Yesterday we were driving home from church when (seemingly) out of the blue, my wizened, five-year-old, kindergartener-to-be asked, "Mama, Why did you get that flower tattoo on your belly?"
I wasn't sure if she was asking the reason for the tattoo, or the reason for its location. Truly, I didn't know if I wanted to answer either, so I stalled.
"It's to help me remember something important that happened," I replied casually, as if I might actually forget.
"Is it for me?" she questioned.
"No, you're one of the stars in the tattoo on my back," I told her. "Remember there's three of them, one for you, one for Sam and one for Benji."
"What about Daddy?"
"I guess he's the moon."
"What about you?"
"I don't need a tattoo to remind me of myself."
"I know! You can be the sky!"
"Oh --" I said, trying to remember if there is actual sky in the picture. There's sort of the outline of clouds; I guess the whole thing is sky. "Okay," I decided.
Then I made another decision. I took a deep breath and decided to lay it all out for her.
"The flowers are for two babies that I never got to meet."
"They died before they got big enough to be born."
"A long time ago. One was before you were born."
"Who was the other one?"
I explained to her that she had a brother and a sister already in heaven, but we would get to meet them one day, when we got there. The whole time we talked I kept stealing looks at her face in the rearview mirror, trying to see what she might be thinking, or if maybe she might get upset.
There was no hint of tears, but a bit of a sad look. She was definitely deep in thought.
And so was I. Had I said enough? Did I totally blow her mind? Well, I guess that's always a risk when you choose complete honesty. I'm not one of those die hards that always tells my kids the unadulterated truth, but this time it seemed right.
The conversation changed gradually. She pondered aloud who her mystery siblings might look like.
"Wouldn't it be cool if the girl looked just, exactly like me?" she asked.
"I guess so," started to slide out of my mouth, but at the last second it changed to a more upbeat "Yeah -- that would be cool." And I'm thankful. I'm pretty sure her question was more about what I thought of her looks than an actual wish for a twin.
And as I struggle to jot this down and pay a little tribute today, I'm even more aware how the children I do have still need me. Days like today, when past and present mix together so evenly -- more like sugar water than oil and vinegar -- life is cloudy, no matter how brightly the sun shines outside.
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If you're like me, you may need some tissue and to spread this out a little. Thanks for reading.