Actually, I’m not quite there yet. I can barely face a whole day, let alone a whole year. But it did draw my thoughts to last year, to moving here, to the way I used to look at the land outside my window. This property was a canvas upon which we were painting our dreams. Everything was such an adventure, and Tiggy was in the middle of it all.
Now the color has gone out of my dreams and the flavor has gone out of life.
But the children knew the date and that it is one normally associated with too much junk food, staying up late and lots of games. So I did what I do every year and turned the planning over to them.
Mouse immediately made a list.
I praised her for spelling everything correctly and all the children went to take stock of what we already had.
“Can we get some sparkling grape juice, mom? It isn’t New Year’s without sparkling grape juice.”
“Ask your father.”
“Can we dad? Please?”
“Gas is over $3 a gallon.”
Now mom hears that and hears either “No,” or “If we’re driving into town, it better be for more than grape juice.” The children just hear a random and irrelevant tidbit of information they didn’t care about anyway. So they repeat their request.
John looks over at me. It’s his, “Please help me say no” look. I shrug my shoulders.
“I don’t really mind. The stores will be closed tomorrow. I’m sure there are other things we could use.”
That isn’t quite the answer he wanted to hear so he musters all his fatherly authority.
“Oh, call the market and see if they’re open.”
And they are, so now he’s stuck. And Mouse delivers us another list.
- Sparkeling grap juice
- Egg nog
- Chips, honey musterd or BBQ
I don’t say anything about the spelling.
It is determined that Mouse will stay home and work on the party plans but Bear wants to stay with her. We’ve let her babysit before, but not Bear. The two of them are just too competitive. But so much has changed in the last few weeks. My normal maternal fears are heightened. The world is suddenly a very scary place, where furniture tumbles, horses fall, and space heaters malfunction.
But it’s also a world where my children hurt and grieve and I want to say yes.
So I do.
And it is immediately apparent that they now live in the same scary place.
“What if Mouse gets knocked unconscious? What if there’s a fire? What if the roof caves in? What if…?”
We go over each scenario, emphasizing the importance of calling 911 and getting out of the house. We write out our address and leave it on the phone in case they forget, but remind them that all they have to do is call. 911 will figure out where we live quickly enough. We give them a tutorial on the use of the fire extinguisher because Bear fears being engulfed in flames with no exit, but remind them that all they have to do is get out. We don’t care about the fire so long as they get out. We even have Mouse put the cell phone in her pocket so they will have a phone no matter what.
I begin to wonder if we should just take him, but he wants to stay. My husband asks if maybe one of us should stay in case we’re in an accident so at least one of us survives. My heart aches for a time when we could take for granted that we could return from a simple shopping trip without calamity.
But we do. They rearranged the furniture in the front room to make room for a snack bar, a game table and an open area because what’s a New Year’s party without a dance floor? Paper chains hung from the ceiling fan and paper streamers hung from the doorway into the kitchen.
And Mouse, who wouldn’t say his name until now asked to bring out his picture.
The party started with a video: the memorial slide show my husband made for the funeral service.
And with mom crying. . .sobbing. . .there has to be a better word for it. The tears are never far away, but this is different. It over took me at the hospital and I collapsed, but there were no tears then. It was there when we left the casket at the cemetery, but my husband was able to lead me away. And it was there watching the short video of his life that was far too short as I thought briefly about entering a new year without him.
Bug just stood and stared at me, not sure what to do, until she crawled in my lap. L.E. and Mouse pulled up chairs to watch the show. Bear stayed at the table with his back to the computer until it was over. I cried until I couldn’t cry any more and then sat on the couch with the baby, trying not to think of anything else.
He liked the decorations. He particularly liked the streamers in the doorway when I walked through with him. They rubbed against his face and he kicked and waved and tried to catch them with his mouth. So I walked back and forth with him, smiling at his delight while the children danced to the Alvin and the Chipmunks channel on Pandora.
I even did the Moonwalk. Which left them all staring in disbelief. To prove I was cool and not insane, we showed them YouTube clips of Michael Jackson doing the Moonwalk. And even an instructional video on how to do it. Mouse and Bear gave it a try. Bug was much more impressed with him kneeling down and spinning.
“It just doesn’t seem like a family without Tiggy,” she said after trying a few times.
But the music and the games and the dancing drew her back in. My heart stayed with her words.
I’m not sure how we got from Michael Jackson dance moves to Weird Al videos to Colin Buchanan. I just know I fell asleep in there somewhere and woke up with all the children snuggled in a blanket on the floor watching clips on the computer.
The last thing Tiggy did was snuggle with his siblings on the floor while watching a movie.
And so midnight came and went and we’re in a New Year. A lot the same, yet forever changed.