The first time, I was ten weeks pregnant. We, Alex and Lila and I, slept together in a hotel room, where Vinnie would meet us in the morning and we would go to the fair as a family.
The bleeding started after my youngest two had fallen asleep and when I curled beside them in the bed, I stifled my tears into the pillows. I wiped my cheeks dry and I strained my ears, listening in the dark for their sleeping breath to bring me peace in a night I knew I would not sleep.
In the morning, we detoured from our plans. Three year old Alex sat beside me on the hotel love seat and asked, why are you going to the hospital? Are they taking my brother out?
Vinnie met me at there, in the same waiting rooms we had sat months before. The same ultrasound floor where we first felt the punch of loss. He held my hand. Two losses in, we both knew how likely it was that this was the third.
Only, it wasn’t.
It would be a take-it-slow pregnancy. It would be a call-every-couple-weeks-when-the-bleeding-comes-back-and-you-panic pregnancy.
But, we left he hospital, whole, and with glossy ultrasound pictures of Asher tucked into my purse. And, though sleepless and emotionally spent, we made the drive back to what we had promised Alex and Lila – the fair.
Sometimes, you revisit traditions over and over again to create a steady rhythm in your life.
Sometimes, you take your childhood traditions and make them your children’s childhood traditions, because so much of parenthood is recreating the good of our own upbringing, while trying to smooth out the wrinkles.
Sometimes, you force new traditions to be old traditions, because everyone has them, so, you must. Squeeze a square peg into a round hole until the edges are dulled enough that it may not fit cleanly, but it’s stuck.
And, sometimes, you return to the scenes where your family first began to feel whole, and you do it over and over, as though it’s salve to your bond as a family.
Sometimes, you go back to where you know you felt a pulse, where you know there was a heartbeat.
Do you feel it?
It’s a fair. It’s deep fried everything. It’s walking and carrying bags of stuffed prizes and overpriced everything. It’s making unwise eating choices and pretending for a moment that we are rural and agricultural as a family. It’s marveling at a butter sculpture.
It’s Alex growing so much that he’s denied a ride in the kiddie-section. It’s Lila sitting and having her face painted for the first time. It’s Asher holding my hand and skipping down the midway. It’s fresh milk and wild raspberries and kettle corn on the grass. It’s Evaline on her dad’s shoulders for one. more. year.
And we return to it.
My kids don’t know that I reminisce about that first year, while we’re waiting in line for tickets. And they don’t know that I remember, each long car drive down, the fear in my gut and the tears and how it was their slumbering bodies by my side that saved me, that kept me from sobbing through the entire night.
My kids don’t know the fair as anything more than what it is to them, at this moment in their lives. It is a day off from schoolwork. A day of too much sugar and so many rides.
It’s a day that we spend, together, as a family.
So, I guess they get the gist of it, just fine.