Yearbooks and breakdowns…

Madeline would be 9 years old this June, 9 years ago I became a mom. I can almost think of what I was doing 9 years ago each of these days… the days leading up to her coming. She was really due on June 15… and took her sweet time and grew really big for an extra 10 days… OUCH. I remember I used to work in a clean room and had to redress in a special uniform and go in through an air shower. Our uniforms were sterilized and smooshed into little labeled bags… I went from a normal size of Large to maybe a 2XL for belly space. My ankles really never got unswollen and I drank a few Nalgene bottles of water on a shift. I remember having a huge fight with my mom on Memorial Day weekend and that it was VERY hot. Matt and I went for a long hike and up to Thatcher Park in those late days… trying to get labor going. I remember most about that hike- seeing a picture of me from behind and missing my normal butt. I remember sitting in the glider in Madeline’s room, not know if she was a girl or a boy, and just putting my feet up and wondering. I remember sitting in the clean room grinding pins (a very very boring job)… just trying not to be home thinking about the fact that Madeline was wicked late. Everyday my work was waiting for a phone call… instead I would show up. Finally labor started… and the rest is pretty much the normal stuff. Those last few weeks of not being a mom I can remember more than many of the feelings I had after… and after and after. I must have been very well rested and thinking a lot back then.

Madeline grew and changed like a normal awesome kid, my normal awesome kid. There were really hard parts and really easy parts, but I remember and know how much I loved her anyway. I am pretty sure if she were here, she would love me anyway for all of my cranky days. All the milestones and growth… friendships and experiences were part of this grand plan, this journey. She was happy nad vibrant and content and simple and lovable and compassionate… not how you would describe most 5 year olds. She loved school and learning. I loved that about her, I loved school and still do. I loved seeing her flourish and become herself. Kindergarten was the place for Madeline to be… she entered her class with no friends from preschool. She was less nervous than me, I was scared to meet new moms and new friends. I instantly loved her teacher, with her flower in her hair and coordinated accessories. She was warm and creative and calm. I knew it was the very spot Madeline should be. So we entered Kindergarten. I got to see Madeline’s friends and hear stories about them. She would come home and we would snuggle and watch Ellen and I would hear about her day and her friends. I can’t recall it all anymore… but there are bits. It has helped me to really get to know her teacher and some of her classmates. I remember her telling me and our family meeting one little girl, who liked to run really fast with Madeline around the playground. I remember the first day of school there was a little one who when asked to color her name asked “Can I use every color?” and I knew she and Mads would hit it off. There are 2 girls who stand out, who are now in 3rd grade, that honor and remember Madeline regularly. I know she works though them, I think she might even grow along with them. Those girls go visit Madeline at her spot and bring her gifts and read her books… how mature and kind for a 3rd grader. Those lovelies will hopefully never understand what it means to me…

At the end of Madeline’s Kindergarten year her class prepped a teeshirt for her and released balloons to remember her. I received a lot of things from her teacher, memories and things. It still means a lot… in fact I might go through it all tonight. To read the thoughts and memories of a kindergartener about their friend is very hard and reminds me that she is remembered. Many of those kiddos will grow and change and move and learn and travel and compete… they will become 7th graders and seniors and go on to college… and they may not bring Madeline. Her death might be too much… for them right now. My girls have a different life, different experiences and different hard stuff… so Madeline’s death is part of them forever. Others… move away from hard stuff and keep chuggin’ in their own lives. I understand, but love the ones who bring her along.

This morning, as I was driving to work, a song popped on that made me cry. It isn’t even one that I really listen to or think about. I think I was just in a spot, I had just dropped the girls off and was free for the first moment in many hours. I think a bit of this caught up with me…

Yesterday the girls came home with their yearbooks. I opened it up, right to the 3rd grade section and started to look at the kids. I read their names and tried to match faces. There were a few that really popped out to me and I thought about how they are and what it was like to know them now. I thought about the colors and the running… about the growing and changing. I thought about how Madeline should be at the intermediate school now and prepping Amelia for her transition. I thought about how I have yet to see a field days event or to go to the intermediate school to mystery read… can you even mystery read in 3rd grade or is it not cool? Do I have to stop being right there for all of my kids things next year? Will it still be cool to eat lunch with my 3rd grader? Will Amelia insist we shop at Justice for sparkly stuff to fit it???? What is this next stage like…

I let my brain keep thinking and feeling sad. Then I put it away and talked to the girls and let Amelia show me her crush. “Mom, he is so cute. Look at his fuzzy hair and big smile. He is funny and kind and has big front teeth”… Lucy wondered why her friends were going to write in her yearbook… and we put them away and did homework- breakdown averted.

I guess I put it away and it popped out. Would you believe it popped out again while I was writing this? Some parts of this really suck. I don’t even wish I had someone else’s… I just have to sit and recognize sometimes that this really can suck. It is really hard to see a bunch of 3rd graders, but also good. I love them. I think sometimes how, just because something is hard or it hurts doesn’t make it bad. It isn’t bad that they are all growing, it is just hard to know that it still happens without yours. I know that she is ok, but I miss her. I can’t believe life goes on, yet it does and has. It should… life is pretty amazing and full even when it is missing things.

So… yearbooks are away for now. That is until the day the chicken’s bring them for autographs. Then to the shelf…

It will forever hurt to see where Madeline isn’t, but there is something powerful in knowing right where she is. Maybe she doesn’t grow, maybe she doesn’t graduate… but she is right where she needs to be.

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