Painting Copyright Herb Rauh Watercolors-
Yesterday would have been your 79th birthday.
I'm not quite sure what to say or how to feel about this, so I guess I will just spill my guts and hope it makes sense. Even if it doesn't, I'm sure you'll understand what I mean. I'm sure you can feel what I mean, even if you can't read it here.
It's been almost four years since you left us, and a lot has happened. I graduated college. Mitch, Eva, Elizabeth, Bobby and Miles have all graduated high school- I know you'd be proud of each one of us. I finally figured out what I'm doing with my life (at least for now) and got a good job at Dartmouth. Mitch has moved into a trade at which he excels and is living out on his own with a roommate, and Bobby and Miles have both blossomed into AMAZING musicians (of course, they were already on that road when you were here) and wonderful people. Our family is full of love and greatness, in so many incarnations. Will and I had a baby, but you know this by now. I'm sure of it, because you were the one to let me know she was a girl with your spider hints all through my pregnancy. I'm sure you knew I would think it was more than just a coincidence, them following me everywhere. I'm sure you knew I would be curious and look it up, and you also knew what I'd find- a wealth of information about how spiders represent female energy, fertility and being pregnant. I'm sure you knew I would connect this with you and your passing, and would then be on the lookout for more clues that it was really you there, watching over me and my little baby. I know this because YOU are much of the reason I have always believed in, and been fascinated by, the unseen- spirits (like Mrs. North, with the salt-and-pepper hair), the energy that connects us all, and those other mysteries we have yet to discover in a scientific way. Most people think it's ridiculous superstition, but you didn't, and neither do I. This is just one of the many ways we were bonded.
You knew I would suspect your influence through the spiders and would be convinced by what I found... And of course would then connect it with reading Charlotte's Web with you when I was three. You always loved to read. I can still picture you, laying on the old red leather couch in Epping with Wickfield at your side, glasses (with only one arm, of course) on your nose, and a smile on your face.
Once I read all that about the spiders, I resolved that if *it* was a girl, we would give her a name that related to spiders. And we found out a week later that she was. Her name, Ilyana Arana Shayla (the two middle names meaning Spider Fairy) will always remind me that no matter how long you're gone, you will always be there to keep an eye on us.
Hush painted a picture for Ilyana from a passage of Charlotte's Web that I chose- it hangs in her room now. It's all about growing up and going out into the world as an individual, leaving the "web", so to speak. This is the passage:
"Good-bye!" they called. "Good-bye, good-bye!"
At last one little spider took time enough to stop and talk to Wilbur before making its balloon.
"We're leaving here on a warm updraft. This is our moment for setting forth. We are aeronauts and we are going out into the world to make webs for ourselves."
"But where?" asked Wilbur.
"Wherever the wind takes us. High, low. Near, far. East, west. North, south. We take to the breeze, we go as we please." (p. 179-180), Charlotte's Web, E.B. White
I chose this one partially because I think it will be very fitting for her to take with her when she grows up- it reminds me that we all have to move on someday, we all have to grow up. And as Moms, we all have to let go someday and let our little ones be their own people. But it also reminded me of you. You were so strong-willed and independent. You were never afraid to take flight, to jump in, to stand up for what you believed in, even if it was hard to do, even if it was on your own. You were a forward-thinker, a political activist, and a kid at heart. You had more evergy than us grandkids most days, and you were always ready for a game of Monopoly or a late night jaunt to the lake. You were always ready to take us sledding- even at midnight on New Years'.
"Babushka" means "old woman" in Russian- you taught me that. In fact you had a book about the name- I'm not sure where it disappeared to. Sometimes I wonder if you chose that name as a joke, because you were really anything but that. It was great to have you as a grandmother, because I think we connected with you in ways that most people never can with theirs. You always supported and helped us with our crazy notions, as long as they weren't dangerous... Or if they were, you would at least make them less so. Like swimming all the way across the lake (but you made them bring floaties, so nobody would drown)- or playing on the cliffs in the sand pits (we just couldn't go alone, in case anything happened). Sometimes you were so much like a kid, it caused (minor) problems. Nothing too bad, but you did like to gossip! I think I got that from you, too... It's not that we like the drama, we just want to be in the know about everything, and we have our opinions, which are hard (*ahem*) to keep to ourselves. In the end, though, even your gossip was a gesture of love- you were always trying to help us make the best choices for ourselves.
You were there for me through a couple of tough times. Things that most people would be far too embarrassed about; they would have keeled over had their grandparents found out. But you weren't any old grandma. You listened and didn't judge me when I was having a tough time, you just gave me your best real-life advice and hoped that it would help. You didn't pretend you had all the answers, either. I liked that as a teenager. I felt like you would be honest with me, even if it hurt.
I don't know exactly what made our connection special- whether it be because we lived together when I was young (you making me breakfast, driving me to school, taking me and Mitchie to the penny candy store or Mickey-D's, you chasing me around the table acting out the "Three Little Pigs", you singing the "Macaroni" song or inviting all my little friends over to act out a "play" together); or because you were always willing to run here, there and everywhere to pick us up, to come to our shows and concerts, to take us to the beach or the lake or the Nubble; or because you were always just so cool and immature (in a good way) getting excited about the holidays, decorating, family events, letting me bring my friends to sleepovers at your house, making everything into a game, always having the energy to say "yes", teaching us endless annoying car songs- but instead of being driven crazy when we would not stop singing them, you'd strike up another round... Whatever it was, it has stuck with me.
I've had precious few dreams of you since you passed. I don't know if this is because I can't really deal with your death, but I assume it is. I have sort of just brushed my feelings about it away, put it into the category of those things that "can't-be-changed" and forced myself to move on from something that I don't know how to face. How do I pass you on? How do I teach Ilyana those lessons that are so vital to who I am that I learned from you? How do I tell her that even though we do all have to grow up (like the little spiders in Charlotte's Web), that doesn't mean we always have to BE grown-ups? How do I pass on to her those superstitions that some find silly, but help me to know that there are things in the world that are yet to be unraveled, mysteries we may not understand but are true nonetheless?
The one dream that I do remember that you were in has burned an imprint on my brain. It had nothing to do with you- in fact in the dream I was with someone else, searching for something. But I looked up and there you were, standing at the edge of the field we were in in your long red flannel nightgown, next to a fence, waving at me. As if to say, "I'm still here." As if to say "I'll be waiting." As if to say "I am watching, and I still love you."
Once again, maybe I'm silly and too superstitious. Could be. But I believed it was you, checking in with me. Still do, even.
This is my way of waving back. I love you, Bushka. Christmas isn't the same without you and your boisterous voice and crazy antics. This is just my way of saying:
Dear Babushka, I miss you. A lot.
We all do.
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