It was a fine morning, breezy, some clouds, some sun. We were at the park. I was pushing her and her baby doll in the swing, answering every request for "Higher!" and "All the way up!" She giggled. She didn't seem to notice the hair flowing in front of her face every time the swing came back. Swinging is her.
Then it felt like a scene. It felt like I was watching from somewhere in the back row. And amid the scene's perfection, I felt the familiar sinking. Grief spilled in, as it does, and then I couldn't feel.
No, I told it. No. Don't take this moment from me. Stop giving me pain when there's joy. I'm tired.
I swallowed. I swallowed again. I forced the grief down somewhere, and blinked salt back from my eyes. "How's Baby?" I asked her. "How are you? Do you want to do something else yet?"
"Not yet, no thanks," she said back, watching the two boys who were brothers who were dropping their cars down the slide. They reminded me of my own boys, back when we lived at the house with a park right next to our back yard. I wanted my small boys. I wanted the older sister pushing her little sister in a swing. Impossible things.
I looked up at clouds through my sunglasses. I wanted to go home. Instead, we went for a walk around the playground, I made small talk with a grandmother, then we walked to the library. I ignored all the hard things in my head and checked out picture books and chapter books. I helped her with the coloring game on the computer. "I want pink next. Then brown, for the alien picture," she said.
It was all just fine. It was all fine until she got stubborn and wanted to eat lunch right there in the cafe. It was fine until she fretted and argued when I said we'd eat at home. She pulled away from me and fell down as we crossed the parking lot to go to the car. She kicked and she screamed as I held our borrowed books and pulled on her hand. I had to hold her down hard to get the carseat buckle on. We were a spectacle.
And all that pushed-down grief became anger. Once again I was viewing some play of myself from the back row. I yelled back at her, a 3-year-old. It was a quick, loud drive home. I wanted all people and things to get out of my way. We got home. I put her in her bed, shut the door, and stewed while she screamed.
I hated grief, I hated myself, and I hated that I just yelled at my little girl.
Later, much later, I kneeled in my plaid pajamas and prayed for forgiveness. I said that grief is hard for me. I prayed for understanding.