Monday, December 29, 2008

A Bite of the Family Tree

Katie and Craig and I had dinner at Ns last night. It was absolutely lovely.

Craig and I dropped Katie off at 4:30 and went off to run some errands and give Ns parents some privacy for meeting her. We walked into the house an hour or so later, and I felt as though we had known these people for years. Ns mother and father hugged me like an old friend as we introduced ourselves. Her husband welcomed us with open arms.

After dinner, we sat around the table and told stories for almost six hours. Her family told stories of Ns love for animals, her need to plan, her love for music, and I recognized pieces of my daughter. We told stories of Katie's life, which they drank in like hot chocolate on a snow day.

We parted the same way we started—with hugs and tears. It was as easy as meeting new friends. It was also unbearably difficult.

Ns teeth are the same size and shape as Katie's. Those small white squares were the only thing in the room for a moment as I recognized another link between my daughter and the woman who gave her life. The lovely china cabinet, the sparkling red crystal, the Christmas china, the people—colors and shapes swirled and disappeared. For a split second, only those teeth remained: N's and Katie's. They hung in the air like the grins of Cheshire cats singing "Na, na, na boo boo." Before my eyelashes separated from a hard blink, the room righted itself and Katie continued her story about losing a hamster in our house.

I can only imagine that stories of Katie's childhood are the grins of Cheshire cats for N. She wants to hear, she wants to know our daughter, but the childhood she missed lingers in the air after the words fade.

My guess is that we both wish our stories were different. If I were the Great Editor in the Sky, my daughter, this particular being of the human nature, would have been born to me and no one with prior claims would enter our lives, now or ever. I'm pretty sure N would request a complete rewrite on the chapter involving Katie's birth.

Neither of us have that sort of editorial power, so we're reconciling ourselves to the story as written. That means short, square teeth will catch me off guard and stories of Katie's childhood will pierce N's heart, and we will gather our strength and our courage and move forward into this unknown world, guided by our common intention to live out a happy ending for our daughter.

There is no other real choice.


Michelle O'Neil said...

You are a generous, deep, soul Jerri and Katie is blessed to have you for her mother.

Amber said...

You are the mother we should all be lucky enough to have.

I am happy I have you for my friend.


Carrie Wilson Link said...

Those teeth - I can see them, and imagine all that they evoke.

Nancy said...

"We told stories of Katie's life, which they drank in like hot chocolate on a snow day." I can feel the thirst of the mother who lost so much... but at the same time, ache for the mother who is giving it all. You honor the title of Mother with everything you are. When this all shakes out, you will be proud of your strength and honesty. I am surly proud of you.

luckyzmom said...

What Nancy said.