My tongue is in my hand…

Claudette

Posted on: June 13, 2010

Megan is the kind of pregnant you see on magazines, beautiful, joyful, a little ethereal. Just lovely.

Everything about that day was as anyone who’s ever been to a baby shower would expect, until she got down to the last three gifts. She pulled out the soft white blanket with handwritten washing instructions pinned to it and asked “Who made it?” Someone answered “Claudette”. And that was it. We rode the wave of silence and crashed into the truth we’ve all probably thought of less and less over time: Leslie’s dead.

Claudette will never have the opportunity to see her daughter pregnant, to knit a blanket for that grandchild. It’s almost like we all just lost that child, or those children in thinking of Leslie now, at this time in our lives.

Leslie grew up with Megan, from toddler hood all the way to high school. I’m quite sure no one in the whole entire world could ever fill the spot of your childhood friend. So of course all of us who knew wanted to cry. And then they tried to explain who Claudette was and why it mattered that she had knitted this baby blanket, and that just made it so much harder not to cry. In fact, I’ve cried 3 times since then, just trying not to cry.

I wonder if it helped or hurt more for Claudette to choose a yarn and sit down and row by row knit that blanket. Maybe it did both.

All I can think of now is how sometimes it’s just enough to be alive. With whatever weight is on my shoulders, at least I am alive. I can almost hear Leslie saying that everytime I complain or worry now. In a perky, playful tone “Well at least you’re alive!”. Because Leslie wouldn’t be bitter about it. I’m sure Leslie’s fine in fact. But I’m also pretty sure she’s saying “Well at least you’re alive! At least you can watch your daughter play in the sprinkler and kiss her little nose, hear her giggle when you tickle her. At least you feel the sun on your face, hear the music on the radio, taste the coffee, hot and strong in the mornings. At least you can call your friends and drive to work and…”  Well, maybe not bitter, but maybe a little wistful.

I think so often we forget that being alive is more than many get to do.

The last time I thought of Leslie this much, it was when I got married. Because I knew she would be there. I would have had her at the guest book with Megan and Kim. Her lack of presence was so blatantly missed in my eyes. I tied a blue ribbon on my bouquet for her.

I would never say Leslie and I were extremely close, by no means as much as others.  My memories with her are little jagged pieces, moments more than full out memories. Singing “Hit and Run” in the mall between classes. Sitting side by side on the bus to Orlando.  Being the only non-cheerleaders on homecoming court in 8th grade. Walking down the street talking about boys one warm night. What I think I miss the most, now that I think about it is this; she was like me. I think we went about the world in similar ways, went about people and love in similar ways. And it’d be nice to talk to her now. It’d be nice…

Now that the years have washed over the initial grief, the loss of teenage Leslie, it seems that we have now run into a new phase that I wasn’t expecting: grieving the idea of who she would be now, now that we are who we  are now.

I do believe that all things happen in their time, that it will all make sense and work out one day. But I think we still have to grieve what we feel we’ve lost, real or metaphorical. I think we have to remember that we didn’t all make it this far, we should be grateful for our lives, whatever they are; at least we still have them.

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3 Responses to "Claudette"

This is… soul-crushingly sad. … ow.
You are in no way losing effectiveness in your writing. Still the same old right through the heart spot on sniper rifle accuracy that you’ve always had. Very moving. Very well done. … very sad.

I knew Leslie through Church, grew up with her in Church, she had a sweet and funny soul and she def. touched the world around her. She is missed but never forgotten! wonderful piece!

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