September 22, 2011

Fly Like Tinkerbell

My first sister and I, circa 1982

Most first kids eventually get the fortune of holding their little sibling, just like I did when my first sister arrived. They get to observe them nurse and have their diaper changed, they watch for smiles and tears, they listen for coohs and cries and laughs. They learn how to help out and nurture and then one day, the little wordless sibling morphs into a little playmate. And the rest is predictably beautiful, as the story goes, a future filled with friendship and angst and fighting over the front seat.

My social little Stella is navigating a different journey. She is learning about death and about life, how elusive and tragic and beautiful it can be. She is facing sadness and heartache, things that she knows very little about. And without knowing it just yet, she is missing out on the beautifully complexities of siblinghood.

The only way Stella can be a big sister is to think and talk about Margot, which she does every single day. She wants to see her ashes. She wants to drive up to Margot's river. She picks flowers and then asks if she can trade her flowers with Margot for one of Margot's rocks in a jar. When she is sad, she says it's because Margot died. When we recently asked her what it means to die, she stated in no uncertain terms, "Margot die. Squish a bug it die. Mamma almost die." Yep.

And then yesterday in the car, out of the clear blue, using her new multi-sentence speaking abilities, she said:

"after school i'm gonna put on my wings and fly like tinkerbell and like airplane and i'm gonna look for margot and i'm gonna put margot in my belly and fly to my home and put margot in momma's belly and say 'YEAH!!!'  and then say, 'does that feel better?' and i'm gonna put my wings back in my room with george and say 'YOUR WELCOME!!!"

Brilliant idea.


Kate said...

Oh lordy. Breaks your fucking heart doesn't it? And what a vocab she has.
Xavier said a wee while back he wants to fly on a balloon across the night time sky to see Joseph.
When our children say things like this it feels like we're sent to dreamland of what should be, but more rooted in reality, in that moment, all at once.
Bless her beautiful heart. And Margot's too.

Gwen Jackson said...

Josh, this is the sweetest post ever. I love Stella. I'm so glad she was able to articulate her thoughts, and with such vibrant images. It brought tears to my eyes.

I remember as a 6-year-old wanting to make my mom happy and "fix" things... make them right again. I distinctly remember a day my mom was crying over the loss of my baby brother. I had drawn her a picture, hoping it would make her happy.

Stella will be shaped by all of this. I know I was.

Love you.

Molly said...

Wow. Sounds like Stella gets it a little more than Sloane does. Hayes died when Sloane was almost 2. Now, she's almost 3. She loves to visit his "garden" but she's not grasping the concept of death. I guess that's good, maybe she can stay innocent a bit longer. When we talk about him, she seems very confused. I just keep telling her that he's her brother, even though he doesn't live with us. Bless their little hearts. Such heavy stuff to deal with at such a young age. And the lack of a playmate part of this is killing me... She was so bored yesterday and I wished he was here so badly.

Josh Jackson said...

Kate - where do they come up with this stuff? "across the nighttime sky" - what beautiful imagery. Missing Joseph with you.

Mom - Thanks for sharing your own journey. I love thinking of you drawing a picture for Grandma when you were six. I'd like to think Stella will be better equipped for life through this, or more tender or...something.

Molly - Oh man, such heavy stuff to deal with for kids at two. Sometimes I wish we could get in their little heads and help suss out the confusion, help make sense of it all. And the boredom, we get that too. Kari has quit all the mom groups because it's too hard, so playmates are much harder to come by. Sloane and Stella would be happy little campers together...maybe they could help each other make sense of all this. Wouldn't those be some conversations. Missing Hayes with you today.

Nika M. said...

So beautiful but yet so heartbreaking.

Brooke said...

Man, she is brilliant. Love that idea.

Amanda said...

Oh sweet Stella! I'd give everything I had to get her those wings.

And I love that she ends with a loud, "YOUR WELCOME." What a Honey.

Renel said...

