THANK YOU, ALICE
Love, Your Adoring Mother
Alice was a trip.
And I would say that, and anything else I am about to say, if she were still here begging to go “OUTsiiiiide! OUTsiiiiide! OUTsiiiiide!” as was her custom.
Due to some structural issues that were discovered when I failed to dilate during Grace’s birth, Alice’s birth was a planned C-section, but we were going to try a VBAC if she happened to be early and/or small. I felt uncomfortable about choosing someone’s birthday, but never fear, Alice assuaged any fears I may have had by sending me into full-blown labor the night before my scheduled delivery. I showed up with giant contractions (and not one centimeter dilated), but she was coming that morning, whether it was scheduled or not. Thanks for the reassurance, Alice.
Alice sang. All the time. Even as a newborn infant. People would look at us with a look of amazement-tinged-with-horror, and stammer, “Ummmmmmmm, the infant is singing……really singing. Is that normal?” No, I don’t believe it was normal, but it was fun to watch her freak out the people. Thank you, Alice.
The blankie. The ubiquitous blankie. She was like Linus with that blankie. Blankies, rather, for I had to maintain an arsenal of them due to her penchant for dragging one around all day, then when sleepy, sticking the corner of said blankie DIRECTLY ON HER EYEBALL as she stared off into space. I observed this behavior and foresaw a lot of pinkeye in my future, so I kept a stack of 16 blankies that I changed out throughout the day, in the hopes that clean reinforcements would reduce inevitable eye infections. This behavior of hers I am sure was not normal. Nor, does it feel that swell. (I know, because I tried it.) Nevertheless, she clearly felt comfort from this bizarre behavior because I observed her dabbing her dollies’ eyeballs, and she would offer me the same treatment at bedtime. No thanks, Alice.
But I do thank you for only getting pinkeye once, which I am certain is some sort of miracle.
She loved her “aga,” aka, her binky. I am mad as hell that I will never now know why she called that thing an “aga.” Or why she stuck muslin blankets on her eyeball. She was thisclose (sic) to being verbal enough to tell me. She could say “aqua” when appropriate, but the binky was clearly and deliberately missing the “wa” sound. Did she choose this “aga” sound because it denoted something you suck on, but no WAter (sic) pours forth? That is my best guess, and that’s all I’ve got now. Some things about Alice will remain a beautiful mystery. Thank you, Alice.
Alice had recently added the word “MY” to her vocabulary, much to the dismay of her older sister. You aren’t supposed to call little girls “bossy,” so let’s just say Grace exhibits “exemplary leadership skills.” She was not at all amused by Alice’s newest language acquisition, and this was not lost on Alice. She had JUST started doing things with the clear, and sole, intention of pissing off her sister. I know you aren’t supposed to admit stuff like this, but I was proud of her newfound sense of mischief, her first departure from complete innocence. I really wanted someone around to challenge Grace on a daily basis. To f@*k her stuff up. To knock her blocks down. You know, get her used to the idea that some (most) people aren’t going to just fall in line. At 44, I am sad that Grace will likely be an only child now. But, Alice, thank you for messing with Grace just a little bit before you left us. Grace will be a better person for it. Also, it was fun to watch, so thanks for that too, Alice.
Alice was a daredevil, unlike her sister who plots out her every move with military accuracy. Of all the ways I thought Alice might meet the pearly gates before her time, asleep in the crib she from which she could escape was not one of them. She had no respect for gravity whatsoever. She was sure she could swim alone. She was sure it wouldn’t hurt to slam her head purposefully into the marble vanity. After splitting her lip open she would look at me quizzically, point to her lip and calmly say “Ow. Boo boo.” Thank you, Alice, for demonstrating bravery in the face of self-inflicted pain.
Grace was close to three before she ever dared the big tornado slide at the park. And even then, it only happened after she completed what were basically differential calculus equations, ordering me to “stand next to that curve, and Papa near that curve, and then you move to the bottom after I finish that curve.” This is my kind of kid. I will never have to worry about Grace doing crazy, stupid, shit just for kicks. To borrow from Tina Fey, one day Grace will most definitely pass on the crystal meth, and Stick to Beer. Grace does not take ten years off my life every time we’re at the playground or pool. But Alice did. And she did so with a joy that was undeniable, unforgettable, and contagious. Thank you Alice, for sharing your joy of the unpredictable, and the unknown, with us.
