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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Whitewash

Dear Josie,

I'm obsessed with a dresser.

This isn't a dresser I would like to buy.  I already own it.  It was a Christmas gift several years ago from your grandparents, to their broke and furniture-troubled college daughter.  It was white and the drawers were lined in pink.  I absolutely loved it.

The dresser stayed with me after graduation.  It moved home with me, into the two bedroom apartment I would share with your aunt after scoring my first real job.  The following year brought a five bedroom rental with two more roommates, a second-story deck and a basement with a bar.  There it sat in the corner of my room, morning after morning, barbecue after killer dance party. 

We found out I was pregnant with your brother that year, and I moved in with your father almost immediately.  It wasn't official until our lease ended, but my things began to accumulate at his place.  A beautiful brick house a little father south.  I felt scared but also extremely secure, filling his chestnut drawers with my t shirts and college hoodies. Everything smelled foreign and full of hope.  After one of my showers, the room just off ours was filled with matching furniture, and we carefully packed all the 'extras' away in the garage.  Next to my white dresser. 

When we learned you were a girl, I pictured that dresser in your room.  Watched the sunlight bounce off the cream through the blinds, spinning circles around you on pink rugs.  

After several talks we decided it would go to your brother instead. His clothes, like him, had grown longer with time and had surpassed the space of the baby furniture. You would get his old room, the closet, the matching armoire and dresser.  He would move downstairs, into the brand new room your father had spent six months building off the garage.  Only white didn't really match the little boy décor.   

We picked out the color together.   Mudslide.  It wasn't white, but it matched the royal blue and the baseball posters.  And it made your brother smile. 

The night you died, your father had begun to paint this dresser.  The symbolism is not lost on me.

I had fallen asleep at nap time, waking with a vivid dream.  I hadn't felt you move for over an hour.  You were already gone then, as my mind was trying to convey.  My heart just couldn't listen.

I remember finding your father in the garage, slathering the dark brown in even strokes, the fumes startling me at the bottom of the stairs. 

"Maybe you just need to lie down.  Eat something?"  I had done that, I assured him.  Something was wrong.  I didn't feel right.  I needed to go. 

"Stay with Frank," I called, rushing out the door.

"Will you be okay?"  He asked me.

"If she is."  I had said.

Many nights I have stared at this dresser.  It haunts my periphery through the bedtime stories and Lego parades.  I have fallen asleep, just gazing at it during  midnight tummy aches and cuddle sessions.  Sometimes I picture it white, as it were before.  Safe and flawless and clean.  Before the change, this appropriate and responsible darkness.   Before I became a mother.  Before I lost a child.

But mostly, I focus on the chips, obsessively like a crazy person.  The flecks of white peeking through.  These little imperfections, asymmetrical proof of a life lived in your absence.  I see nerf balls and laundry baskets and a million conversations.  I see changes welcomed, cracks because we lived after that day.  Because we never gave up.  I see a girl who wasn't caught.   A girl who jumps anyway. 

And I'd be too scared to jump again, if there wasn't this security.  To know you're with me every minute, whispering it's worth the risk. 

And I'm trembling and I'm hesitant, but deep down I know you're right. 

Love,
Mom










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