It’s the middle of the night after a long trip and my husband hands me a pile of mail. I’m not quite sure what to do with it all. It was a difficult drive and I don’t really know how to just come in and put the children to bed. So I sort the mail.
One pile for sympathy cards. My husband usually opens those. We read them together, but I can’t always handle more than a couple at a time.
One pile for medical bills. There’s almost enough in that pile to buy our house all over and it isn’t even all that we know are coming. I’m thankful for good insurance but can’t bring myself to look just then.
And then there are the seed catalogs.
I had been looking forward to these. I do every year. Garden planning, I’ve found, is my favorite part of gardening. I get to plant all my vegetable dreams on paper and there they never succumb to wind or rain or drought or weeds. My garden is already planned, but I can usually be enticed to squeeze in a few more things.
This year, it isn’t in me. The only thing I can think about is how Tiggy used to sit in his car down by the garden while I was working. Sometimes he toddled behind me. Sometimes he wandered about in the tall grass outside the garden. Always he shouted gleefully any time the chickens came over to work over the compost pile.
I’ve lost my little country boy. My little chore helper who was happiest at my side trying so hard to do whatever I was doing.
I think about how I had to take my garden plan off the bulletin board because Tiggy wouldn’t stop tearing my paper vegetables out of their paper beds. Sighing, I shove them out of the way. They’ve suddenly become another chore, another thing to just get through.
But morning brings a new day. I’m seeking distraction, something to occupy my mind. So I pull the catalogs back out, dig up my garden plan, find a notebook and begin slowly working my way through. One has a sweet potato cultivar advertised for northern gardens. I make a little room in my plans. One has the luffa squash I had given up finding. One even has lignonberry which I’ve been wanting for the hill over the root cellar.
My daughter interrupts, pushing a Hello Kitty notebook between me and a catalog.
“I’m writing a story, Mommy.”
I notice her name written at the top of the page while she chatters on. I nod my head and return to the catalog. But she’s insistent. She pushes her notebook back at me along with a pen. I’m supposed to take dictation. I don’t want to take dictation. I just want to sit here and forget about everything else.
But this is the notebook my little Bug has been working through her own grief in.
Here, she drew Hello Kitty with tears streaming down her face, even while she continued smiling and giggling as if nothing had ever happened.
“Why is Hello Kitty crying?” I had asked her.
“She’s sad that Tiggy died. Too sad to talk anymore.”
So I drag my thoughts back to the present, back to my children, back to where my family is in this moment. Everything is so heavy. The catalogs I set aside, her notebook, the pen. Their weight is almost unbearable as I take the little notebook and sit up to write her story.
“I am happy,” she begins.
The words sting. She does seem happy. She is very much the same as she was before the accident. Except I know that Hello Kitty cries. And that Hello Kitty doesn’t talk any more. I want to help her, but I don’t know how. She continues her story.
“I wish Tiggy didn’t die. Mommy and Daddy are so sad. We are a happy family.”
I pause for a moment over her last sentence. I look up at her bright, hopeful eyes. Smiling, I finish writing and hand back her story and she skips off to show Daddy.
I keep smiling. Her words touch my very soul. I like that thought. That we can be so sad, but still be a happy, nurturing family where our children can grow and find happiness.
And as I take up my catalogs, they aren’t quite so heavy anymore.