Friday, December 7, 2018

A Recap

I remember being eight. I remember a lot about it. I was in third grade. I had one of my favorite teachers that year. I lost my front two teeth right before I turned eight, so I had the big gappy smile. I wanted to be a detective and an actress and a teacher when I grew up. Also an author. I started reading books I really loved--The Secret Garden and A Little Princess and Anne of Green Gables and all the Ramona books. When I was eight, I couldn't wait to be twelve. I had three best friends, Mandy and Kelly and Erin. I played four square at recess, but still played dress up and pretend, too (Erin and I loved to pretend that we were twelve). I got a diary with a lock that I only wrote in sporadically. I was already me at eight years old.

If life had gone a different way, I'd have an eight year old. A little big kid. 

Eight years is long enough that grief sits familiarly. The week leading up to her birthday wasn't too bad this year--sometimes the days proceeding are harder than the actual day. This year that wasn't so much the case. I was busy enough to be distracted at work, but I'd deliberately cleared my evenings to make space for early bedtimes and good books (I finished reading Where the Crawdads Sing and really loved it; I also finished Claire Tomalin's nonfiction memoir A Life of My Own, which addresses the loss of her daughter Susanna in a heartbreaking and honest way). 

I took the day off work, which I knew I would need, based on previous experience. I was able to respond to e-mail from home, but I spent the day mostly on my couch, addressing Christmas cards and half-watching Netflix Christmas movies involving princes and identity switcheroos. 

I picked Coco up early for a quick run to the cupcake shop and Trader Joe's for flowers. 

What I really want is for us to go out to dinner on Eliza's birthday, but David would have to take off work early for us to be able to do that and get out to the park for the vigil by 7pm, so we weren't able to do that this year. Next year we'll plan accordingly.

The girls were weirdly jazzed about Eliza's birthday. I say weirdly because I obviously have mostly sad feelings about it, but they were very intent on a "celebration" with cupcakes and candles and they sang happy birthday and I just went with it. I think it was also exciting just to do something besides get ready for bed at 7pm on a school night. We had them put on their pajamas and at the park we bundled them under blankets in the stroller. I only had one battery-lit candle that worked and there was bickering over blankets and Coco was SO FREAKING LOUD that I threatened to take her back to the car and we got there about two minutes after the ceremony had already started. But we made it. The song and the talk (a mom who lost her baby girl to meningitis at five days old) made me cry and Coco looked at me wonderingly and said, "Are you sad?" and I said, "Yes. I miss Eliza a lot today." And she said, "All these people are sad because all their babies died."

After there ceremony we stood in the long line to put a white flower on the Angel of Hope statue. A newspaper photographer snapped Zuzu's picture (she looks like a miniature college student with her zebra stripe fleece pajama pants and her messy bun) and she was featured in their write up of the event. I didn't realize he was snapping her photo (which is why my mouth is open and I'm flailing my arm in the photo), but he caught up with us as we were walking away to ask Caroline's name and where we live. Then he said, "And who are you here for?" So I said, "Her sister Eliza, who would be eight years old today." And then he asked me when Eliza was born and I said, "December 6, 2010." And he said, "December 6? So today is her birthday?" and I said yes and he started to say, "Well, happy birthday--" but then he kind of caught himself like maybe that was inappropriate and I just said, "Well, we do the best we can." And then he sort of looked up at the sky and said, "Happy Birthday, Eliza," and it made me get totally teary-eyed.

She got featured in the story here (she's the top photo) and the girls also are in another photo later if you scroll down (they appear unsupervised, but I swear David and I were right behind them!). 

And then we drove home and everybody went to bed by 8:30pm (late for the girls, early for us).

It wasn't the worst December 6 I've ever had, by a long shot. I felt the love of texts and e-mails and IG comments and facebook messages. It helps so much to know she's not forgotten, that other people miss her too, that other people besides us see the gap that's left in this world by a little girl who would have certainly lit it up just like her sisters do. 

Eight years is when I really started to figure out who I was and what I loved. And I just wish I could know Eliza at eight. 


  1. I've been thinking of you and Eliza. Glad to hear you guys had a relatively peaceful day. Eight, wow, yes I vividly remember eight, too - it's so heartbreaking how much we've missed out on. Lots of you to you all and especially to Eliza for her birthday. <3

    1. We've missed so much. But yes, glad for a peaceful day. xoxo

  2. 'I was already me at eight years old.' This hit me like a punch in the gut with it's truth and depth. I wish you could know Eliza at eight years old too.

  3. Happy birthday Eliza. I wish you knew her at 8, too.

  4. Oh that made me teary and made my heart burst with love and gratitude for that photographers SIMPLE, and yet profoundly kind gesture.