Posted in Mother

There in the kitchen

When I was a child, my mother was always baking something fabulous.

Cupcakes, whoopie pies, cakes, brownies, and cookies.  I can’t remember a time when we didn’t have a baked good in the house.

I remember clinging to her side as she incorporated her ingredients, waiting so impatiently for her to finish with the mixer because I knew that when she was done, she would hand me the beaters, the mixing bowl, and the spatula. I savored every last drop of the batter. I think I may have enjoyed that part more than the finished product.

But now, when I bake with Katie, I can’t bring myself to let her have that same joy.

The thought of her getting sick from the raw eggs overpowers my desire for her to know the same joy I knew, there in the kitchen with my own mother. I almost wish that, like my mother then, I didn’t know about the dangers of eating raw eggs.

So, when we bake, Katie’s joy is different.  Her smiles come from lining up the cupcake liners, peeking in the oven as the cupcakes bake, and carefully decorating them once they’ve cooled.

There in my own kitchen, as I witness Katie’s happiness, I miss my mother so very much.  Those days in her kitchen are some of my happiest memories of us together.

Thank you, Mom. Thank you for always saving the beaters, bowl, and spatula for me. I love you.

Obituary

On my nightstand is a laminated clipping of my father’s obituary from the local newspaper, printed just days after his death.

I have held onto this piece of plastic that encases this clipping since I was two years old.  The paper has yellowed over the past four decades, despite the plastic protection.  The words on the opposite side of the page have bled through, but the words that matter are still perfectly clear.

I have held it in my hands so many times that I know exactly how sharp the edges are, how smooth the plastic face is, and now, in my adult hands, it is four fingers across in width.

There were nights when I was particularly lonely and swept up in my loss, when I slept with it in my hands.  I would wake and feel it there and be reminded of the sadness and heartache I felt as I was falling to sleep.

The obituary says so much, yet it omits so much more.

My father’s obituary reads:

Funeral services will be held Saturday for Arnal D. Bray, 26, who died in a Waterville shooting incident Tuesday night.

It does not tell you he was shot twice by his best friend.

A native of Waterville, Bray was born March 19, 1947, the son of R. and L. Bray.

It does not tell you his parents were scarred, with wounds so deep they wore them on the outside for their entire lives.  These people who believed in the good of others, who were always the first to offer help to someone in need, were shown just how cruel the world could be.

He was graduated from Lawrence High School, Fairfield, in 1967.  He was a member of Fairfield Lodge, 100F, and of the Shawmut Chapel.

It does not point out that he was twenty when he graduated, proof of his rebellious nature.

A veteran of military service in Vietnam, Bray was employed at Scott Paper Co.

It does not tell you of all he saw in the war.  It does not tell you that he saw babies die.  Women.  Men.  Old. Young.  All dead.  All covered in flies. It does not tell you that he struggled to process all that he witnessed.

Survivors include his widow, Mrs. A. Bray of Fairfield; his parents, of Shawmut; one daughter, Nichole Bray, of Fairfield; two brothers, one sister … several aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins.

It does not tell you that the hole he left behind was so vast. That each of the people, even those who were lumped as nieces, aunts, cousins, felt his loss deeply.  They felt the reach of the frightening world. They realized that harrowing things didn’t happen only to strangers.  They didn’t happen just in the cities, they happened in their small town, to someone they knew, to someone they loved, to someone they laughed with.  The world became a far more serious and somber place.

Funeral services will be held Saturday at 1 p.m. at L Bros. Funeral Home, where friends may call today from 7 to 9 p.m. and Friday from 3 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m.

It does not tell you the way my grandmother cried, the way her heart was more than broken…it was truly decimated.

It does not tell you how hard my grandfather tried to be strong for the family, his wife, his surviving children.

It does not tell you how my aunts and uncles did their best to support their parents, while they were falling apart inside at the sight of their parents’ devastation and heartbreak.

It does not tell you how another piece of my mother died.  It does not tell you I wasn’t there.  That my presence was never even up for discussion.

