From day one, it’s full of contradictions- and the move has been no different.
A widow friend warns me that it might feel after we move, as if you disappeared or never existed, because our new life will no longer have a place for you. Audrey asks if we can call one of our new dining chairs “Appa’s chair,” and I agree to it. For most meals, one of her dolls joins us in that chair.
But it is, in many ways, a disappearance. Everything is changed: environment, routines. I haven’t gotten to hang up photographs yet either, so that doesn’t help. This is a place you have never been.
And then, after a few weeks of “settling,” I realize everything, our life, situation, is exactly the same. I still sit in bed in disbelief each night- I still stare at our daughter’s closed eyelashes- so much like yours- while she sleeps. Time- the first environment- is still the same- fast and slow simultaneously- uncomfortable.
The pace of life quickens now- with school routines for Audrey, an impending job search for me, but I am still not, and will not be, one of those busy, purposeful looking people running to and fro. That, I think, I have forever stepped away from. Still- your absence- and your presence- surprises me more when I have less time to dwell on it now and I think often of this quote from a young girl in “A History of Love,”
Every year, the memories I have of my father become more faint, unclear, and distant. Once they were vivid and true, then they became like photographs, and now they are more like photographs of photographs.
The night before her fourth birthday party, Audrey started to talk about you- wishing you could attend her party. She sat by a photograph of the three of us I have yet to hang up, caressing your face. She told me she missed you very much and was very sad- then she ran to get her camera, and took photographs of your photograph. They are blurred- but clear- and close-up.
The character continues:
But sometimes, at rare moments, a memory of him will return to me with such suddenness and clarity that all feeling I’ve pushed down for years springs out like a jack-in-the-box. At these moments, I wonder if this is the way it feels to be my mother.”
Yes, yes- it does. A jack-in-the box- but many, many times a day. Each day, a rhythm of the slow, mechanical winding- and then the jump….the slow winding again…the jump. The more full our days, the less moments for the jump- but the winding- the tension- the music- is always there. It does not quiet.
The fear of losing you, forgetting, dissipates. Certain things are changeless.
Longfellow, The Cross of Snow