March 12, 2014
Your father arrived home from work late yesterday. In one hand, his lunch cooler. The other held a bag. Frank and I were mid-Elmo puzzle when he walked in and made eye contact with me. I knew what was in the velvet bag. I followed him down the hall.
We couldn't bring ourselves to open it yet, setting it in your armoire instead. This place was supposed to hold your clothes, all of the outfits we would hang and switch out as you grew, happily and healthily in this room. The dark wood empty now, I imagined the shoes that would never grace the bottom rack. Tattered and worn from summer afternoons on blacktops, faded and outgrown from the busy feet inside the canvas.
Late that night I crept into your room alone, bracing myself as I opened the door. There it was, as still as I had seen you. Mocking me in its fuzzy, deep maroon. I had imagined this moment since I knew it was coming. The intensity I would feel, the despair. I would crumble to pieces as I gazed at the remains of what had grown in me. This fancy red bag with a drawstring.
Instead, all I could think about were the red velvet cupcakes I had made for your brother's second birthday party.
Rather than order a cake that year, I had wanted to create something myself. Red velvet being my favorite, I looked up the recipe (cream filling included!) and bought the ingredients, prepared to use the electronic mixer from our wedding for the very first time. They didn't turn out as I had hoped. Edible by a small margin, all of the guests politely chewed through the dense powder between gifts. No one would confirm what I tasted. Disappointment. Bitter. Hard to swallow.
I could never figure out what went wrong. Was it the flour? The salt? Had I over beaten it? Was that even possible? Perhaps it had been the perfect storm. Some hodgepodge of an "all of the above" paired with the inexperience of the baker.
I like having the answer. Some reason for the pained smiles, the awful aftertaste. I like to fix the problem. I want to know why.
I ached for the emotions now. I wanted to cry for you here. The longing you so deserved, the pain so appropriate for this moment. I willed for it to come. For the sadness to cover me, the guilt of my failure lifting briefly in the tears I owed you.
What kind of mother stands in front of her daughter's ashes and thinks of some damn cupcakes?
Apparently this kind. I'm learning about myself these days. Namely, I'm sticking to chocolate next time.