June 27th 2002 was probably one of the most painful days in this new life with Elle. In the parking lot after Elle’s pediatric appointment I was met by my mom. Our plan was to meet so she could take Amelia to her ballet class and I would have some down time while Ellie took her morning nap. I think my mom must have sensed my panic as I walked out to meet her in the parking lot. I am sure she already knew in her own way that things were not “normal” with her newest sugar cookie, the nick name she had given to her granddaughters. Although I can not recall the specifics, our interaction felt constrained, it felt sad, it felt tight, it felt rushed but I could also feel her unwavering strength. Knowing my mom, I am sure she gave me marching orders and sent me back to Dragon Fly Ranch, the name Tim and I had chosen for our little oasis in the soft low lying hills of bordering Skagit Valley; a place where the tulip fields meet the bay and where local kids in my day grew up picking raspberries and running the pea vine for their summer jobs. A little slice of heaven on earth.
But sometimes life does not feel like heaven at all. Sometimes life is hell. I somehow must have made it home and put Elle down for her nap. I remember wandering in my newly constructed kitchen and into the large dining room where I held treasured memories of Amelia’s first birthday celebration complete with a champagne brunch with our core group of family and closest friends. But on this day, this room became the same space in which I hold the memory of collapsing onto the cold hardwoods and releasing every ounce of salty tears my body was capable of creating. My cries were not soft, they were primal and deafening. In this moment, it felt like the gods had taken a 5000 piece jig saw puzzle of my life and forcefully threw it onto the floor leaving me to pick up the pieces alone, one by one. My body felt like a sack of flour soaked in watery tears as I picked myself up off of the floor. This must be what the white coated experts deemed the first stage of grief.
I do not recall how long i was down. In hind sight it was probably an hour, but at that time if felt like an eternity. By lunch time Amelia and my mom would be arriving back home to Dragon Fly Ranch after her first beginning ballet class. My next vivid memory and one that has remained buried deep in my soul to this day is when my Mom walked into the kitchen with Amelia trailing behind wearing her black leo and scruffy pink tights. I was doing the dishes while staring out the window trying to hold myself together for Amelia’s sake. I failed. The next thing I recall was firmly grasping the hot soapy butcher knife that I was washing and I began stabbing it repeatedly into the stainless steel sink. “I can’t do this, I can’t do this, I don’t want to do this mom” …… She rushed over to me and stood behind me, wrapped her arms tightly around me and held me up while I began to sob again. She took the knife away from me and laid it down out of reach onto the cold counter. She told me she would be there for me, that we would just bring Ellie along no matter what, that I had to stay strong and be a mother to Amelia and that we would get through this together. I wanted to believe her but I was not sure that what she said could ever come true. The picture she was trying to paint for me was a million seas away, a million moons to come. Untouchable. But what other choice did I have but to hold onto her strength, her foresight, her words because I had none of my own in that moment. “And look, look what I brought you for your birthday!” said my mom as she gently walked me toward the kitchen table away from the sharp steel edge of the knife. I had completely forgotten it was my birthday. I slowly undid her perfectly wrapped present with curled ribbon, festive wrap and tissue paper to match…. and there it was, a magic wand made of beautifully pounded bronzed iron adorned with sea green and turquoise gems. “I wish I could wave this magic wand and heal your broken heart and give little Elle all the healing touches that she needs, to be whole again.” With more tears surfacing from what seems to have been a bottomless barrel, I hugged my mom tight and said thank you.
The magic wand remains to this day above my kitchen sink in the window seal. It has traveled with me from the Skagit Valley, to Hamblen Street and now to South Ridge. It has become the token symbol of my unbreakable bond with my mom, her unwavering love for me and her sugar cookies. I know I would not be where I am today without her and that is one of the best birthday gifts I could ever have. Lucky.