Howdy, KuKd/TTC-ers and Inquisitive Guests...
I was cleaning out the bedroom closet over the weekend, and came across a large paper grocery bag full of objects. It had "ZACHARY" written on it in big black marker, and was folded down at the top - I guess to keep dust from drifting into it. Or, maybe to give myself some sense of closing the lid on something, safekeeping something, protecting something.
I've known the bag was in there, underneath a pile of coats. Not purposefully underneath a pile of coats, just accidentally underneath a pile of coats because it seemed like a good place to toss coats. For the first time in...well...months, maybe? a year?...I pulled out some of the contents of this bag and examined them next to the natural light coming in through the window.
Mostly what's in here are "Zachary artifacts" that were placed into a decorative box, and then into a bigger bag, and given to us by the hospital staff. All you stillbirth mommas out there, you know what I'm talking about. Kevin and I called the whole package our consolation prize, as if we were losers on a game show.
We brought them home and spread them out on the bed, trying to figure out what we were supposed to do with them. Because, we all know dead-baby-land doesn't have any real rules or norms to follow. It's not like a wedding or a bar mitzvah, where all you have to do is type a few key words in Google and boom - out comes a bulleted list of social conventions. With stillbirth, you just kind of muddle along and make up shit to do.
It's not like the bag contained body parts or anything horrid. Just some locks of hair, some footprints, a charred and numbered disc of metal from the cremation service, a blanket, some other things.
I don't know. If he were a real live baby, we would have displayed them on the fireplace mantel (actually, never mind - we wouldn't have done that). But in this case, we just sort of looked at them up close - on the off-chance that they might make us feel better about the situation (which they didn't), then put them in a bag. In the closet. Which wound up under a pile of coats. Maybe to pull out later - ten or fifty years later, when some grandkid or nephew asks about "that one baby that didn't make it." Then we'd have something to show for this baby, preserved in a time capsule of sorts.
There were some other things in there, I discovered this weekend while reexamining the contents of this grocery bag full-o-sentimental goodies. There were some pages torn out of a spiral notebook with drawings I had scrawled, random things I wrote down, and for some reason felt compelled to save. One of those things was a list of what I called "Pieces of Aliveness," written on wrinkled lined paper and stained with a ring of coffee. So cliche, I know, but it was. The "Pieces of Aliveness" heading was in large block letters in black ballpoint pen, pressed hard on the page. This was a caffeinated little piece of prose, for sure. I swear, the handwriting almost looked wavey in parts, as though produced by a trembling and coffeed-up hand. Which it probably was.
ANYWAY. It was a list, which I recall writing in the middle of the night from our corner hospital room while Kevin snoozed on the floral sofa. We were waiting to deliver Zachary, who we knew was already gone. All those late-night informercials were only making me more depressed (there is something oddly alienating about watching grinning old people with their dentures, or hyperactive Asian dudes marketing their cooking knives at 3:00 in the morning), so I wrote my "Pieces of Aliveness" list in part to pass the time.
Basically, it was a list of ordinary little things that had always made me happy (well, at least since I was old enough to think about such things), and that I was hoping would contine to serve as sources of joy. Mostly I just wanted a reminder of these things that make me a living, normal human. I found it comforting to make a list of them.
Here's a abridged sampling of my Pieces of Aliveness:
"the satisfying 'stsssssss' of a cushiony toilet seat releasing air when you stand back up"
"the 'rrraaaarr' of sinking your teeth into a sugar, frostingy cupcake"
"the 'sheeeeoooop' of blue painters tape being ripped off after a paint job"
"the 'mmmmrrrrphhh' of a Q-Tip being swirled around in the inner ear canal, where it's not supposed to be"
"the strip of shaven skin left after a razor is dragged up the calf"
"the sizzle of an egg cooking to perfection"
"the 'thunk' and feel of a nail clipper on toenails"
"the 'yoosh-yoosh' of mascara being perfectly applied, and the way it looks afterward"
"the 'eeet! eeet! eeet!" of wiping Windex on glass, and the subsequent sparkle"
"the 'aaaahhhh' of a cute man playing with my feet"
"the euporic 'yaaaaaa' of immediately after a good puking session"
"the 'zing-bap-bow!' of purposely annoying the crap out of grumpy old men, and eventually winning their hearts'
* * *
I think I might stuff this list, and some of the other things from the Zachary bag, and bury them in the back yard as a time capsule. Or, I could just make it easy on myself and keep it in the closet. I'm pretty sure that all of these still apply, thankfully. The last one: well, of course I still love annoying old cranks. I don't think the dude in that picture would make the cut, though. To me, he looks a little bit creepy, like Lester the Molester.