I shouldn't have waited to write this down, and written it when the magic and emotion of it all was still overwhelming. I am saying my goodbyes; to my house, my friends, my military life. I spaced my Friday evening of Bunco. I have never done that in the 4 months I have been involved in the Coastie wife get together. Chatting with my dad and being able to look him in the face is something I haven't been able to do in over a year, and the thrill of it made, what has been in the past, the highlight of my month, seem like a silly little dice game. I kept fighting with the urge to just can going to it all together. But I had committed, was expected, and would have been able to give no better reason for my absence than "I would really just rather hang out with my dad." So I went. It was fun, we ate some good food, did some good girl chatting, and all the sudden for some reason I get to where I knew I would, upset, mourning, and emotional. As we finally prepared to play the game I was walking down the hall with Amanda.
Amanda is a station wife. When I met her she had moved in just a few weeks earlier. We had all noticed the stickers on their cars, and each car had a tribute to someone named Brooklynn. Silly me thought it must be a grandmother, or perhaps a sister, who had passed sometime ago. When I met this family one of the first questions (oh how very ridiculous I can be) I asked was "who is Brooklynn?" Amanda's husband paused and a look of repressed sick, and pain at having to explain this to a complete and nosy stranger, peaked out his eyes ever so slightly. "She was our daughter." Well a lot of "oh my Gods later" I found out she had passed when she was 6 weeks old of SIDS about 8 months before they moved to Saint Ignace in order to be near their families. I met Amanda and Steve Stock in a wave of horrific emotion, apologies, snot, tears, and hugs, what a great first impression. Then I came home and cried until 2 in the morning. I became good friends with Amanda and we spent a lot of time together in the beginning, but she was going through a lot, and eventually began to question the trustworthiness of many wives, at which point she decided to break from the wively social networking, and I gracefully accepted her needed space. We rekindled a few months ago, when her and Steve were feeling a bit of winter induced cabin fever and needed a sitter for their son Branden. I was happy to accept, and we would have nice talks when they returned home, and I was glad to have my friend back. A little while later she began to come to the Bunco games. I have spent a lot of time thinking of Brooklynn, and have become very . . . moved, seems like an alright word, but perhaps changed is better, though neither fits perfectly, how I have felt since I met the Stocks. I have wanted to help, I have wished I could comfort, or at the very least, understand.
Amanda is a very talented painter and has several of her pieces hanging in her home, and painted directly onto the walls. I commissioned her to come paint a simple mural of wine glasses and a bottle on my wall about a year ago, and she spent a few days in my house getting it done. I loved it. There has been a particular painting in her own home that I have always thought was her best work, and have told her many times how good I think it is, and how talented I think she is.
At Bunco, as I am feeling emotional at having to say goodbye to my Katrina, and changed forever by Amanda, her family, and their story of loss, getting down the hall to sit at the Bunco tables suddenly becomes a very long walk next to Amanda and I grab her, hug her and cry telling her that when I am in her house alone I cry for her, and her family. I hug her tightly and try to express in a gesture what a profound impact she has had on my life. Then I make eye contact with Katrina, the best friend I have had since I graduated high school, and need to go and cry on the stairs for a bit. When I come around Amanda tells me she has a present for me waiting at her house. I am excited and can't think what it could be, but everyone is waiting for me to pull it together because tonight is supposed to be about dice and Jell-O shots, not mourning and tears.
At half time people who smoke go smoke, and people who like pregnancy and birth follow the newly pregnant Coastie wife around like a dog waiting for scraps. When the smokers return, so does Amanda, with a Christmas box that is obviously for me. I am stumped at what it could be; probably something small and silly for watching her pug (that I absolutely fell in love with). The tape holding the box together is smarter than I am, and it takes a long time to get open, which is more time I can laugh at how I genuinely have no clue what is inside. As I pry it open I hear Amanda say "you know what it is!" just as I see a stack of three blue canvases, my quickly patched levy of tears is easily breached as I realize she has given me her painting, the one I like so well. I cried and cried and hugged her, and thanked thanked thanked her. It hung in her home. She painted it just after her perfect little baby flew away. I can't imagine what the tree in it means, what inside her sang it onto canvas, but I do know what Amanda is always saying "a mother's heart is always with her children" and memories of her little girl where undoubtedly painted into a picture that I have loved since I saw it, and she gave it to me.
I told my mother, I don't know what to do with myself. I came home and laid it out for Nathan and my dad, cried, and felt that overwhelming sense of wonder and loss for the right words. "What do I do with myself?" How do you thank someone for something like that? Amanda told me, that since I couldn't take the mural she painted in my kitchen home with me, she wanted me to be able to take something home. So I will hang it in my home in Colorado. I will hang it in every home I ever live in for that matter, and treasure it for the rest of my life, always remembering Branden, Amanda, Steve, and of course, Brooklynn.