They're starting again.
With my head in my hands, I left my daughter's room this evening, breathing the deepest sigh out of my lungs. Really feeling, in my body, how her line of questioning had made the yearning ache come back. Instantly.
Ironically, since my very recent previous post (regarding the book) this afternoon, and despite me not saying a word out loud about either the contact with my editor or what I had posted about, the LGBB began her questions about Ella.
"Muuuuuum!" she yelled out from the toilet where she had been merrily singing away as she carried out her obligatories. "I need to cry!!"
I went in there, wondering what on earth she was on about now.
"What are you needing to cry about?" I asked, with the slightest hint of 'Don't be testing me' in my demeanour (we have been going through a real phase lately, regarding using a "whinging tone" for things that simply don't need it), which I instantly felt guilty about when she replied, "I miss Ella and I want to seeee her. I want to go there."
Ohgodohgodohgod. It has been a good 2 or 3 months since the last time Lolly brought up the subject of missing her sister. Last time, it had been Steve who was caught out. He had told me that in the amount of time it had taken for them to pull in to the driveway, happily singing away to something on the radio, and then for him to stop the car and go around to her door to let her out, she was sitting there in her carseat with her big blue eyes full of doleful tears, telling her Dad that she misses Ella.
What do you do with that? When a child, a baby herself really, realises that there is another person she was supposed to look up to? Someone else in the family whose face would not be seen. Ever, ever, ever in her life. I can remember knowing how young I was, from an early age (my family at various times have called me a freak for my accurate recall of events and places we visited when I was only a tiny tot), and thinking how very, very long all this learning of things was going to take me. Possibly an odd thing for a small child to ponder, but ponder it I did. Quite frustratingly often. So I can sympathise with these moments that Lolly is having, more and more, as she is probably grappling with the dawning realisation of just how tantalisingly long it's going to be that she won't be able to share her life with her sister.
So, what did Steve do with that, exactly? And what did I do, in response to her today? We both simply agreed with her and said we missed her too. Putting it bloody mildly.
Usually, in the past, this has been enough to satisfy Lolly. But today, she continued this discussion with me. Wanted to know where she was, wanted to know why she was an angel (she corrected me on that one and told me Ellanor is a fairy - probably more accurately, faery, I guess, because I don't imagine her as some flitty little delicate Disneyfied version of the definition of "fairy", which is all you seem to be able to find these days). She wanted to know why she couldn't see her, and her tone was a very frank "Enough of this, I demand an explanation."
I ended up talking with the LGBB about the fact that Ellanor's heart was sick and she just couldn't stay. I surprised myself by not tearing up this time. And the mood was lightened when Lolly declared, in perfect comedic timing, "I did poo." Right you are, m'lady. Happy you're ready to move on, for now.
But then this evening, going to bed, Lolly (using that ruddy whingey voice we've been advising her she doesn't actually need to put on in order to get what she's asking) announced she wanted me to read her a story before bed. "I want two ones," she whispered to me as she hugged me tight. "One about Ella and another one."
Ohgodohgodohgod! That one! The one I can't ruddy well get through without a half a box of tissues (I'm getting better, see) and she wanted me to read it to her all of a sudden. She knows it exists, she's said yes to having it read to her before but I've never made it past the middle of the second 'chapter' where our names are mentioned. And it happened that way again tonight.
I read to a very attentive Lolly, right up until the bit about us loving all children and wanting a baby of our own.... And then she firmly told me she didn't want to read anymore, rolled over and told me softly that she had been a baby once too. Far OUT. Far out. Nobody anywhere could ever tell me the right way to do this, but I'm sure anyone, if faced with the same situation, would muddle through admirably. And so I did.
"Oh, yes, you were, a most adorable, beautiful little baby," I told her, gently stroking her back as she faced away. "And you are our precious big girl now."
Lolly turned back towards me, a furrow in her brow and a down-turned mouth. She was still trying to figure this all out and get her head around why she can't see her sister and yet, she is still technically in our family. Good luck to her, it's been six years and counting for me, I thought to myself just quietly.
"She's a angel... a fairy-angel," she said, as if what we talked about earlier today had dawned on her suddenly. And then a look of shock. "She's not... in the hospital anymore." And you could have run me over with a steam roller at that moment, I think it might have hurt less. My baby girl made the connection. And it tore off a bit of my heart.
"No, she's not," I stated factually.
"But where is she?" Again.
"Well.... her body.... stopped growing." I didn't know how else to put it by this stage. "But the very special 'thing' that makes Ellanor Ellanor, well, that is still alive. And that is the part of her that is in our family."
Lolly seemed fairly okay with this explanation, although the puzzled frown was still there. And then she told me, "Ella's... well, she's in this house... but she's not in our family." I agreed that sometimes, yes, she probably was in this house. But I corrected her and said she will always be in our family. A very, very difficult concept for a young person to comprehend. I'm going for rote memory on this one, it's all I have for the time being.
"Yes, she is (in our family)," Lolly decided I was right after all. "I know her," she told me adamantly. So I just nodded.
All this conversation was happening after lights-out. I was asked to stay, she had looked kind of unnerved by all the thoughts that were obviously chasing around in her head, so I stayed and we had this chat. As the conversation naturally wound down, I remained by her side, stroking her forehead gently. And I whispered a few paragraphs from one of my most favourite books of hers - a present we were given by an exceptional, dear old friend (the mother of a primary school friend of mine who took me under her wing during my rocky childhood):
"I wrap you in a rainbow of light
To care for you all through the night
Your guardian angel watches from above
And showers you with her great love.
This rainbow, with all its colours, will keep our hearts together
All through the night.
You, me and the Rainbow."
I finished by telling her that she was right, she does know her sister. "You and Ellanor came from the same place. You do know each other." Lolly opened her eyes and nodded soberly at me. And then eased gently into sleep. I sat there and looked into her face closely for the longest time. Tonight, I only saw her. Our little Lolly, whose chosen names mean "Place of honour/victory", "Reborn".
And on that note, I give you one of the most astoundingly grand children's books I have come across for dealing with situations such as these - it has been purposefully written to help children dealing with all sorts of traumas, such as divorce and, hey, it's handy in dealing with the death of one's older sister too. I would highly recommend it. It is simply stunning in its easy, yet profound, imagery and story - a little self-contained healing ritual for nights when worries seem bigger just before bedtime. It's written by psychologist Petrea King, whose technique with this story is so subtle and simple:
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