28 June 2006 by Published in: Simone No comments yet

My Dear Simone –

I suppose I don’t have to write to you only on the day you died. I do sometimes think of things I’d like to tell you at other times, but I’m afraid to sit down too long with memories and thoughts of you, because I know how sad I will be when I do so.

Your sister misses you. She says so in words, and in other ways. Sometimes, she will say to me, “Look, mama, a baby!” and I’ll look around and someone will be carrying an infant. I don’t look long; I check Sophia. In her face I can see the most heart-wrenching mixture of longing and confusion. She doesn’t understand it, still. Nor do I.

Sophia’s one, and only, baby doll is still named Simone, after you. I thought she might change her name, but she has not done so. To her, all babies are you. Sometimes she declares she never wants to have a baby. I assure her she doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to. But her adamancy puzzles me. Maybe it means something, maybe it doesn’t.

Can I say that I still miss you? Is it untoward, unseemly, should I just be “over it” by now?

Sometimes I can almost touch the person I was before you were born and before you died. It’s like a paperfold in time that brings me to another me at ten or fifteen or twenty-two; a me that has no idea what’s in store. I’m always too startled that I’m there to warn myself of what’s ahead.

You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) to discover the number of people who think it’s acceptable to tell me to have more kids. Like it’s ever acceptable to tell anybody how many or how few kids they should try to have, even if they hadn’t already failed at keeping fifty percent of their offspring alive. I’ll admit I feel like saying,”Did you forget that I’ve already tried that?” but I never do. People have their own inexplicable reasons for trying to direct other people’s lives. Besides, I think it’s actually meant for encouragement, though it just makes me despondent.

I wonder if you have any ideas about what I should do with your ashes? They’re still in that temporary box we got from the funeral home. I don’t know whether to put them in something pretty and fragile, whether to throw them away, whether to bury them in the yard. I want to plant a tree for you in the yard, a beautiful weeping willow like the ones I love so much in Cordoba. In University City, there’s a home with a tree in the front yard that has a plaque at its base that says “Anna’s Tree”. My tree, and I didn’t even know it was there. I want to have a large, lovely tree and a plaque that says “Simone’s Tree”. I don’t want to explain it, or put dates on it or anything like that. I just want it to be your tree, growing tall and strong, like you didn’t. If I did that, would you want me to put your ashes there, underneath the plaque?

A while back, Sophia asked me to see a photograph of you, because she couldn’t remember what you looked like any longer. I remember well how you looked, but – and it makes me more sad than I can explain – I don’t recall anymore how you smelled. I remember how the smell of you pleased me. I remember leaning into your warmth and inhaling it, and how it wasn’t like anything else. But the actual sense of you? It’s gone, dissipated, like everything does.

Here’s the thing that I fear, and I can tell you, because it won’t make you afraid also. I fear that because I lost you, sibling to my living daughter, that when she grows up and I and her father have died, she will not have any family in the world. It’s probably a stupid and irrational fear, but I cannot quell it or still it. I see her in the streets of some large city, alone and bereft. No family to call on, to accept her regardless, to give her a place that she can always return to, a refuge. She has no cousins on one side (and is unlikely to) and on the other side her cousins are more than 6000 miles away, remote and unavailable. I guess everyone worries that their kids will need them after they are gone. And obviously I see that I’m idealizing family relationships that often don’t work out to be supportive. Lots of siblings fall out, quit speaking to one another, try to harm each other. Plenty of people get along on a close circle of friends they make their family, instead of the folks they share their surname with. Those rationalizations don’t seem to help. I don’t know why this fear should be so deeply burrowed into me. I don’t know what to do to make it go away.

We are a broken family. We have a fissure to the core, a sinkhole that nothing or no one can ever fill. I thought, once, that time would fill the bottomless pit, but time does not work like that, apparently. Time erodes the sharpness caused by the cataclysm, but does not knit back the seam.

It is who we are without you. I don’t know who we would have been with you, just like I don’t know who you would have grown into with us. It is one of those things I wonder about sometimes, because I’m a wondering sort of person. Yes, I still miss you. It would have been something to hear your words. Next year I will try again to mark your birth instead of your death.

I love you, dear little one, my Simone,

Your Mother

I am surprised at the number of you, friends and relations, who continue to mark this day with me. Thank you. Your kindness moves me, and it is my own difficulty in holding back tears and expressing my gratitude that makes me unable to answer you, each one, as you deserve. You are all a comfort to me.


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