I have been thinking about you a lot, lately. You've been gone for a year, now. One year two weeks three days. It makes me happy to think of you, freed from your failing frame and all fiery and red, again. I imagine you look like the pictures of you I used to study, tucked away in photo books. You looked like a movie star in those photos! They were always in greys or sepias, but Grandpa told me so many stories of your auburn locks that I always only ever saw them in color. Warm auburn hair and cheeks rosy with all the thoughts that twinkled behind your eyes.
That boy next door.
I can see the front of your house where you and your bestie Naoma would park yourselves so you could get a look at that boy next door, and, more importantly, so that he could get a good look at you.
Grandpa really didn't stand a chance! Did he?!
I heard another story a few weeks back that made me wonder, again, about guardian angels. Which, naturally, made me think of you. I think you'd like nothing better than to have that job on the other side. Guarding your precious children, grandchildren, great grandchildren. I don't know how jobs get assigned on the other side, but I'm sure Grandpa would agree that if it wasn't your first assignment, you'd likely find a way to convince them!
I have wondered if - and like to imagine that - you are Hattie's guardian angel.
I know you died after she was born. You knew her (though in the failings of your well-worn mind, you always thought she was a boy. But she clung to you and smiled at all of your compliments on her handsomeness just the same. Funny how it didn't seem to matter to either of you, the particulars of gender or names - you were just absolutely in love with each other). But I imagine whomever was assigned to Hattie waved you over, showed you the ropes and said, "I've kept the bench warm for you" or something like.
I wonder this because every time I sing Hattie her lullabye, "Manhattan", I feel you. Maybe it was our shared love of music, or the way she watches me as I sing (a lot like the way you used to watch me every time I played the violin for you - quiet pleasure). But I sit on the edge of Daphne's bed and press my cheek to hers, and in that moment everything is calm and safe and love - just like your house. I sing my song, and I imagine you nodding in approval that I took my time. No rushing. No skipping verses. Let the song live. And Hattie doesn't rush me either. Just quiet patient pleasure, and the veil feels so very, very thin.
And Hattie is our little sunspot. She is happy to the point of it being remarkable. So it follows that you're hanging around, watching out for her safety, but also doing that thing you do that always made us all feel so safe and loved and capable of absolutely anything. That thing where you made me feel like I was the most amazing, talented and special person that ever lived. Hattie seems to have that calm assurance that the future is bright and soon there will be peeled apple slices or homemade spice cake with pinoche icing. Any minute now.
So I like to think your'e here, just here over my shoulder, brushing a strand of her golden locks away from her ear as I bend over to count those glorious long black eyelashes.
I like to imagine your smile as we sit in the church pew and Henry lies in my lap and asks me to trace his face, the way you used to do that I loved so much, taking extra time around the lips.
I like to think it's you calming her when hattie startles in the night but stops crying before we can get there.
At the same time...I wonder. If it's you...I can't help but wonder if you're hanging out with my little sunspot all the time if you've seen me. I wonder if you've seen me when I'm not a very good mom. When I lose my cool with a tantrum. Or give them cereal for dinner because I'm too tired and apathetic to create a meal. I wonder if you see me spend too long scrolling through Facebook and get up too soon from playing on the floor with my girls. I wonder if you see me get actually angry at other drivers when they make a bad call on the road. You always thought I was so sweet, such a good mom. I can't help but wonder if you'd be disappointed to see me at my day-to-day mediocre.
I don't play the violin you loved so well nearly as often as I'd like.
I don't paint with my kids...I cringe when they use sidewalk chalk because of the mess. We don't generally have well thought-out and crafty Family Home Evenings. We just did when we had them with you, because it was special. I give my kids suckers in the car. You always hated it when any of us would walk around with a sucker stick hanging from our mouths. What if we fell! I keep cutting my hair short, though I promise I still have red-head pride! I know you loved it long. And Mere, I drink WAY too much diet coke!
I'm just not amazing. Not the way you always made me believe I could be. Not yet - though I do try. So. I suppose that's something. I hope you are not too disappointed. Though, as far as guardian angel gigs go, you really couldn't do much better than Hattie. Because—as I'm sure you're aware!—that girl is HILARIOUS!
(But perhaps we could work together on her obsession with cats?)