Carol's Noah and Sam make me smile, with their huge brown eyes and brown curly hair and their bilingual English/Portuguese skills. Sam is three, Noah will be two in December.
Jamie's Owen will be two in October. He cracks me up because he's such a stocky little guy right now and both his parents are tall and thin and he squeezes his juice box in the middle so it spills and he plays so hard he gets red faced and sweaty.
Beth's Lilly will turn three in October. She has her dad's big blue eyes and stands out as the quiet one in a noisy group, although she can be plenty noisy at home. Her ponytail is perky and she even keeps her dress clean and when I ask her new baby sister's name, she whispers, "Evie."
Allison's Aubrey is tall for her age (just turned three) and has the kind of hair that I still envy--gorgeous blonde bouncing curls. In an extra twist of unfairness, she somehow has thick, dark eyelashes as well. Wade is Aubrey's big brother (he'll be five very soon) and even taller than she is--he looks like such a grown up boy with his talk of jet planes and he (politely) asks for seconds on cake before everyone has gotten firsts.
Stephanie's Evelyn has just met everyone for the first time but asserts herself with the confidence of a girl who has two brothers (one fourteen months older, one who's her twin). She will be two in November, and in her world, there's no car that can't be driven, no slide that can't be slid, no potted tree that can't be pulled over.
The babies in the bunch were all born this summer and are stairstepped--Jamie's Nathan is about a month older than Caroline who is just about a month older than Beth's Evie.
I loved seeing all of them together (and their moms). But of course I kept thinking about the little girl who wasn't there. The little girl who should have been a month younger than Evelyn, almost the exact same age as Noah, three months younger than Owen. Would she have been shy or bossy? Would she be talking? Would she prefer dresses or shorts? Would she buddy up with Evelyn or want to shadow Aubrey or Lilly? Or would she prefer to play trains with the boys?
I see those kids who are right where she was supposed to be and I see how breathtakingly BIG they are, what strong little personalities they have, what amazing things they are capable of doing and saying and feeling (Noah played hide and see with me under the table, Evelyn wanted to swing so high, Owen fell in love with a stuffed Clifford dog).
I see these kids and I feel so glad that they are here and safe and healthy. I'm relieved that my friends have been spared the pain and grief that David and I have felt. I'm also insanely jealous. All I want is for both my kids to be alive. Why is that so easy for everyone else and so impossible for me?
This has been the first time we all got together since Eliza died (well, it's the first time I was there--it's possible that they got together and tactfully didn't mention it to me). I know there's no way I could have done it before Caroline was born. In that way, she has made life easier to handle.
I was so afraid for so long of seeing these kids and missing Eliza. I was afraid of being overwhelmed with anger and sadness and bitterness. And I can't say that those feelings are completely gone. But I can love my friends' kids for who they are, both in spite of and also because they are a reminder of Eliza.
David and I were talking last night about how much Caroline has filled up the hole in our lives that Eliza left. The busy-ness of parenting, the fun of picking out clothes and visiting family and watching her become more and more aware of the world around her--we have that now and it is so, so sweet. But the point of our conversation was that there's still an emptiness--a quiet space that could only be for Eliza.
I felt that quiet emptiness yesterday, surrounded by friends, laughter, chatter, the occasional shrieking child or fussing baby.
I held my baby and I hugged my friends and I was so grateful for all that's good in my life. And I can't even tell you how much I missed my first little girl and everything that should have been.
|Don't be confused! I'm actually holding Nathan (third from left) and my friend Allison (the pretty blond) is holding Caroline|