah). On Friday, in the midst of errand running, setting out wine and cocktail glasses for 100, and a baby who wouldn't nap, I turned to my husband, looked at my watch and said, "Bella's school Christmas program sing-a-long thingy starts in 10 minutes. I'm going." And hustled off with the baby to go sing carols next to my daughter. It was the best thing I could have done.
The party was great, the baby wouldn't go to sleep and stayed up until 1:00 a.m., there was left-over cake for breakfast.
And then I started in on Christmas, with a week to go, madly pouring through lists and finding shipping deals in my inbox.
All of this while Bella and the baby went through what had to be congestion/cough round five (V) since November 1. I am so tired of snot. Tired. You'd think we'd be immune to whatever it is that keeps creeping up in here. Caveat: One top tooth poked through a day or two after Christmas, ergo for one child some of the snot may not be cold-related. But it hardly matters when the kid can't sleep.
I took Bella to the Nutcracker (the G-rated version), and then we ran pel-mel into Christmas week which ended with me up late, wrapping furiously to the sound of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir while Mr. ABF held a snotty draining baby upright who couldn't lie down. I left my husband with a pile of presents and instructions to "go stage that!" and grabbed the baby -- without a shower or toothbrush -- and went and lay down with him propped up in the crook of my arm, desperate for sugarplum fairies and hopes that St. Nick would soon be here.
And now the crazy is over, and I'm boxing everything up again for next year and it's hitting me that the next major thing on the calendar is: Maddy. Maddy's birthday, Maddy's week. It's out there, looming, crowding my wintery fireside snuggling and blizzard waffle breakfasts with grisly flashbacks.
I'm never one for ruminating on the past year (with the exception of 2007, which I think I unceremoniously took the curb, kicked a few times while screaming profanity, then gave the finger before walking away) or hoping the next year will be better, because . . . . you just never know. I've come a long way, but I'm still hesitant to expect anything or god forbid, plan anything (resolutions, shmesolutions). Why set myself up like that? I realize while sitting on the verge of a new calendar that years have stopped being "Bella's 7th" or "My 40-somethingthholdycrap" and never were "Baby's First": they're always counted up from '07, hence four -- four years since. Four years since something completely horrible happened, four years of healing, four years of remembering, four years without. Out of nowhere during Christmas week Bella announced, "If Maddy were alive, she'd be three right now." It's hard to entertain that notion, the idea of having an almost four year old running around the house -- especially since I never really climbed on board that whole "if she had lived" train. It's almost as hard as imagining she was ever here at all.
Like I said, so much to write about, so little time. Did you know that Bella had stitches in her elbow at some point this fall? No? See? Three stitches. It's long gone, the moment's over, she's playing ice hockey now. All the baby milestones are funny and word-worthy: crawling, eating (or not, or only eating what's on mom's plate as the case may be because high chairs, bibs, and baby food is apparently for babies), the devolution of sleep habits, baby-proofing a 100-year old house (people, the baby has a fireplace in his room. We decided the safest way to "proof" was to set up a series of jails; a holding cell in the kitchen, Gitmo in the family room), his slowly evolving mental abilities which I find hilarious. They are also, all rife with metaphor I'm realizing -- all making me wonder if what I'm feeling and how I'm reacting is "normal" and normal in what capacity. Normal for the second child in the house? Normal for the second child in the house who's really my third? What is normal anyway and who needs it?
But they'll all have to wait until I have two seconds to rub together. Because right now I need my two seconds to pour another cuppa and run through the shower. I hope you all are well. And warm.