The innocence of babes, they see so little of the world, and yet so much. There is no added weight to what they observe, no associations—just interest. There is shining magic everywhere. Coming across an old baby book filled with my grandma’s handwriting, I see my mom as such: her first words and steps and waves bye bye. I imagine my husband at that age, toddling about sweet and shy in Vojvodina, in his little town on the Danube with his grandma; and my dad, digging snow tunnels with his pals on the sidewalks of Hibbing. I open the refrigerator and see last night’s stew, thinking how much my mom loved stew when the weather started to turn, how I make mine like hers. I think of her long life full of stews, and birthday cakes and new clothes and old friends, and the place of family in her world, not at the top of her list but the whole and the base of it, the part of her she tended first. I feel the arc of that life, the girl she was and remained through all the addings, the losses and gains, the beliefs, hopes, resentments, loves, worries… and after all, the quiet wisdom and acceptance that emerged, shining soft like a placid lake. This is a blessed sorrow that I feel might break me in two—I can’t hear her singing in the kitchen, I can’t make her coffee best. My father wakes and calls her name. A greater trial than death is loss—I consider for a moment that love is cruel, but a breeze huffs through the window and I awaken to the bougainvillea climbing the wall outside, to it’s character and mystery, as if seeing it through a child’s eyes. I have a baby book too. We suffer our way into humanness to see what we’ve always been, which is more than we ever knew. We are alive in each other, everything is alive in everything.
I am moving forward in this strange, unmoored peace, empty and full, bereft and grateful, hugging everyone I love or even just like a little, admitting love, treasuring their lives, unashamed. Grief is never assuaged, it is shared, and I am held by them— and, as always, by my mother. My soul is in her arms.