an imperfect ten

It's been a decade now, and her newborn face still appears on the back of my eyelids when I close them.

As a toddler, she spent many dark hours wide awake.  When I didn't resort to propping her up to watch Moose A. Moose at midnight, I sang to her, my own version of Hush.

She should be ten, and I imagine warm tea might be the thing that could help calm her in the middle of the night.
But there is no tea to steep, no cartoons to turn on, no songs to hum.  There are no carrots to serve, no skinned knees to kiss, no monsters to chase from under the bed.  There are no pictures to take, no cowlicks to smooth, no sneakers to tie, no report cards to sign.
These days, and nights, I'm not sure how to parent a child who is dead.

The first year she was gone, I mothered Cel by being sad. I was sad all the time. I felt that grief down to my fingernails. I felt it shrouding my spirit. I felt it in every corner of my home. I tried to be normal, to celebrate holidays and other people's babies and my own sons. I tried to mother Celia by talking about her. We planted a tree. We had a ceremony. I wore two necklaces engraved with her name. But inside, I was so sad.

And then that thick layer of grief, the misery and the missing, lifted. It just sort of stood up from my couch and walked out the door, slowly and silently so that I didn't even hear it go. And the next time I tried to call on the sadness, it wasn't there. I still miss her.  Like crazy, I do.  But I spend most of my days not sad.

In March, on my own birthday, I am whisked back. I shut my eyes and she is there on the inside of my lids, and even though they're closed, the tears slip out. I am not surprised by the grief that revisits or by how much the tears sting. What I am surprised by, still, is how much it means to me that other people remember her too, that they write her name, that they give in her memory, that they miss her with us.

This week we're leaving ten packets of information around the city, a BDSRA brochure with Celia's story and a dime taped to the top.

Historically, finding money has represented the presence of a loved one. It is often believed that when an individual finds money randomly, a departed loved one is leaving a symbol that she is still looking after him. It has also been noted that people tend to find dimes when they are in a difficult point in their lives.

We're doing the only thing we know, parenting Cel's memory. And we're hoping the folks who find the stuff will feel both lucky, and inclined to learn more...


Kristy G said...

Special wishes to your first. We are thinking of Celia and you all. XOXO

Poppy John said...

Jenni Baby,
Okay, you've reached a point where people should pay money to read your profound writing. We all think about Celia and what might have been. I love you so much.

Poppy John

rht said...

Tucker and Tollie have their own favorites here, but I played "Celia's Lullabyes" for Hank when he spent the night with us this week. It was the first time I had listened to that music in a very long time, and it brought back the dark hours we spent wide awake. But it also brought back Celia's smiles and all the good things she brought into our lives. I love the way you and Andy spread the word and share her memory around her birthday every year, and I love that some of the sadness has lifted.

Kathryn said...

Ah...the dime. I remember when a dime bought a cup of coffee, two scoops of ice cream or a ride on the ferris wheel. I remember when a dime bought a phone call, 10 pieces of penny candy or enough time on the parking meter for a morning's worth of shopping. I remember when a dime was plenty of pay for helping with grandma's yard, or was a decent tip for a $1.00 lunch. But these dimes have been given a far more important charge......to remind, to recall, to renew and to inspire. To motivate, to educate, and to bring hope......all in the memory of Celia....a light that shines in her brothers' eyes, in her parents' eyes, in her family and friends' eyes.....warm, and bright and shiny.....much like a dime.

courtney markham said...

a beautiful tribute for a beautiful girl