I had to dig through boxes in our crawl space to find our gravy dish because this is how I do things. The kids were “helping” me make Thanksgiving dinner, covering the table with all the tacky everything I try to hide behind the dishes that match. As they uncovered penguin salt and pepper shakers (Mom the penguins are dressed in snowsuits!) I remembered the gravy dish and how long it had been since I’d seen it last.
We have a habit of moving too often which has led to my habit of only unpacking what we need on a daily basis and I guess I’m not a routine gravy-maker. So in between checking the turkey and making gluten free rolls that were later turned down by even the dog, I found myself searching boxes for our gravy dish. I climbed through our storage area determined to avoid the pull of teeny baby clothes and the fragile stuff that breaks as soon as I look at it.
Several boxes in I found the one I was looking for and unwrapped the gravy dish only to see it tucked in next to a vase from Hadley’s memorial service. The vase had a beautiful saying etched down the front and was full of flowers and waiting for us at the funeral home. I’ve always kept it on high shelves or tall cabinets because it’s breakable and too powerful a memory to walk past every day.
When I found it the iTunes playlist I was cooking dinner to screeched to a halt because I was doing really good until then. It was a holiday. I hadn’t had a wistfully sad moment yet and had already given myself an imaginary pat on the back for how well things were going. There was even kitchen dancing. I was doing THAT good. But then the vase and the memories and the reminder of all that doesn’t need reminded.
I’ve been doing this for eight years and this is how it always, always works. The length of time I can smile or kitchen-dance has slowly increased but the funeral vase, the Something that hits you when you weren’t expecting it, never changes. You can wrap your grief in soft tissue and worn towels and pack it away with the most fragile items but it’s always there and you will open it again and again.
I used to get so mad at the vases and the pop-up reminders hiding in the world, waiting to jump out at me and shock my day into something it wasn’t but the anger has softened over time. The blunt questions and the forgotten baby clothes and the identical girls that cross my path when I least expect them are gentle reminders of an injured heart. I expect they will always be waiting for me, ready to shrink eight years down to yesterday.
We are so many years past the time when Hadley was here. When she was a solid tiny being in the nook of my arm, real and alive yet already struggling. And the reminders of her now, the ones that tear at the space in our lives, are welcome reminders of that little baby who once was. The one who changed us forever and didn’t grow old enough to criticize her momma for packing the gravy bowl in a box of items too fragile for her heart.
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