Originally Posted on October 3, 2011
This has been a good weekend. Well… mostly. Saturday was rough. I’ve been coming down with something all week, and whatever it was reared its fearful head full-on that day. I was wracked with fever for most of the day. This while looking after the babies. It was a very good experience, though. I had been scared of the first really bad cold/fever thing while having to look after the kids without having any backup: mom and dad Spence were tied up with commitments and other family members were out of town. So I was alone with my illness and the kids. I had some kind of pain in my abdomen that my fever-frantic mind interpreted as acute apendicitis (yes, yes, hypochondriac. But you have your best friend and partner die on you and see what crazy crap runs through your head) and I was going to die and the kids would be without anyone to feed them and it would turn into Lord of the Flies at Casa de Jones… Anyway, the fever broke at around 4pm, just in time for bedtime, dinner, stories and bedtime. I prayed for healing and I was healed. I feel better today.
By today I mean Sunday. Church was amazing (it usually is) and we had a really great afternoon as a family. Dinner was a treat: bife à milanesa (breaded steak), rice and black beans (what is about eating rice and black beans that makes you feel that you’ve actually eaten properly? Brazilians and Latin Americans in general know this instinctively. The rest of the world is so deprived) and a lovely salad. I did the dishes while the kids cavorted in the lounge.
Then Sophie came to me with the photo you see there to your left. We have it up on our happy wall. “It’s daddy’s!” she said. Just then, Seanie shows up with the picture you see at the top of the post in hand. “Look Sophie. It’s you and mommy!” She didn’t want to interact with it, but he insisted and eventually she held it and looked at it.
This might be the first time I’ve seen sorrow in this little girl’s face. I was washing dishes right then, so I stopped and came over to where they were. Seanie ran off, and I was left with Sophie, looking at the picture. She put it down and picked up the other and held it out to me. “It’s daddy’s!”
Yes sweetheart, that’s Sophie and daddy. This one is Sophie and mommy.
No angel, that’s mommy.
Mommy… she grabs her teddy bear and burries her face in it.
I sat down on the ground next to her. The tears are running to the surface, the sadness pressing in on my heart.
That was you and mommy, Sophie.
Mommy and baby.
Yes, Sophie, you were a baby then. But that’s Sophie. Mommy and Sophie.
Mommy and Sophie…
Yes sweetheart, mommy and Sophie.
She pushes her face into the teddy bear again. She grabs the picture of her and her mother.
Sophie and daddy’s!
No angel, Sophie and mommy. This one is Sophie and daddy. You have a mommy. I’m sorry mommy isn’t here anymore sweetheart, but this is your mommy. Right here in the picture, holding you.
She walked off at that point to play with her brother.
I finished up the dishes and put the kids to bed.
I’ll probably not catalogue every single breakthrough with the kids on here, but this one was significant. Remember, Sophie is two. She still recognizes her mother from photos, but one of two things happened tonight. She either felt a disconnect with the image in the photo but knew to say that was mommy after a bit of prompting (which is probably the likeliest scenario) or she registered sorrow because she still knows that’s her mommy and misses her. There’s no doubt that what I saw in her was sorrow. Whether it comes from missing her mommy or from feeling awkward that there is supposed to be this other person, this female (she wouldn’t even know to couch it in a term like that) who is supposed to be with me, someone all the other kids at her playschool have but that she doesn’t. She has seen moms come and go, but it’s always daddy who comes and fetches her. She’ll see the same kid at school get fetched by a daddy and a mommy. She only has a daddy. She likely felt a longing for the person in the photo. She likely doesn’t remember that person, not clearly anyway.
But I could be wrong. Maybe she remembers her mommy clearly still. Maybe she longs for the touch of her mommy, something she still remembers at some level. That is the scenario I want to believe. Thing is, I don’t know. There’s no way to know. I’ll find out in the years that lie ahead.
But there’s no question in my mind that something important happened tonight. And that something came from the happy wall. I’m going to buy Seanie an ice cream at random for his contribution to this particular tale.
So what if anything am I to take from this whole experience?
Sophie has a soul. I know, I can hear everyone saying “duh!!!!!” The fact is, as a two year old, it’s pretty easy to forget that she’s able to process complex emotions and thoughts. She’s actually experiencing emotions linked to this whole disappearance of her mother from her life.
It gives me a modicum of hope in this whole thing. I am pretty sure Seanie will be able to draw upon concrete memories of his mother. I can’t say the same for Sophie, but this makes me think that there is something there, what it is I’m not sure, but it is there.
If there is something there, I can build upon that. That is my job: to make sure she has something of her mother that she can grasp onto. When she’s 16 and raging with hormones, she can draw on something of what lingers in her soul of her mother. It won’t answer all her questions during that time, but it’s something.
Not to cop out, but in the end, we all have to just make do with whatever we’ve been given. Sophie would have been better off had her mother been here now and when she’s 16. As things go, that’s not her story. She is the child of a mother that died way before we wanted her to. She will be the poorer for it. But if I can stir the embers of the fire of memory, that issomething.
So as tough as it was tonight, I’m glad it happened. One of those weird, serendipitous things. And that’s life, isn’t it? A series of unplanned opportunities to drive home the important things in life.
So as we embark into another week, keep your eyes open for the little moments when something great can be made out of the ordinary.
And here are those promised pictures: