Once upon a time, when “nice” described me…

Today our downtown had its annual Christmas open house. It’s this day on a Sunday in mid-November when all of our local businesses open up and showcase their products, and the food vendors hand out free samples, and there are horse and carriage rides and a Santa (who we still have yet to see) and stuff.

So after Joel’s nap we ventured downtown to eat lunch and decided that afterwards we’d visit some of the attractions. We ate at St. Louis Bread Company, and it was crowded there, and I had to entertain Joel with a fruit cup for half an hour as Mark waited for our food, which was no big deal as Joel was so interested in all of the patrons, especially the toddler sitting near us. I could not tell whether said toddler was a boy or a girl, so I silently pondered what I might do in the event I had to make a quick judgment call, like if this child’s mom asked about Joel, “How old is he?” Would I just reciprocate, “How old is yours?” But Mark interrupted by bringing our food and filled me in on the 86-year-old man who had chastised one of the food preparers, “You should have known this day was coming! You should have been prepared by having extra silverware on hand! Real silverware – not this plastic garbage!!” I found this odd, because I can’t imagine being 86 and giving more than zero fucks, but kudos to this man for his spirit.

After lunch we headed to the grocery store next door and sampled loads of free food, and I tried egg nog for the first time, and Joel tried a brownie bite for the first time, which was Mark’s idea and not mine. Upon exiting the grocery store there were little pizza samples so we stood in line to get a bite and this woman in front of me looked at Joel and was like, “He’s so cute is he your first?”

“Ummmmm… No,” I finally answered.

“How old is your first?” she asked.

“He would be two,” I answered.

“Oh I’m so sorry,” she replied, “Well, he (Joel) is at a really fun age!”

“Yep…” I answered.

And I think this rattled me. I almost didn’t mention Matthew. But lately I’ve decided I think I must. Of course, one should only do what is right for their own heart in any given moment, but I think it is right for me to share about Matthew – I want to acknowledge him, and I want to help break the silence and shame that exists in society surrounding these losses. Of course what comes with this is the repeated realization that those strangers with whom I’m sharing him will only know him as my dead child and nothing more, and I think he deserves more than this, but alas…

Anyway, after we finished our pizza we headed to this local boutique. Once upon a time it was my favorite, and I haven’t been back since before Matthew died. It’s in my neighborhood, so I’ve driven by it lots – there are always fleeting thoughts, “I should go in, but I can’t go in. I don’t need anything, want anything, deserve anything… And I don’t want to see her… The owner. (She knew nothing of my first pregnancy let alone Matthew’s death.)”

But today I decided I’d go in reasoning, “It’s really crowded. She might not be there. If she’s there, she will be preoccupied with all of her other customers. If she sees me, I’ll avoid her gaze, and it’s been over three years. There is no way that she’ll remember me, or us. I look different now too…”

So in we walked, and, much to my relief, the coast seemed clear… I spotted a woman at the register who resembled her. “I’ll just stay away,” I made mental note. But then as I crossed the store I realized it wasn’t her, and, just as I started admiring some clothing, contemplating how much I missed this store, breathing a huge sigh of relief, I ran right smack into her.

At first she did not seem to recognize me, so I tried to avoid her gaze, but then I saw this spark of recognition in her eye and thought, “Oh shit.” And before I could run, she was like, “Hi!! It has been a really long time!”

“Yes. Hi. Yes. It has,” I tried (and failed) to force a smile.

Shortly thereafter she spotted Mark and ran to him, perhaps thinking he’d be friendlier than I’d just been. She greeted him, “Hi! It has been a really long time! What’s been going on with you all? Only good things I hope!”

“Yeah,” I snickered under my breath, “Only good things…”

And then I watched as Mark introduced her to Joel as though he were our first child, which, in this situation I wouldn’t necessarily have expected anything different, but it still stung.

I inched closer, trying to engage in the bare minimum, yet still mildly socially acceptable sort of way.

“How have you been?” I overheard Mark ask the obligatory question.

I inched closer still and overheard the latter part of what she said, “Oh he’s so adorable. This is such a fun age! I just recently welcomed my second daughter!”

I physically recoiled, pretending to be suddenly captivated by a shirt a few racks over, “Of course she did,” my mind screamed, “Another living baby. Because what else?! Of course mine is still the only one who is dead!!” (NOTE: I know others’ babies die, but in my real life pre-loss network, it’s only been mine, or at least it feels this way, which makes this loss all the more isolating… Also, I don’t want others’ babies to die, but I will forever wonder why the fuck it had to be mine, why we of all people had to be this horrible statistic.)

We exited the store shortly thereafter, and it wasn’t too long before Mark noted that I’d been a bit rude.

“No I wasn’t,” I snapped back.

“Yes you were,” he argued.

“Well I didn’t expect to see her,” I explained, “Or I guess I didn’t expect her to remember us. Like why on earth would she remember us?! After nearly three years?!” I asked incredulously.

“Well maybe we’re pretty memorable…” he explained, “You know we met her when she first started out, and we’d come shop here and talk to her about her business, and we took such an interest, and we had some really great conversations… And she probably enjoyed our company back when business was slower… We were really nice…”

And as he spit out the words, an image of her – not the store owner, but the old me – raced past. The one who purchased a pink shirt and some black yoga pants and a white pair of jeans and two scarves and her favorite black and white dress adorned with sequins on top and a pair of tall brown boots and a pair of even taller cream colored thigh high boots for which she never found a use… The one who, although she always had a bit of a fiery streak, was generally curious about others and bubbly and cheerful and smiley and memorable. For being so stinking nice.

An image relatively recent yet also one from so many moons ago.

8 thoughts on “Once upon a time, when “nice” described me…

  1. Two takeaways here: I laughed out loud about the ambiguity of the toddlers gender you pondered over. Thanks for that chuckle and secondly, I cannot believe you have never had egg nog? Whaaaaaat?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I relate to this post so much… I hate being caught out by unexpected pregnancy and baby announcements.. especially from pre-Freddie people.
    I’ve recently been invited to a Christmas dinner event with some old colleagues from a school I worked in 4 years ago. I was in my late twenties and they would constantly badger me about when I was having children.. I left in Easter 2013 and haven’t seen most of them since. They know about Freddie dying through the grapevine but I’m dreading seeing them in real life and having to navigate their questions or lack-of-questions. What if they’re only interested in hearing about Albert? What if they expect me to be the same ‘nice person’ I was 4 years ago before my miscarriage and my full term Stillbirth?? She died along with Freddie 😞 The colleague who invited me thought it was okay to drop in that our other colleague “G” had retired in the summer because she’s now got an 18 month old granddaughter (nearly Freddie’s age I thought) … I remember discussing G’s super successful daughter who’d just got engaged and was buying a big house in Richmond, London back in 2013… typical I thought.. her life obviously went to plan like clockwork… super career, get engaged, buy super house in central london, marry perfect husband and have baby right on que within first year after wedding… “Why didn’t her baby die? Why didn’t she have 3 years of miscarriage, recovery, Full term Stillbirth, recovery, stressful pregnancy, recovery, gall bladder surgery because of pregnancy… continuing symptoms and illness”?? 😞 Sorry for the rant!!! Wow, your post triggered a nerve there! Anyway, what I meant to say what you’re not alone in wondering why everyone else’s babies seem to live.. especially for people in our pre-pregnancy lives.. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! I’m glad I’m not alone but sorry you can relate! And I’m sorry you have what seems to be a difficult upcoming event where you’ll encounter so many from your past life. This sounds really hard, and I’m sending you all of the love and strength to get through it. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I literally try to avoid everyone that I could have ever known pre-loss. Like…I cannot walk into a salon and have someone be like “omg hayyyy!!” I think I would run. It’s so sad. I used to be fun. I used to enjoy things and have a passion for life. Now I just try to survive, and some days it feels like I can’t even do that properly 🙄

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Egg nog? You’ve never had that? I love it but can’t have have because of the milk and eggs. I think your responses are normal and you seem to want to improve those interactions in those situations. I’ve been coming up with canned answers to questions I think I’ll get. Write them down, say them to yourself and practice often. I always tell myself that I want get better and this is one of them. And yes, I still flip out at times. I also understand that men don’t get asked some of those questions, but I have. Just not as often. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know right?! I had truly never had egg nog. I guess I’d always just thought it sounded gross and honestly it kind of was. I didn’t really enjoy it all that much… Canned answers are good, but I find my responses are always to visceral – I feel too compelled to run away, so I can’t stay calm. I do desire to improve, but I’m trying to also be gentle with myself and realize that this may take time too… Hugs back to you.

      Liked by 1 person

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