Bray.  Arnal D. — In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the Shawmut Chapel.

This obituary does not tell you my father was magnetic, charming, funny, handsome, dynamic.  It does not tell you he would never be forgotten, never minimized, never truly gone.

I’ve often thought about the person who typed up my father’s obituary.  I’ve thought about him sitting at his typewriter, putting into words the most basic information.  The facts.  That’s what an obituary is.  Truly, just the most basic of facts.  There is no color, no emotion, no compassion.  Just dates, lists of family members, just facts.

The rest, well, the rest lies with those who have lost.


A touch of life

I received an email a couple of weeks ago from a lovely woman who is a new friend to me, a fellow writer and mother named Jessica, from Four Plus an Angel.

She attached a link to a post that she believed reflected a series of small moments from her life.

Jessica wrote:

Your site and all it stands for is beautiful. I lost my daughter a little over three years ago and since then, have learned that life is truly about the smallest of moments because they may be all you have.

I wanted to share a post with you I wrote on the most recent anniversary of her passing. I think it truly illustrates how our family has learned to live through the big and small moments.

I clicked on the link to her post, Today, and was so incredibly grateful that she reached out to me … that she wanted to share her story with me.  Her words are painful and beautiful and brave.

The more I read of her story, the more I knew that Jessica was a perfect fit for Small Moments Mondays. I asked her if she would consider sharing her story here and she generously agreed.

After you read this post, please go read Today, Thoughts on Thanksgiving, and The Autism Story.

Jessica inspires me to be even more grateful for all that I have … and all that I’ve lost.  She is strong and beautiful and appreciative in the face of tragedy and loss.

She is remarkable … so simply remarkable.

Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your story here. It is so incredibly generous of you.  I’m so honored that you wanted to share your story here on in these small moments.

Much love to you, lovely one….

A Touch of Life — by Jessica

The triplets were born at 28 weeks.  28 weeks and 5 days to be exact.  I was counting.

I lived in the hospital, staring at my feet and a calendar on the wall, x’s marking each day that the mix of medication and bedrest had given my babies.  After the threat of delivery at 19 weeks, 21 weeks, 24 weeks and every few days from then on, making it to my last trimester seemed a miracle.

I knew that my babies would be in the NICU and I was as prepared as any soon-to-be mom of triplets could be.  I had toured the unit, watched the babies born too soon struggling with life, given the nurses the eighth degree, researched feeding and bonding and every possible medical complication under the sun and I was ready.  We could do this.

But when the time came, and my babies and my body could not wait any longer all my readiness fell to my surgical slippered feet.

Nothing could have prepared me for the delivery of three babies at once, the sea of hospital masks, the hum of machines, the buzz of anticipation encircled by the quiet of hope.

As the first baby came there was no calm before the next.

There was urgency and monitors and calls for oxygen.

There were NICU teams and respiratory therapists and relays to incubators.

Baby A, my little girl, was brought past me first, all of her 2 pounds 10 ounces shocking me into the delicate world of mothering a preemie, though not as alarming as the 1 pound 14 ounces of her brother, the next to wriggle his long pink limbs near my face.  As the nurses brought them to me, one tiny baby at a time, I wanted to take in their every feature and hold them and love them but it was not yet my turn.  They needed intensive care and I felt that need and urged the nurses along, fighting my yearning to take trace every ounce of their fragile babyness.  I would see them soon enough.  Forever was ahead of us.

There were moments between the delivery of Baby B and C, my son and my next daughter… enough for me to take in the what was happening, settle into my excitement and wait for her.  As she came by I adjusted my focus, trying to see her 2 pounds 5 ounces of features through the mask of oxygen, already mingling with her labored breaths, and as I tried to move my hand to her face she held me first.  Her tiny pink fingers, white at the tips as they wrapped around mine.  And I did not feel that urgency I did with her siblings.  The nurse pressed forward with her before I was ready for her to let go.  I wanted to keep her there, suspended at my cheek, squirming with new life, explaining to me that she already knew who I was.  My first touch from one of my babies, who, entwined with her brother and sister, had endured the push and pull of life all those weeks that labor threatened.  She was here, and so was he, and so was she.  All alive and fighting, a testament to faith and hope and unending love.

