Well, we made it through Eliza's birthday. The day didn't exactly go as planned, but it wasn't the worst December 6th we've ever had (or even the second or third worst, really).
We ran a few errands in the morning and I said to David as we were walking out the door with the girls and all their paraphernalia, that if you'd told me four years ago that I'd on my way to run errands with two little girls, I don't think I would have believed it. How is it possible that I had three children in the amount of time it takes to get a bachelor's degree?
Anyway, I needed to pick up Christmas cards and we needed to get my ring from the jeweler so we took care of those little things and came home to eat lunch--much to Zuzu's disappointment. She had overheard our conversation about dinner plans and thought we were going to a restaurant for lunch.
David's car has been having some issues, so he decided to take a look at new car, leaving me to put the girls down for their afternoon nap. This did not go especially well. My friend K stopped by to drop off a thoughtful gift (this amazing, sweet, and sad book) and some hand-me-downs (we loooove her girls and their hand-me-downs) and there was no way that Zuzu was letting me answer the door alone. She gave K some hugs and waved to the girls and then we headed back upstairs where I finally got her to go to sleep.
I took advantage of naptime by reading a mindless mystery novel. I also had the book Ghostbelly, which a friend recommended, but I found that I just needed an escape for my brain.
I was annoyed that David got back later we had planned (not his fault, just another example of life not going according to plan). We'd wanted to go out to the garden where the vigil is held and place a flower at the Angel of Hope statue before we went to dinner. After the ceremony, everyone is invited to leave a flower at the angel, but because the weather was fairly decent and it was on a Saturday, we expected there to be a big crowd (and there was) so we figured that the girls wouldn't last long enough to go through the long line afterward.
But by the time David got home and we got everybody's diapers changed and ready to load up in the car, we didn't have time for that. We grabbed a quick dinner at one of our favorite delis (that word is weird looking), which is also the deli we went to before going to the grief support group at the hospital. Zuzu was on good behavior and Coco was sleeping, so dinner went really well.
In retrospect, I don't know why I had assumed the girls would be well-behaved at the vigil. It hadn't even occurred to me that Zuzu might run around the dark garden like a maniac and Coco might get fussy in the stroller.
But of course both of those things happened.
We listened to the main speech and one song and then Coco started crying. If we'd been anywhere else, I probably would have taken a couple minutes to comfort her and I think she would have settled down. But I knew there were people in that crowd who could NOT hear a baby crying--people who just a few short months or weeks (or years) ago had been those people in the hospital whose baby was silent while other newborns squawked and wailed.
I turned to David and said, "We've got to get out of here."
I know that hearing a baby cry could be such a grief trigger, and as much as I wanted to stay at the vigil and have a few minutes to focus on Eliza, we had to go. (Plus Zuzu was picking up luminaries at this point, and when David picked her up, she started yelling, "No! Don't take me up! Let me go!")
And so we loaded back up in the car, having been at the vigil for a total of about fifteen minutes.
We decided to drive through the Christmas light display in a nearby park, only to discover that the park was closed to cars that night and you had to rent a carriage to take you through to see the lights. Which required reservations and started at $75.
By this time, Coco was hungry and furious, so we pulled over in a mall parking lot and I nursed her in the car.
We decided that we'd just drive through Candy Cane Lane--a block in our neighborhood that decorates cooperatively for Christmas with red and white lights. But when we turned toward Candy Cane Lane, the line of cars was backed up three blocks.
It was kind of like the time we went to see Wicked but then discovered our tickets were for the wrong night, and then tried to go see Harry Potter but it was sold out. You just have to figure that the universe is stacked against you and you need to call it a night.
We went home and watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special. I felt teary and sad and also teary and grateful for all the notes and texts and e-mails I'd gotten from people thinking of us and remembering Eliza.
I ended up falling asleep before Zuzu did.
The next day we'd planned to go to church before I had to attend my university's December graduation, but then I realized that I'd brought home the gown for my academic regalia and left the hood and tam in my office. The graduation was in a big convention center no where near campus, so I had to make a roundtrip commute to campus, get my hood and tam, and come back home to get ready to drive 30 minutes in the opposite direction.
I arrived at graduation only to discover that I wasn't even on the freaking list, so they didn't have a seat for me. (No one is sure why, since I was receiving all the e-mails about being at graduation and it's required for all faculty.)
I made sure the president of the university saw me because I wanted credit for being there, and then I took the spot of someone who was a no-show.
I proceeded in with the faculty, while carrying my breast pump. I also got up an hour into the two-and-a-half-hour ceremony to walk out carrying my pump and go use it. I could have left it in a dressing room, but I wasn't sure if they'd be locked while we were in the ceremony and I didn't want to get locked out.
It was a long day, and even though I wasn't especially emotional, I was tired from the emotional hangover.
And now we are full-fledged into the Christmas season. I need to get cards mailed. I need to get gifts wrapped. You know, so I can hide them in the closet downstairs until Christmas Eve since the gifts I put under the tree were UNWRAPPED by a naughty little elf--for some reason I never imagined she would do this, even though we're talking about the child who scales the kitchen cabinets (using the drawer handles as toe-holds) to climb up on the counters and eat a baguette--she truly needs to be leashed even while at home.
But today Zuzu is at school, Coco is napping in front of the fire and I'm typing this as I sit next to her. Our tree is decorated with Baby's First Christmas 2014 and Elsa and several gorgeous Eliza ornaments and although the grief is still heavy, I can breathe. I'm looking forward to experiencing Christmas morning with Zuzu and Coco, and I'm trying to get psyched for the road trips that we will be taking on our Midwest Christmas Tour. Life is sparkly again, in a way I never thought would have been possible four years ago.
Like the anniversary day itself, it's not the life I had planned. But we are finding our way.