Today I took Char to the park.
That may not seem like the most life altering activity, but the way it came about was kind of a moment of realization for me. Her and I were driving home from dropping Bella off at school. Usually Sam takes her and I pick her up, but this morning he had an early appointment. On the way back, we were passing the street by us where they just redid the park; putting in swings, a canopy to shade it, pathways, and picnic tables. It only reopened a few weeks ago, but the weather has been so so hot still by the time Bella gets home we hadn’t been back there yet.
As a million things I needed to get home and do raced through my mind, I suddenly remembered I had a tiny one in the back who would love to go to the park with me. I turned down the street and got her out, carrying her to the swings for the first time.
She loved it and sat very still, rocking back and forth, for a few minutes until putting her arms up for me and saying, “Ah-done.” After that, she saw the pigeons (“dodos”) across the grass and took off after them. It was a disappointing moment for her when she finally understood they had no intention of being hugged by an excited toddler.
I watched her run and suddenly thought of a time after Kaden died when I was driving with Bella and she was about 6. We were passing a park we’d been to many times in the past with friends, since she was about Char’s age now. I glanced over at the children playing and it struck me that Bella was too big for that one – and I’d missed the stage of her getting there. There was such an ache as I wondered if I’d ever get to take a child to the park to play again like her and I had. It’s not that I couldn’t have taken her ever, it was just – it had been so long and so much had happened that I had unconsciously missed those “lasts” of her smallness. My grief and struggle to just survive had taken those moments.
For 6 years, Bella was my sole companion in many ways. Sam was gone a lot with the military, friends came and went, but her and I did everything together. Even when it was just trying to cope and find how to live again.
Now with Char, I am in a place where it feels like some of the fog from the past few years is finally lifting, postpartum fades away, and life finds a bit of a normalcy and pattern again. So as Bella starts a new chapter in school and with more independence, I find myself almost forgetting that I can do this again. It’s so easy to slip back into my pattern of “only child” and when she’s gone, feel a little lost.
Today was a reminder of how much I have to look forward to with them both. I get to rebuild that relationship with Bella in a new way, and find one with Char as she grows up. It’s a reminder to be a little more present for them both now that I’m able to.