For the last two months of my pregnancy, Audra was convinced that her little sister lived in a box in the kitchen.
Our friends had gifted us a present for the Baby-to-Be in August, when we threw Audra her second birthday party. It happened to coincide with what I fully expected to be the last two months of my pregnancy (more on how that, uh, didn't exactly go according to plan later on). We had begun trying every day to explain to our toddler daughter that her little sister would be here soon, and that she lived in Mommy's belly right now until she was big and strong enough to come say hello.
My friend Liz gifted us with a toy that came inside a large cardboard box.
We didn't open the box, because we knew Audra would immediately claim whatever it was and it would be ever harder to give the gift to its actual recipient.
Somehow, those two facts — the existence of a new cardboard box that we never opened and the existence of a baby that would soon arrive — became mixed up in Audra's mind. She became utterly convinced that Baby Ellie lived in the box in the kitchen.
"Where is Mommy's baby right now?" I would ask, trying to coax her to connect with an abstract concept that I knew very well she really couldn't grasp. I just wanted to say the words, to say the name, so that not everything about this would be a scary change for a child just old enough to crave the same routine every day.
Audra would consider my question quite seriously, and then nod to herself in satisfaction that she knew the answer this time. "In the box," she would say solemnly. "Baby Ellie (whose name mostly came out Baby Eh-yee) in the box."
After a while, we stopped trying to correct her.
When Baby Ellie did arrive, 3 weeks and one day ahead of her scheduled appearance, Audra wasn't thrilled. She did not like the squirming, crying potato in the hospital crib-bed with wheels. She did not like the unfamiliar hospital with its strange hallways that her grandparents carried her down to visit us. She definitely did not like the sight of me in the hospital bed, wearing a weird pink hospital dress and trying to explain the concept of greeting her baby sister.
Ellie is nearly three months old and almost a whole year seems like I've been away from here too long.
Amazingly, the day that Ellie chose to arrive, absurdly early but not dangerously so, was the first anniversary of my father's sudden death. I had scheduled a day off from my work, with my plans consisting of three things: driving to a bookstore, getting a latte, and sitting around moping about how much I missed him.
Apparently, my father did not see the value in my plan.
Instead of crying over his strange death on September 19th, I had a baby and wondered one more time at the strangeness of birth.
Instead of moping, lattes, or bookstores — instead of my planned leisurely day of being sad — I had contractions at 3 am, a semi-frantic trip to Target before 9, and a baby before one o'clock in the afternoon. Somewhere, I heard my father's voice griping about the way the day is half-done by noon, but hey, Dad, I did what I could.
All this to say, hi.
It's been a while.
We are four pumpkins now, not three.
How are you?