this.

one week + two days

before we count

another 25th off

of the calendar.

my child,

the person

who has helped me

through, has

made me me,

has made me whole,

she needed me

last saturday.

we have these buttons,

buttons with

her mom’s

face on them.

on the button

is a photo

i took back in 2006,

while we were

in india,

near the tomb

of a south indian hero.

liz outside the gumbaz of tipu sultan and hyder ali.

last saturday.

maddy was inside her

mom’s

jewelry box

as she often is,

her hands running

along the beaded necklaces,

the watches, with batteries

long since dead,

slipped over her

tiny wrist,

hanging loosely until

she moves on to

the earrings or

the bracelets.

boxes were opened.

drawstrings on

tiny bags loosened.

the case that still

holds a pair of

liz’s

glasses…

the sound

of the hinges

creaking open, and

the case snapping shut.

(i kept waiting for the usual howl from maddy that comes when she pinches her fingers in the damn thing, but it didn’t happen this time.)

all of these things

that belonged to

liz

now belong to

maddy…

she knows that

she can look at them,

touch them, wear them.

and just feel.

anytime she wants.

but i had no

idea just how connected

she would be to these things.

at least not yet.

one week + one day

before we celebrate

another 24th.

we decided that

one of the buttons with

liz’s

photo should be

attached to one of

her teddy bears.

as we drove away

from our house

and toward a birthday

party for one of

her dearest friends,

i heard maddy sniffling

in the backseat.

i glanced in the

rearview mirror,

but that wasn’t enough.

what i saw

was not something

i wanted to

look at as a reflection;

it was something i

had to really see.

i turned my head,

and in that moment

i saw

the most genuinely

sad look i’ve ever

seen on her face.

not the fake

sad face she makes

when it’s time

for bed,

nor the one she makes

when i cut her off

at 5 jellybeans.

this look…

there’s no

way to adequately describe

what i saw.

i just know that

i never, ever want

to see that look again,

(but the fact is, i know i will.)

in her lap

was the teddy bear

with the button

pinned to its chest.

i asked,

“what’s wrong?”

not knowing the

answer, but knowing

it was going

to be something

that would fucking gut me,

because she doesn’t

often spontaneously burst

into tears.

“i can’t find mommy liz’s earrings.”

“maddy. what are you talking about? which earrings?”

“the earrings from the button. the gold ones. i looked in the jewelry box and i couldn’t find them.”

tears.

hers, mine…

the gulf between

us at that moment

was immense,

but i reached

back and put my

hand on her leg,

squeezing a little

harder than normal

because i thought

she needed that.

fuck. fuck. fuck.

the photo button.

the things inside

the jewelry box.

how in the hell

did she make the connection?

i guess i never had.

i never looked

at that photo

(it happens to be one of my favorites and i look at it often)

and thought,

“i need to find those earrings.”

but maddy…

she did.

“maddy. i don’t know where they are.”

(i should have used a little compassionate deception here, but i wasn’t thinking straight.

“they may be gone.”

her tears.

mine.

harder now.

“where are they?”

i told her about

the burglary that

happened in our home

when she was still

the size of some

small vegetable inside of

her mom.

i told her that

a lot of stuff was

taken that day.

cameras, a computer.

and jewelry.

almost all of

her mom’s

jewelry.

what’s left is

what’s in that jewelry box.

and i told her

again the story

of how i promised

her mom

i would replace it all,

and how i’ve

kept that promise

even though

she

is

gone,

and that i kept

that promise for

maddy,

for

liz.

she was destroyed.

this piece…

this piece of her mom,

the first

that she has truly connected

to, the first she has

reached for,

the first she

didn’t find.

her tears,

mine.

i told her that

i would search

for the earrings

when we got home.

that maybe…somehow

she missed them.

and if they weren’t

in the box,

maybe they were

someplace else.

i knew i would tear everything

apart, just for

the chance to

pull them closer together.

later that night,

with maddy tucked into

her bed,

i went into my room,

turned the key in

the lock and slowly

opened the jewelry box,

my breathing deep,

a conscious effort to

slow down the

heart that felt like

it was going to pound

its way through my chest.

i scanned the box,

button in hand,

eyes darting between

it and

liz’s and maddy’s

treasures,

trying to find

that connection.

i dropped to my

knees, searching

at a new eye level.

i slid the bracelets,

watches and earrings

back and forth along

the horizontal bar,

hoping that maddy had

somehow missed them.

and suddenly…

there they were.

they were unmistakable.

the round hoops,

gold in color,

they had been covered

by another, much larger

pair of earrings.

in one motion,

i slid all of the

earrings off of the

bar and into

my hand.

4 pair dropped.

then the 5th.

i grabbed them

from my left hand

and squeezed them

with my right.

this.

this changed my whole world.

the next morning

i went into

maddy’s room

as she was waking up.

i sat down on

the edge of her

bed and asked

(as i do every morning)

“what did you dream about?”

“i had a dream about sharks living in a pool in a front yard. and i had a dream about mommy liz.”

i hugged her.

and then i told her.

“maddy. i found the earrings.”

and in that moment

i saw

the most genuinely

happy smile i’ve ever

seen on her face.

not the smile she flashes

when she gets to stay

up late,

nor was it like

the smile she shows

when i relent and give

her a 6th jellybean.

this smile…

there’s no

way to adequately describe

what i saw.

i just know that

i want to see it

for the

rest of my life.

(and i know i will.)

(written today, march 24th, 2013 – just after midnight.)

happy birthday, kid.

i loved the hell out of you before i met you:

7.5 months.

i loved the hell out of you when i finally did:

still eating.

i love the hell out of you now:

photo.JPG

(and i always will.)

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