And this small moment, this first touch, was the clearest, tiniest, most profound moment of my life, of my pregnancies, of our 77 days in the NICU, of my marriage, of my days as the mother of four living children, and the mother of one who is not.

One who stopped to tell me that she was okay, and I am her mother and always will be.

One who squeezed a moment of her short life into my waiting hand before she left this place for another.

Please, please go visit Jessica at Four Plus an Angel.  You won’t regret the time that you spend there with her.

Thank you.  From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for reading Jessica’s story.

You can also find Jessica on Facebook and Twitter.

Immediate and Tremendous

The fire had burned out and had quite likely gone completely cold by the time I was awoken.

My mother’s light touch on my back, her whispers in my ear in the dark of my bedroom coaxed me from my dreams.  She wasn’t herself as she helped me to put my coat on over my pajamas, gently, but absentmindedly, threading my arms through the sleeves.

Her whispers, “going to your aunt’s house…choose a toy to bring with you…”

I chose my new silver baton, with the white rubber tips, such a random thing to remember all these years later.

It was just before Christmas.

The bitter cold pierced through my coat and the snow swirled about our heads as my mother carried me to the car.

The drive was a blur, but when we arrived at my aunt’s house, I was elated to see my cousins.  This visit was a gift, an unexpected sleepover.  We all piled into my aunt’s bed and snuggled and whispered until sleep overtook us.

When we woke to the white Maine winter sunlight, streaming through the gap where the heavy curtains didn’t quite meet, my mother and her sister sat on the bed and told us that our grandfather had died the previous evening.

In a fire.

My magical, glorious, Pépère was dead.

Burned.

No warning, no goodbyes, no chance for final I love yous.

It was late.  My pépère packed logs into his wood stove, with bits of kindling and newspaper to help the fire catch, leaving the door ajar for precious oxygen to help feed the fire.  He lay on the couch for just a moment and dozed off.  When he woke, his living room was on fire and he couldn’t get to the front door, as that part of the living room was ablaze.

He tried to make his escape out the back door, but it was blocked.

He had hired a neighborhood boy the previous autumn to help him stack his firewood by the back door. When the boy stacked it, he blocked the door just enough that my grandfather was trapped.

My magnificent grandfather had no means of escape from his burning home.

The logical and controlling part of my brain always goes back to the little details.  How did he not notice that the door was blocked when he checked the boy’s work?  How could he have thought it okay to lie down and close his eyes, even for just a small moment?

But the answers don’t matter…they can’t change what happened.

Though I was all too familiar with the void left by loss, I had never felt that acute pain, that immediate and tremendous loss. Death was no longer represented by a dull ache.*

In an evening and in an instant, my pépère was gone.

*My brother died before I was born, and my father died when I was just two years old.

This post was inspired by a prompt from The Red Dress Club, a photo of a Christmas ornament not unlike those on my pépère’s Christmas tree.

The warmth of his hand

There is something so special about each of the bloggers I invite to post here on Small Moments Mondays (SMM).  As I’m sure that you’ve gathered by now, I over think absolutely everything.  When I compile a list of bloggers to invite, my list is never random.

This week, I’m excited to share with you my friend Fadra, who blogs over at all.things.fadra.  Why did I invite Fadra to tackle SMM?  Because I enjoy her writing style so very much.

I’ve been struggling to find the words to describe Fadra’s writing and the best that I’ve been able to come up with is to tell you that she uses exactly as many words as she needs to communicate what she’s trying to say and not a single word more.  Her writing feels streamlined and logical, beautiful and clean.  I also love Fadra because she is so savvy…more often than not, I learn something new from her posts.