Alice was highly social, and would say “hiiiiiiiiiiiii!” to everyone we saw. We called her “The Mayor of Smallsville” or “The Mayor” for short. If someone did not hear her cheery greeting, she would bend over to her side, face parallel to the ground, and try again. Finally acknowledged, she would happily plod off with a smile on her face. But do not get all up in her grill; “Hi!” did not mean you were going to get a hug. She preferred a fist bump, but you had to do both hands or she’d look at you like you were daft. She swaggered into preschool like a little rock star, happily saying “Hi!” to each and every kid, but backing away when approached for hugs. “You can look but don’t touch,” her attitude seemed to say. Thank you, Alice, for being kind to everyone, while being confident enough to know you didn’t have to hug everyone that asked.
Alice was in a serious “Mama” phase just before the time of her death. She did not want me to be even one inch away from her. At her birthday party, just days prior, she was actually trying to shove her head back in from whence she came. “She wants back in because she is finally old enough to understand that there is a financial crisis, and no one cares,” I quipped. Alice laughed, though she could not have possibly understood this joke. Thank you, Alice, for always laughing at Mama’s bad jokes. I was happy to return the favor.
Alice didn’t want to go to bed in the 2-3 weeks prior to her death, which was truly unprecedented, and which compounds the guilt I feel about her death. My baby, who put herself to sleep all her little life long, was suddenly not just crying for me, but shrieking for me, every night for two or three weeks before she died. Some nights, I would eventually have to let her cry it out, but as she rarely fussed, this pained me more than I can say. So, more nights than not during this time period, I went to her, held her, rocked her, and sang her beloved “Twinkle, Twinkle” song. Over and over and over and over. I remember sitting there with her, exhausted, but enjoying it, reminding myself that one day she wouldn’t want me to hug her like this anymore, that she wouldn’t be little forever. Little did I know. When my back began to tire of holding her, I’d sit on the toy bench to hold her and sing. Then we’d move to Grace’s bed, at Alice’s direction. Two nights prior to her death, this new routine went on so long, I actually fell asleep standing. This scared me, so I went out to the sofa bed, made her a little nest, and tried to sleep next to her. She didn’t fall asleep for a couple of hours, but she did lie there quietly staring at the ceiling. The next morning, she woke me up with a silent, kind, tap on the shoulder—a far cry from the usual “MAMA! MAMA! MAMA! PAPA????” that usually served as our family’s ungodly early alarm clock. I don’t know what caused my independent little Alice to suddenly become so Mama-centric. I don’t know why she suddenly didn’t want to go to sleep. Maybe she knew the angels were coming for her. In any event, I thank you Alice — from the bottom of my heart — for granting me, for directing me toward, all of those stolen moments with you. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Alice.
Alice was central in effortlessly healing many relationships in her short time here. In order to respect the privacy of others, I will not elaborate, but suffice it to say, she achieved what no other had achieved in decades. Alice, thank you, for this priceless gift.
Some folks have said, “God does not give you more than you can handle.” If that is true, then I have to say God just might be over-estimating me, and I wish that s/he would return to thinking I was a loser that cannot handle even a parking ticket. Sorry, God. Sorry, Alice.
I could list all of the things I will miss about Alice; all of the things I regret I will never get to experience with Alice; all of the things I regret doing, or not doing, while she was with us. But this list would never end, because Alice displayed the sort of joie de vivre that will make it impossible for me to ever do anything again in my life without imagining what Alice would do/say/think. She will indeed always be with me, but I’d be lying if I said that was a comfort. I want her ACTUALLY with me. I’m selfish. Sorry again, Alice.
Alice brought us great joy in her two years and 10.5 days on this planet. Years that were otherwise pretty damn challenging. She was pure sweetness, kindness, contentment and joy, wrapped in a pretty little package. I will miss her every single minute of my life, and I will spend the rest of my life attempting to live up to the woman Alice thought I was. I will spend the rest of my life trying to be as pure as Alice was. I will spend the rest of my life honoring her memory and creating her legacy. Because Alice was truly a gift, and she has taught me that the best gifts live on forever, in ways you never expect. I look forward to finding all of the gifts she has in store for her family; I know there will be many. I love you always, my sweet girl.
Mostly, thank you, Alice, for allowing me the honor of being your mother, forever.