It's like that when she looks me straight in the eye and squares her jaw; there is no getting around it any other way than honestly. The sort of tactful, metered honesty that shields from the gritty details yet doesn't shy away from the facts.
"What happened straight after I was born?" she asks me.
"Straight after?.... Well... your Dad and I brought you home and fed you and looked after you." I smile at her, remembering fondly.
"Yes, I know," she frowns, looking a trifle frustrated, "but what happened before that?"
She's getting her before's and after's mixed up at the moment. It's a stage.
"Before, when Ella was born."
I don't quite know what she's trying to decipher with her line of questioning so I can't guide my answers toward anything that will succinctly nip it in the bud for her. So we continue with the short answers-short questions.
"You want to know what happened just before Ella was born?" She nods.
"Well... when Ella was born, she was very little. I stayed in the hospital with her for a few days but then I had to come home. And when I did, she stayed in the hospital."
She pouts sadly. I am certain I see a little look of sympathy in the way she tilts her head and makes a slight grimace.
"But every day," I assure her, "I would wake up early and drive to the hospital and feed her my milk and talk to her and her nurses until it got dark and late at night. Then your Dad would drive from work and come and sit with me and we would look at Ella and talk to her together. She was a very lovely little baby."
My other very lovely little baby is sitting across the room from me, a range of emotions moving across her face now. I can't gauge if it's compassion for us or a sense of loss for herself, mixed in with a good dose of "I feel I've missed out on something you were all doing when I wasn't here". I daresay it's all of that. Then I realise she is trying to pinpoint where Ellanor is again. She does this, searching for her sister, a few times a year. I invite the conversations openly.... but they are still heart-searingly difficult.
"But... why did you leave her at the hostible?" she asks, her large blue-green eyes suddenly looking heavier, her little brow furrowing.
"Because she died, darlin', we had to."
Stated simply, just like that, it sounds callous and cold and hard-hearted. I know what she's thinking. I'm thinking it too now as we look at each other and the distance between us, across the rug and the arm of the couch to where she's leaning seems somehow suddenly further. If her father and I could leave our baby somewhere to be handled by goodness knows who, what's to stop us taking leave of our senses and doing it to her? I feel wretched for a turn, before my logical mind catches up and keeps me moving along before I get too morbid. That would not help either of us.
"Who has her now?"
"Nobody. She's not at the hospital any more."
"What kind of hostible did you leave her in?"
"A people hospital. Where doctors and nurses help sick people. You know, Lol, you wouldn't be here if Ella was."
"Yes, I know that," she answers me with a tone beyond her five short years. And she frowns again slightly, a pained, longing look on her face. She really does get that, I marvel to myself. "But why can't I see her? I want to see her." Ah. Getting it and living it are two completely different things, though, and it is this knowledge - that my child has been forced to remain permanently separated by her living from a sister she yearns for deeply - that really clutches at my mother heart.
"I know you do." Matter of fact. It's the only way. We agree it's shitful without saying any more.
"How did she get to Pixie Hollow?" she asks, changing tack slightly and mercifully saving me from the always uncomfortable "Well, why didn't any doctors and nurses save my sister" challenges.
This is the moment my heart swells to bursting. The Pixie Hollow explanation is something that Ellanor's sensitive little sister came up with quite on her own one day earlier this year out of the blue while we were driving. She told me that day decidedly that Tinkerbell and the fairies had taken Ella to live "on another planet because I think.... Yeah! That's where Pixie Hollow is!"
I hasten to quantify here that the LGBB is also very partial to the unabridged J.M. Barrie book, Peter Pan - the whole Lost Boys in Neverland premise fascinated our Lolly. What's more, I believe that Pixie Hollow (perhaps more due to the gorgeous name rather than the Disney-fied slant on "fairies" and, indeed, Tinkerbell herself) and Neverland are a mash-up of one and the same place in her imagination.
"You know what? That I don't know," I tell her honestly.
Our talk peters out at this point and I am left with a vacant but equally full feeling for the rest of the day. When we catch up a few hours later, Lolly is sitting playing on her bed with various tiny bits and pieces of some monstrosity that look like bottom-of-foot attractors if ever I saw them. Jagged and pointy bits everywhere.
She hands me a green glass-looking rubbed stone. "Is this a wishing stone?" she asks.
"I think it might (as) well be!" I exclaim.
"I've been making lots of wishes and they're going to come true," Lolly says nodding and glancing around her room before she launches into what I think is going to be her long list. But she only tells me one wish.
"I want a baby brother. And another sister." Again with the direct gaze and the square-set jaw. My goodness, but her eyes are beautiful. I'm distracted by them when I should be thinking of an answer. Fast.
"Wouldn't that be wonderful, to have both." I smile at her.
"Then I can have someone to play with," she says earnestly. Honestly. My loins don't feel any sort of stirring whatsoever, regardless of wishing desperately my only child was not an only child. We tried. Honest to goodness, her father and I tried.
"You know, though, babies take a long time once they're born to be able to play. Look at your cousin Blake. He's pretty little still, isn't he?"
She's unwavering. Her eyes look into me - through me - and I can kind of see she's not all here. I wait, watching her face, until she finally answers.
"I think they're not babies. Maybe they're older than me."
Despite myself, I raise my eyebrows and nod in agreement. Yes, that's right. Perhaps they are.
I completely forgot until today that I have been tossing up foster parenting with Steve for some years now. It comes up once every year or so, since we said goodbye to Ellanor, but it never felt "right" to go ahead with it.
Perhaps? Maybe now? Lolly seems to know more about it than I. We shall see. If nothing else, I trust the Universe will advise, devise and deliver all in its exceptionally good, right time.
* (Just as an aside, that last Big Questions post is a really important read if you are dealing with them yourself - or trying to find a way through them with your surviving young, inquisitive children and wonder how the heck to start... also, take a deep breath in and just go with your best instinct! ;-)
|Smile... no matter how awkward you feel.|