"The pleasure of remembering had been taken from me, because there was no longer anyone to remember with. It felt like losing your co-rememberer meant losing the memory itself,
as if the things we'd done were less real and important [...]"
It's a little silly to feel broken over a bumblebee purse. Things like this always sneak up on me.
Millie has a bright red, sequined frame bag on a chain. It's a little purse that is usually involved in any dress up endeavors (both with her and with Walter). But one day at an overpriced children's clothing store at the mall, she found a denim one with lace or sparkles, maybe unicorns. She begged and pleaded. But a six year old doesn't need a purse, in my opinion, so we left the store without it, her girl's heart bruised from mourning what she would never have. And then, the next day, while she was busy at her homeschool group, I stopped by a resale shop, saw a little patent leather bag with a daisy, and decided it was worth the dollar price tag. When she opened the door and saw it, she clasped it to her chest, took it with her everywhere, and was quite the fancy lady. That was, until Walter scribbled all over her prized possession with a ballpoint pen.
Then, tonight, we browsed the Goodwill aisles when I spotted it- a bumblebee purse. It couldn't have been cuter. Bursting with more excitement than most adults should have over a bumblebee bag, I proudly presented it to Millie. "Look," I gushed to her, "Isn't this the best? You could fit twice as many things in this one! And it's just right for summer! You could even bring it to church!" (Why she would need to, I had no idea. The words were spilling out.) She looked at me skeptically. "It's okay," she began, "but...I don't know. It's for a little kid."I stared at her in shock. Never mind that I didn't want her to have one at all. Suddenly, I needed her to have this one. $2.99 to preserve a smidgen of childhood? Absolutely. And whether it was for her or for myself (okay, we all know it was for me), she finally consented that we should probably take it home.
I thought about it all evening, and why I was so manic and insistent about something so ridiculous. I realized that I was slightly scared. Any day now, she wouldn't agree to take that bag home even if it did mean something to me. Sometimes I forget, in the quiet day in and day out of our small lives, she and Walter are growing up. Every second is farther away from the littleness, and closer to big kids who don't have time for silly things like a bee shaped purse.
Ah. There it is. Just when I think I've managed to be angry and sad about every part of this deployment, I find another layer. Another reason he should be here, not there. Another small way to grieve.
They were both sad and confused when I had to let them know he will miss their birthdays this year. And really, he will never much know Millie, the six year old and Walter, the three year old. They will mostly exist in photos and grainy video calls, these parts of their stories and personalities witnessed only by me. When he's home later, I know I'll begin laughing at a memory only to realize it's one we don't share. He and I will have aged a year's time, but it will matter little- maybe another wrinkle here or there. Yet a year of their very few years feels like all the time in the world. They've outgrown so many shoes and pairs of jeans, and we keep etching new marks on the growth chart on the wall. Millie no longer stumbling on the bigger words in her stories, and reads to Walter with ease, and he has new habits and loves and fears. Sky will meet new people when he returns, people who didn't exist when he left.
It's such an odd ache, desperately wanting time to move forward to the day he comes home, but hoping it will slow down so they stay small a little longer. There is no way to balance it, so there's a constant battle in my heart. If only it was the end of summer. And if only summer would take longer to get here, because they're already so much bigger than when he left.
We took a short walk after naptime, soaking in the sunshine and pondering when the dandelions would return. At the little creek down the road, we saw that the tall, brown cattails we've passed every day had turned white, and were ripe for the picking. Millie cautiously stepped down to the edge of where grass meets mud, and snapped off a few reeds, one for each of us. I watched as they stroked the velvet soft outside before pinching a part of fluff and watching it sail into the air all around them. The bits of feathery whiteness floated up into the blue, slowly and then suddenly gone, as if they had never existed upright and still in the water moments before.
Sometimes, the proof we have of the past is just as tangible. Maybe it's merely to say, "It's not here anymore. But when it was, it was beautiful. The breeze danced away with it all, and now there's not a trace. And I wish I could describe how that looked.
You would have loved it."