Gosh that just makes my throat close up. I love that your daughter talks about her sister. Navigating and negotiating death in the beautiful world of a 2.5 year old is interesting. Things seem so much more simple and also magical. The magic is a little easier for me to hold onto than religious belief so I run with it, whether it be Per Xavier's "across the night time sky"
or on Stella's Fairy wings and putting Margot in her belly.

When Kai is acting out or seems to be in a funk, I will ask him if he is having a hard day. He has said "yes, because Camille died" I sometimes forget that children cope differently with grief and the missing. He sees the flowers and cards people have sent us and says "that was very nice of them, but we still miss Camille."
I love when Kai talks about his sister. One of the things I grieve is also the loss of the close friendship they could have had. When we are around our friends baby Kai is so attentive and asks to hold the baby and touches the baby's toes and brushes the baby's skin softly. He is so gentle and kind and I know he is missing what he thought and anticipated he was going to have. The articulation of the loss is different but certainly present.

If Stella has any extra energy from her travels to dead baby land to pick up her sister with her tinkerbell wings, Maybe she can go back and pick up Camille for me. She can say "Yeah" and "does that feel better?" I will say "Yes, Thank you very much" and she will say "your welcome."

Megan said...

Tears and goose bumps at this post. Kids are so selfless. And smart. And innocent. And wow, does Stella look like you as a kid!

Josh Jackson said...


YES to this: "The articulation of the loss is different but certainly present." I really like the way you put this. So true. Stella hasn't been as into babies as she was before Margot died, but I think it's because we aren't really holding or cuddling any babies. She must be picking up on it.

I will ask Stella if she is up for finding Camille too. Knowing Stella, she is probably already looking for her. :)


Nice to hear from you. Hope you're well...thanks for the comment. And yes, we look so much alike sometimes, especially when she smiles. Those squinty eyes have Jackson written all over them. :)

Heather Bray said...

Tears streaming down my cheeks. I love you and Kari and Stella so much and would give anything if she could get those tinkerbell wings. Thanks for sharing these posts Josh. They are stunning and beautiful and so sad. I think of you guys all the time.

Fireflyforever said...

WOW. Those are amazing words. It is both heartbreaking and awe inspiring to watch a child work out grief. There is something very authentic about the way they miss someone and yet, it is so wrong that they should have to.

Anonymous said...

Definitely brilliant...
My daughter has a doll she calls Cullen.. it actually looks like a sleeping baby.. she mothers the hell out of that thing. It makes my heart sing and weep at all the same time...

Rachel said...

Stella's story is beautiful--I wish we could understand things as well as children do sometimes. It brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for sharing!

surfjams said...

Beautiful, as usual. I'm lacking the words, more and more, to express what I feel when I read you, but I still come here every week to search for a new post, to know how to think of you, carry you in my mind and heart and prayers.

Jeanette said...

Sweet Stella, how wonderful, what lovely words and thoughts. Children are simply so honest.
I much prefer the little conversations I have with my little Sid (who isn't so little these days)over the fraught conversations I've had with adults.
Though his honestly has taken his teachers by surprise at times and made them cry .
Much love to you and your lovely Stella, and of course to Margot. x

Jamie said...

I'm sorry that Stella doesn't have Margot to grow up with...and that Margot doesn't have Stella. She is a great big sister.

So beautiful and hard to read. I love that she is walking her own journey of grief. And that you guys are living it out with her and before her and that is probably why she feels such freedom to share hers.

Miss you guys and think about you all the time.

Mary Beth said...

What a sweet soul you have there :)

This was a hard thing for me when Calla died . . . I'd look at E and feel so sad that he didn't have someone to be his partner, his friend, his sibling. That was the driving force behind getting pregnant again--I was scared as all shit but knew he needed a sibling.

Sending love to you and your family.

Hope's Mama said...

Oh that's just beautiful. And heartbreaking. So much for our kids to take in. Angus still doesn't really know about Hope. He knows her name and that her picture is on the wall, but that's it. We have a long way to go, but we've had to start from scratch given he wasn't here when we lost her. I will look to the likes of you for inspiration on how to deal with this.

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