I grew up in a house full of girls. Lots of girls, lots of fingernails to paint, lots of toenails, lots of hair to plug up the drains. I am the oldest of 4 girls and second born. My mother experienced preeclampsia when pregnant with her first, my brother, whom she carried full term and delivered and lost after less than a day. She said he had a widow’s peak of dark black hair. She told me of the tiny casket. I’ve been to his tiny grave where his tiny body lies in the special section full of other tiny graves holding tiny caskets and tiny bodies that were once held close in the arms of adoring parents with great big dreams.
As a child, I couldn’t quite conceive of the idea of having an older sibling, or a brother. I remember looking down at the tiny name plate and looking around at the others. Are they all friends somewhere now? Do they chase butterflies and catch toads and make heavenly mud pies? Do they climb trees and eat sweet, white fruit? Do they shatter God’s windows with wayward baseballs? Do they have someone to rock them and to sing them soft songs and smooth their feathery hair after an afternoon of teddy bears and tea parties?
As a young mother I looked down at the tiny name plate and prayed for my baby, my son. All I could imagine as I looked around “ToyLand” was the devastation I’d feel if anything ever happened to my baby. I watched him toddling around on the grass holding his daddy’s hand and tears moved over my cheeks and fell to the ground to nourish the earth tenderly cradling my “baby” brother for as long as there’s earth.
I don’t remember my dad ever talking to me about his son or the loss of his great big dream. I will always remember the joy in his eyes at learning that his first grand child would be a boy. I felt like I was giving him a gift he’d had snatched away to be replaced by the “bitchin’ and moanin,” destructive contention, and dawdling dilly-dally of four girls who somehow knew that though he loved us, he might have loved us more if we were boys. Still, he did love us in his own way. He played and he worked very hard to give us a good home. He also became a boy scout master and enjoyed the bonds created by over 30 years with his many, many sons.
I knew from a very young, house playing age, that I was going to have two children. I was going to have a little boy and then a little girl so she would have an older brother to watch out for her and to look up to and so he would have a little sister to adore and protect. That was my great big dream. And things generally worked out as I had planned. I had my sweet son and then my sweet daughter who was never adored more by anyone in the world than my sweet son. My little family was complete. The greatest compliment I ever received from my dad, he gave me after an evening of babysitting for my sweet ones. He smiled at me and said, “You’re a good mama.”
My great big dream never included my sweet daughter being taken from us. My great big dream involved college graduations, weddings, grand children, happily ever afters all around. Then I heard somewhere that if you want to make God laugh, tell him *your* plans. I’m not so sure how I feel about God right now. I feel punished for making plans or maybe just for making them so big and great. Or maybe just for thinking they were mine to make in the first place. But I don’t believe in a God who would punish me by taking my daughter away. Maybe God had nothing to do with it. Or maybe I’m wrong.
I have a loving husband, a precious son, and two step-sons all of whom I admire and love deeply for their presence and their quiet strength in the face of their own adversities as well as their kind and caring sensitivity in response to mine. After having spent so much of my life surrounded by the fluidity of the feminine, I am now most often surrounded by the solidity of the masculine. I think of my brother. I think of my father who passed away following renal cancer in 2004 at the age of 63 while still embroiled in the aftermath of his own father’s death just 2 years prior. I think of all the dreams that never came true. And I think of a time, which will come sooner than any of us ever plan, when all of us will be there, wherever that is, together again.
I also imagine that Dannica is the one who cradles and rocks and smooths the feathery hair of the tiny ones while singing them soft songs. I suspect she’s also making some heavenly mud pies and climbing the trees to be with the birds who loved her so much when she was here. How I look forward to the time when I can sit beneath those trees with her and our teddy bears and our tea…to the next time I can rock her in my arms and sing her soft songs and smooth her feathery hair. This is now my great big dream.