Last night I got three and a half hours of sleep.
It was a broken three and a half hours of sleep, which means I slept for an hour, was up with the baby for half an hour, slept for another two, was up with the baby for an hour and a half, and then got another 22 minutes before my toddler woke up and wailed, calling for her mama.
And while I was awake and walking up and down my halls, cursing the location of my home being so close to train tracks, and wondering why trains are even allowed to travel at night or why bitter old engineers feel the need to honk the horn 17 times instead of the required four or why they would put train tracks so close to my house or why soundproof windows and walls aren’t mandatory for homes close to train tracks, I realized I should be grateful.
An hour before I had been scrolling through my phone in a groggy effort to keep myself awake and not drop the baby when I saw it: a plea from another mother for someone to make her a quilt out of her son’s clothes. Her son had passed away in the middle of the night at 19 months.
That’s it. Gone.
One minute he was there, vibrant and alive, and the next — he wasn’t.
What rattled me was the response to the mom’s plea. Her post received 92 comments, all of them outpourings of love and sympathy for her loss, which I expected, but embedded in over half were stories about their own losses. Fifteen months. Sixteen months.
My eyes welled and I swallowed hard. My baby is six months old and here I am an exhausted, strung out mama who’s bitter about being awake, wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed and sink into the euphoria of Dreamland, while there are other mamas out there who hold weighted teddy bears and try, try, try to remember the feeling, the smell, the sound of their baby in their arms.
I was at a wake a few days ago. This one was for this very column, the other columns and the newspaper they’re in. A dozen of us gathered, some meeting one another for the first time, others knowing each other for a few decades, and we lifted our glasses to one another — a nod to our words and our lives that we’d opened up for all to read.
In the lightness of the moment was a dream we all shared: to keep on writing.
In the heaviness of the moment was the reality that we all were losing what we had.
And in between was the gratitude that we’d been given the chance to share our thoughts for as long as we had.
This newspaper was my first real journalism job 10 years ago, the stories my babies long before I had real babies.
No one is ever ready to say good bye — not to their babies, their parents or their dreams.
I feel this mad panic to write about all the memories, stories and moments I’d wanted to share, like a parent frantically trying to impart last-minute knowledge to their teen who’s about to cross the stage at graduation.
I’ll spare you the mashup that would have been chaotic and confusing, at best.
I’ll leave you with the words of the best writer I’ve ever read. He wrote them 400 years ago, but they still hold true today: “We are such stuff/ As dreams are made on, and our little life/ is rounded with a sleep.”
Hold steady and hold fast to those dreams, mountain mamas.
‘Til we meet again, I will be grateful for the fierce tribe that we are.
And eff those bloody trains.
Mountain Mama out.