June 2004, just a few months shy of Charlie’s due date, we decided to head up to Greenbluff to pick strawberries with Amelia and Elle. We had quickly come to learn that Greenbluff was the place that locals took their families for pumpkins, Christmas trees, and seasonal fruits. A beautiful collection of small family owned farms tucked into the folds of the low lying hills Northeast of Spokane. My belly was substantial by now and I had the typical third trimester fatigue, I was ready to be done. Especially with the heat. I had never been “this pregnant” before during the summer months, and definitely not use to the eastern Washington summers.
Our first home in Spokane was on Hamblen street. Just across the street from the Presbyterian church and Amelia’s future elementary school. It was a modest soft butter yellow 3 level home with white rock accents, fairly outdated but very practical… except we did have a pool. As a west side girl, it was not normal to have a home with a pool, however in Spokane it seemed like a good portion of homes possessed a backyard oasis out of necessity – a refuge from the dry intense summer heat. Air conditioning is also a nonnegotiable in Spokane. Unfortunately, on this day, our air conditioning had stopped working and we tried old school style to keep our home cool. Strategically opening windows and sliders to allow the flow of cool air to ameliorate the stifling heat.
Amelia was very excited to explore the strawberry farms. She was my little helper, finding water bottles and sunscreen to add to our back pack in preparation for our family outing. Tim was scanning the yellow pages (yes the yellow pages) for the names of all the different berry farms and their addresses. A normal day. A normal day until I realized Elle was not where I had left her sitting to play with her toys. “Where’s Ellie?” I asked Tim, “Do you have her?”. “No, I thought you did” Tim answered. “Shit.” my heart started racing as I retraced my steps, laser scanning the up stairs, then the front room, and then down to our walk out basement. By this time I was running through the house while the adrenaline pulsated through my heavy pregnant body. Just as my legs floated me down the steps I saw that we had left the sliding glass door open to keep our home cool. She can’t be outside, she is not that able yet to make it that far I thought. I was dead wrong. As I ran up a few steps onto the pool deck, I hit my shin on the cement stairs and fell forward. Reflexes took over as I slammed into the concrete hands first to protect my pregnant belly. Before I knew it, I was in the aqua waters, chest deep snatching Ellie away from the grips of death… I do not know how long she had been in those waters, but she was still breathing and sputtering. Shaken to my very core.
With her soaking wet breathing body in my arms, Tim, Amelia and I retreated into our home and locked the sliding glass door. Tim sat stunned as I attempted to explain to Amelia what had just happened… but I did not need to. She knew we had almost witnessed the drowning of her baby sister.
After we all settled down, regrouped and discussed new safety strategies, I called my mom to confess. I can not remember how I phrased what had just happen, but I clearly remember her slowly asking…”It wasn’t Amelia was it?” “No mom, Amelia’s a good swimmer, it was Ellie.” I replied quietly. Although my mom had asked a fair question, in my mind her question really was more of a declaration of her love for her grand daughter Amelia. I don’t know if this is exactly what she was trying to convey but this is how I interpreted her sobering words. I was not angry at her for asking me that question. If I am being completely honest with myself, that is how I felt too. What if that had been Amelia? Would I be more devastated to lose Amelia over Ellie ? Does this mean I don’t love Ellie as much as I love Amelia ? Can one love equally what is perfect and imperfect ? I would be untruthful if I did not admit to having thoughts of how my life would be so much simpler without Elle. If it had been just a few more minutes before we discovered she was missing, maybe I would have spared myself and my family from the years of pain, hardship and burdens of having a special needs child. Hard to admit these thoughts but they were there in the darkest corners of my mind. But here’s the thing, my higher self, the self that is aligned with the purest love of our universe knew better. My higher self took over, alerted me that one of my babies was in serious trouble and brought me to her rescue. My higher self knew that Elle was sent here for a purpose, she had a big mission here on planet earth and needed a hell of a lot more than just 2 years to accomplish what she had been sent here to do, heal and strengthen her mother and anyone else who may be in need of healing touches direct from God.
By the end of the summer, thanks to my mom, we installed a chain link fence complete with a locked gate to keep ALL of her sugar cookies safe from harm. Over the years, I have thought back to this day and how our lives could have turned out much differently. And I can say with total honesty, I am grateful to my higher self for alerting me that summer morning in June. As difficult as the day to day life can be with Elle, I know I am also incredibly fortunate to have been given the special gifts that only a child with special needs can provide. Gratitude for the simple things in life, patience, perspective, selflessness, and sweet uncomplicated love compliments of Elle.
As always, we carried on that summer day, and took our girls up to the farmlands to gather strawberries as if nothing extra ordinary had happened. But in reality, I was well aware that my guardian angel was right there with me keeping watch. Keeping Gods plan for our lives on track . Grateful .