Friday, April 13, 2012

It's A Goose!

Before Amy died, I made her several promises. One I wrote about here. Some others have taken me longer to fulfill. The two I'll mention in this post are 1) she wanted me to put some of her ashes in Lower Lake at Mt. Holyoke College (picture above) and 2) she didn't want us all sitting around crying when we talked of her. She wanted to be remembered with smiles or not at all. I easily promised the first of these, but was unsure if I could pull off the second. Turns out, these two promises are related....

When I first met Amy, we were firsties at Mt. Holyoke College. We lived right next door to each other in a dorm down on the lake. Now, in the lake there lived a sizable population of ducks. All of the ducks were mallards, except one. There was one white duck in the lake. Once, fairly early on in our first year, I was talking to Amy about something and she mentioned the swan in Lower Lake.
"What swan?" I asked.
"The white bird," she said, "the swan!"
"Amy, that isn't a swan," I replied, "It's a duck!"
After several retorts in which she insisted it was a swan, I explained that it was a domestic duck living among the mallards and that yes, normally ducks are brown (as she always thought they were), but that domestic ducks were actually white. It took some convincing, but she finally realized her mistake and we joked about it. For the rest of our time together, the punch line for every joke became, "It's a duck!" Anything we couldn't identify we would shrug and say, "It's a duck!" For graduation, I gave her a picture of the duck and I had the frame engraved with (you guessed it!) It's A Duck.

About 5 or 6 years ago, there was an article in the MHC Alumnae Quarterly about how this white duck that lived down on Lower Lake had died. It was very sad! Amy called me immediately and we laughed, sharing our memories of this duck that lived in our lake.

This is the story I shared with Erin as we went to MHC this past Friday to fulfill promise number 1 above. As we walked across the bridge to the lake, I was sharing the story and pointing out to Erin where we had lived and what fun things Amy and I had done in college. Taking Amy's ashes out of my bag, we gathered on the edge of the lake as I opened the box they are in. I was fighting back tears (breaking that second promise) as I reached in for some ashes. All of a sudden, this HUGE white bird comes charging out of the bushes and ATTACKS us! I'm NOT kidding! It came right at us, hissing and spitting and making a really ugly honking noise! It was a big-a@# GOOSE! Not knowing what to do, I flung one small handful of Amy's ashes into the lake, grabbed my child and stumbled up the small hill towards the dorm. Erin and I stood there looking at each other. We spent the next several minutes trying to put the ashes into the lake--Erin would go to one side and distract the duck and when it went after her, I would put in more ashes. When I approached the lake, it would turn away from her and come after me. Then Erin would get its attention again while I backed off and then when it went for her, I could go down to the edge again. Finally, when we had gotten enough of her ashes into the lake, we backed off for good. Geese are VERY territorial and, frankly, quite mean!! Erin and I were laughing as we were doing this and, as we crossed back over the bridge to the main part of campus, Erin said, "I don't know were Auntie Amy is right now, but I'm pretty sure she is laughing!"

Yeah, she is! Leave it to Amy to find such a creative way to help us fulfill the second promise!

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's a girl...

I haven't written about Jordan's birth yet because it had such profound implications to me and to our family. First of all, she is our final baby. We are done. I'm feeling more confident about putting that in writing because we are hopefully going to be taking steps soon to make that a permanent decision. We are done. I've had 7 pregnancies, 5 babies and 4 living kids in the past 10 years and I think my uterus is done. I know there are people out there whose uterus has done more (in some cases MUCH more), but I'm getting older and part of this choice is a somewhat selfish desire to get my body back to myself. Another part of it is our desire as a family to do more travel together and if we are always lugging an infant/toddler, that limits our choices to some extent. We are ready for the next phase of parenting (no diapers!).

But in addition to all the practical reasons to be done, we are feeling as if our family is as complete as it will be able to get. Going back a bit, I know I've written about this before, but when I was pregnant with Evan, I needed him to be a boy. Really and truly, he had to be different from his older, missing sister. The last thing I needed was for him to be a third girl and for people to say to me (or think to themselves) Well, at least Sophie has been replaced and you are all set! Evan's birth brought so much love and healing into our family, but he did NOT bring Sophie back. Duh! Fast forward three years to my husband and I walking around the block while I was in labor with Jordan. Chris and I were discussing an issue that had been an undercurrent during the whole pregnancy, but, for some reason, was the first time we spoke of it. "If this is a boy, will you still feel done?" he asked me. I couldn't answer that question. Neither could he. We would still be done, but would we still feel done? To be clear, if a boy was what had been working his way out of me at that moment, we would have been THRILLED! Evan would have been thrilled! Two older girls and two younger boys--it would have been PERFECT! But would we have felt done? Chris and I were walking down the street holding hands, about to be parents for the 5th time, facing a very difficult reality. If this baby was a boy, the bottom line was that we were never going to hold a baby girl in our arms again. The reality was that our last baby girl had died. Died...and that would never change. How could we feel complete with that reality?? We knew that boy or girl, this baby was going to be our last. And we knew that if it was a boy, we would really, truly be head over heals in love with him. AND, we knew we would have to struggle with this intense sense of loss all over again. Walking around the block with Chris, feeling mild contractions, it all swirled around us like a fog. Yes, we would be done, no, we would not feel complete...but in a different way than we currently don't feel complete...if that makes any sense.

Later that afternoon, an 8lb baby girl was placed on my chest. A baby girl. Can you believe it?? No, she absolutely did NOT bring Sophie back and she absolutely IS her own person and I will never, ever compare her to her lost sister. She is NOT a replacement. She is, however, the soul that completes our family of seven and the living being that completes our family of six. She is the baby girl we were meant to have at this time and in this space. She is the one who makes me feel landed and grounded in a way I haven't for the past 5+ years. Here I am, a mom of five making my way solidly through a world that will only ever see a mom of four. But, because of this little baby girl, I feel secure in our decision to be done. I can look back at where we were five years ago and feel truly, deeply sad for the woman (and the family) standing there, in that deep dark pit having lost an indescribably priceless treasure. I can see her, feel that sadness, and then turn around and face front. We are here, right now...because a baby girl was placed in my arms. Forward we go.