Ancient History

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Diluted and midwinter-dull light wheezes through the wispiest clouds. I do not like it.

I thought the sun looked familiar this morning. The fifth day of February visits again, commemorating a certain tilt of the Earth and a certain position in orbit. Last year it was a Sunday and I would have been due to deliver a new baby. This year it is a Monday and I think of the one-year-old and babyzilla stomping steps and cakefists and a year under our belts together.

Our together wasn’t meant to be then or now, but I can’t forget. I don’t dwell on the sadness, the regret, the goodbye of a July. Our introduction and our parting straddled seasons. The sun rides higher every day in the sky, taller in the saddle. It’s called time and my pain has eased.

Last year I had a secret growing inside me named Beatrix. Last year, on this date, I ate guacamole and tater tots while watching the Super Bowl on TV, a distraction that failed. Would I get to hold him or her? Would I? Would I? Touchdown! Would I? I was surprised by my pregnancy with her because I had given up hope—but I was at that place where the idea of not trying again was more painful than the idea of loss.

So we spun around the sun together and here we are today. She sleeps, waking only to cough because she caught the cold her big brothers and sisters passed around like a molten potato. She falls back to sleep. Sweet dreams, baby girl. Someday, I’ll read a story to you. It’s called The Monster at the End of this Book. I wrote about it (here) when I was afraid of the future and more pain. But I forgot the most crucial page of all, which is a danger when you write about a book you last read 25 years ago.

Your grandparents gave a copy of the book to me for my birthday in June. I laughed when I opened the box and immediately began reading it to the big kids. Joel kept claiming it was “my book!” I turned the pages until I read the line I forgot all about.

Grover said, “You are stronger than you think.” At first glance I think heck yes, hear me roar and all that.

Grover is lovable, furry, cute, a terrible waiter and not much of a superhero. He is also wrong. If I believed in my own strength my knees wouldn’t have hit the floor so often (see 2 Corinthians 12:9 and ponder).

Galway Kinnell wrote a poem called “How Many Nights”

How many nights
Have I lain in terror,
O, Creator Spirit, Maker of night
and day,
Only to walk out
The next morning over the
frozen world
Hearing under the creaking of the snow
Faint, peaceful breaths…
Snake, bear, earthworm, ant…
And above me
A wild crow crying “yaw yaw yaw”
From a branch nothing ever cried from
ever in my life.

It’s a familiar day with a familiar light. I feel a deja vu coming on and I shake it off.

Let’s start over and make today new.

16 comments to Undue

  • Dana

    Thank you so much for your beautiful way with words. I never fail to be touched by reading the things you have to say, whether they be funny or touching.

    Keep them coming!

  • This is beautiful. I’ll never look at The Monster at the End of this Book the same way again.

  • Thinking of you today Gretchen.

  • Your words are so real. You are just amazing, really!

  • Loveliness!

    I have a copy of that book somewhere–i used to read it to the girls when they were younger.

  • Wow! Beautiful! I hope you have a great day with all of your beautiful blessings. As for me, I want to head out and buy “The Monster At The End Of This Book.” I loved that story growing up but had forgotten it. Besides Grover’s obvious error, it really is a great tale!

  • You have such a way with words. Wonderful.

    Love the poem.

  • I look at the number of comments on your “Transcript” post and the fewer number on this post. Perhaps, we are unable to put into words how sorry we are that you have gone through this heartache. It is easy to relate to the humorous posts and so difficult to let you know how much we care when the post contains raw emotion. I had to come back a couple of times before I could say anything. God bless you and your family.

  • That is Critter’s favorite book at the moment. He has my old ripped up copy, and I am always careful to read it with the same inflection my mom did. I like that at the end, the thing which we fear most is often our own fear. Fear of losing a baby is nearly as bad as losing the baby itself, I think. Fear is one of the great battles of my life. But at the end of the day, there I am, little old me, the one who survived.

    February is my month of remembering too–she would have been seven. I imagine I will always remember that possibility.

  • Rae

    I wish that everyone who has gone through things as heartwrenching as this would have your ability to put them into words so beautiful and heartfelt. Hopefully some will read yours and see their own hearts reflected. Thanks for sharing this.

  • What a lovely post. My sister gave my daughters a copy of this book — I can’t wait until they are old enough to understand it. As you so poignantly make clear, the lesson in this book is more powerful than we might think. To paraphrase Grover 🙂

  • Hello! The Monster at the End of this Book was one my brother and my favorites when we were growing up, so I loved this post 🙂 I still have our copy and plan to read it to my boys when they get past the current page-eating stage.

    I also like your banners…beautiful and creative!


  • edj

    Great post, wonderfully written.

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