Thank you for sharing your small moment with us, Fadra.  Your story makes me all soft and squishy inside.  Your little guy is a lucky boy to have you for his mother.

The Warmth of His Hand — by Fadra

I’ve always thought of myself as a small moments kind of girl. I actually do stop to smell the flowers. I watch the birds and butterflies in the yard. I enjoy my kitty laying next to me on the bed. I savor a lot of the small moments.

Thinking back to my childhood, I remember the family trip to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, VA. But I connect with the memory of the giant paper flowers on a stick that my sister and I got as souvenirs. I remember collecting Valentine’s Day cards from my classmates but I can clearly see the red and white striped shoebox decorated with paint stamps of hearts and stars and moons.

It’s those small things that make those small moments that etch those memories in our minds forever.

And now that I’m a mom, I know that I’m creating those small moments for my son. We spend so many special times together and I think about what will stay and what will fade. I think about Little Gym classes and storytime at the library. I think about the racetrack he got for Christmas and the latest Happy Meal toy. But I’m hoping my small moments are the ones that will stay with him.

My small moments are the ones that come every night just before my son drifts off to sleep. I have always been lucky as a mom in that my son was a sleeper. At 9 weeks, he slept through the night. He loved his pacifier. When he got older, I simply laid him in his crib, gave him the pacifier, said goodnight and walked away. It was a simple bedtime routine. Never a need to cry it out. Never a need to co-sleep. Everything worked just fine.

Then as he got older, he moved to a toddler bed. Every once in a while, I would squeeze in and cuddle him. Most nights, I might sit on the rocking chair and stay for a lullaby or two. He’s almost 4 now. And a few months ago we moved him to a big boy bed. It’s a full size bed.

The first few nights I stayed with him until he fell asleep. I remember him telling me how he felt about his newly arranged room. “Mommy,” he said, “everything just feels so different.” Growing up is hard. I wanted to ease the transition. I stayed a few more nights.

Now, we have our nightly routine. We sit in his bed together. We read a book, or two, or five. We read sweet stories. We learn about sharks. He asks me every question in the world and I do my best to answer. We give kisses and hugs, turn on some music, turn out the lights, and turn on his Twilight Turtle projecting stars on his ceiling.

In the blue light of his nightlight, we snuggle. Some nights we just chat. Something about the darkness allows him to release his day. He’ll tell me how someone at daycare said something he didn’t like. Or someone took his toy. Or he heard some grown-up talk during the day he didn’t understand. We talk about it. I’m honored that he shares it with me.

He kisses my arm or my face. He reaches for my hand and holds it until he falls asleep. These are the small moments for me. The moments when I feel the warmth of his hand. The moments when I am amazed that I made this little creature and this little creature loves me “to infinity and beyond.”

Long after he falls asleep, I lay there listening to his breathing. I kiss him one more time. I cover him up with a snuggly blanket even though he insists he likes to be cold. And I imagine what dreams he must have.

I think about this habit I’ve created. He won’t go to sleep without me right beside him. I’ve undone all of the wonderful sleeping habits I established early on. I’ve become that parent that is trapped by my child’s bedtime. I want a break. I want my grown-up life in the evenings. But even on late nights, when I come home and see his lights are off and my heart sinks a little. These are my small moments. And they are moments I will hang on to as long as he lets me.

Okay, you know what to do now…go on over and visit Fadra at all.things.fadra.  Be sure to read some of my favorite posts: Why Twitter Friends Are Better Than Co-Workers, Joy Comes in the Morning, If I Was a Rich Girl.

And while you’re visiting, be sure to check out the genius new meme that Fadra has just begun hosting, stream of consciousness Sunday, where Fadra challenges us to take five minutes and just write what we’re thinking, as we think it.  No editing.  I took part this week and found it refreshing to just sit and write without worrying about anything but the writing itself.

About me

Nichole Beaudry @NicholeBeaudry Location: Northern California
Each and every day, I strive to appreciate the wonder, beauty, and whimsy in the small moments, the moments that, when strung together, form a lifetime.
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