Monday, May 12, 2008


I was all set to write about choices today. About how making them is a means of constructing a reality you can live with, like I did with Mother's day yesterday. Define the parameters (no calling anyone else, and if they need to pout about it, they can do so in their favorite corner; only Monkey self-initiated stuff is ok as directed at me, no making a deal out of the day merchandised beyond the last inch of its life; it's just a Sunday) and see what happens. It was nice, by the way. Mostly peaceful, and when Monkey remembered, she wanted to sing a karaoke song for me, and she did, very well. I even got in a short trip to the cemetery, and while I was there I had a thought that, look at that, it's just me and my boys. We learn to jump for scraps, don't we? But it was still nice, especially since I think the cemetery people put some effort into cleaning the temporary markers for the babies buried years ago, the markers that started to sink and that have been looking forlorn. Yesterday they all looked cleaned, and I think even dug up a bit.

I was also going to write about how making choices requires having choices. Oh, sure, we always have choices. It's just that sometimes all of them suck. I imagine bereaved mothers with no living children would have a much harder time pulling off a similarly ok day for themselves yesterday, no matter how they dress up their choices. They were never far from my thoughts yesterday.


So I was going to wax poetic about this-- making choices, having choices, defining choices. And then this morning I heard that there was a big earthquake in China, and it was likely that many people died, and at least one school collapsed, trapping about 900 children. My mind wanted to make it just that-- trapping. They will be ok, once the rescuers come. Slowly, slowly I got it. No, most of them won't be. Even slower-- this is China. This is 900 families facing the loss of their only children, facing the rest of their lives as bereaved parents with no living children. My mind reels, and I have no words.

Later in the day I had the radio on again, and other things slipped in-- the bodies outside, uncovered until the parents can find and identify their children, parents laying out their children's bodies on whatever they can find nearby, covering them in a religiously appropriate manner, using whatever they can scavenge, burning small fires near the bodies. Burning money, for example. I know the actual religious point of that is not the image it evokes for me, but that is still the image it evokes for me-- who needs the money now? What amount of money can make this ok?


Monkey is having a hard time again, for no reason I can pinpoint. She was in playdate heaven Saturday-- we picked up an extra kid after her dance class, and then friends were coming over with their two. So for a while she had three other girls here, and overall she had kids here from before noon until ten at night. But suddenly, in the middle of happy, she ran for me with tears in her eyes. She was sad about her brother. She missed him. She made a card for him, leaving her playmates to fend for themselves for a bit. We haven't had any cards since March, around her birthday and the anniversary of his due date. We also lit a candle before bed, and she was happy to discover that a whole new box of them arrived.

Today she had another moment, in the midst of playing upstairs, and she wrote him a letter. With an envelope and everything. The envelope has hearts and stars and jar candles, and it's signed From the older sister to A. The letter itself is over a very good drawing of the dining room, complete with the correct color walls, a reasonable rendering of our fairly unique table with the candle on it, the puppy, and a few other things she has since added to the setup around our candles, and it reads "Dear little brother. I miss you very very much."


We lingered at pickup today. One thing to another, and walking out it was only us and this other mom, Ora, who I have long thought was cool. We happened upon one of the teachers, who proceeded to say something like "We have been hearing things, and I don't know if they are correct..." I fessed up, and Ora's eyes got really big.

"That's one well-places shawl," she said, which was funny because she had previously complimented me on the design thereof. Yes, yes it is, I said. She asked whether it was on purpose, and then asked why. I drew breath and said because this is the third child. I couldn't have possibly wished for a more appropriate reaction, with the sorry, and the how far along, and the sorry again, and the no need to explain the hiding, and that they had losses, but much earlier. I left knowing I was right about her general coolness, and putting her mentally firmly in the good third.

That, as we say at Passover, would've been enough. But Ora sent an email tonight. She didn't think she expressed clearly that she knows nothing of what our loss was like, implying that she was afraid she trivialized it with mentioning her own, and can she take me out as we get to that 34 week mark. I haven't replied yet-- still looking for words that say how much that meant to me without going high melodrama on her ass.

Some days people surprise you in good ways. Today it was particularly poignant, coming as it did on the day I had been thinking of that rule of thirds (and reading about everyone's experiences in the comments there), and with everything else in the pot. I notice, too, that I never realize how much I need a thing like that, an inflator of the universal goodness, if you will, until I am staring right at it.


Magpie said...

I'm so glad you found Ora. She sounds like a keeper.

Tash said...

You know, I always think that with my new level of profundity (ha!) that I'll have the right way to look at things, and the right thing to say. And yet I look at this devastation and the parents and I'm like a blank slate -- I'm just at a loss, bereft with the rest of humanity. It's truly awful, all this, all at once.

I'm dreading "outing" myself in front of playschool folks. Dreading.

Snickollet said...

I heard that same NPR report about the school collapse, the parents laying out their children's bodies, the burning money . . . I almost had to pull over on Route 128 in rush-hour traffic to take a deep breath so that I could go on.

Ora sounds like a gem.

Bon said...

i am so happy you and Ora were able to make that connection...she sounds cool, totally. and just...decent.

and that's why it's so hard to explain to people how much it means when they ARE decent...because they just think they're normal.

sweet Monkey always breaks my heart a little.

Lori said...

Oh... so much here. The earthquake, those poor babies and their mamas and dads. Heartbreaking.

And Ora... bless her.

christina(apronstrings) said...

yeah, ora sounds neat. i like her.

i am glad that you let monkey be and allow her to mourn openly when she needs to.

i thought of you on sunday.

delphi said...

I am all over shivers.

Antigone said...

Even for many of us who have no living children, at least we have the hope of a future with children.

janis said...

yes, how so many lives disappeared in such a short time overwhelms me and chokes me. makes me feel guilty that I am alive myself.
I am sorry about Monkey. My girls tend to have their little cycles too. ((hugs))
And that Ora, what a gem!

Beruriah said...

Ora does sound like a charmer.

Oh, Monkey. I'm sorry.

And speechless as to the rest.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Monkey is reacting to the changes in your body that would only remind her of your pregnancy with A.

Ya Chun said...

Maybe Monkey got Mother's Day blues?
Also, she was so happy to have so many friends to play with that it made her miss her playmate.
I don't know what to say, I think it is so sad and unfair for her.
I couldn't even listen to the earthquake coverage on NPR. I had to change the channel while driving. 12,000 people!
People really are surprising, you just never know who will be cool.

slouching mom said...

oh. the 900 children. oh.

loribeth said...

I never even thought about the earthquake from that angle (one child per family = how many bereaved families now without children??). It's mind-boggling.

niobe said...

I'm so glad you connected with Ora.

But I have to say that it's fascinating to view how different people's reactions can be. If anyone ever offered to take me out during a susequent pregnancy at around the time that I'd lost the twins, I would seriously consider running her over with my car.

The Town Criers said...

All of the shorts choked me up--maybe I'm beyond sensitive and emotional today, but this post made me cry. Especially Monkey missing her brother.

c. said...

Ora sounds very cool indeed, Julia. I'm glad people like her exist and g.o.d. how I wish there were more of her.

Coggy said...

I can barely cope with turning the TV or radio on the sheer scale of the earthquake in china is beyond comprehension. I find it so hard to watch things like this now. I have no idea what exactly it feels like to have gone through what these people are suffering, but I do know grief as do many of us and the pain it brings.

I hope Monkey is doing OK, she is an amazing little girl.

Ora sounds really lovely. It is rare to meet someone like this, but surprisingly I have met more kindness in relative strangers than many friends since losing J.