Posted by Mishi Methven on Sep 06, 2011
It's the first day of school today. Our little house is on a street that has two schools at either end of it. Today Stella and I watched the kids trot off in both directions, parents and backpacks in tow. I pointed out the yellow school buses to her and she pointed out the TTC buses to me. I held her closely in my lap as we sat on the cool cement of the front porch, watching the kids and listening to them chatter to one another, excitement and anticipation on their faces.
I have been picturing Stella's first day of kindergarden since she was six months old. I wanted to send her with a lunchbox, even though I'm not sure if kids use them anymore. I was going to take a picture of her standing on our front porch with her mop-top of curls blowing in the September wind, a huge smile on her face, clutching her backpack with her face raised slightly to the sky, triumphantly ready to start the first day. Then we would walk over to Flora's house and pick her up for kindergarten too, since they were going to be in the same class. Karen, Jeremy, Aimee and I would take pictures of both the girls as they held hands and walked into the big, heavy doors of RH McGregor together. We would stand outside chatting for awhile after the bell rang, about how quickly the time passes, and how grown up our girls are. Maybe wipe away a few "they're growing so fast" tears away. Then I would text Omo and Jean to see how Arin's first day was, and Jules to check on Ava and then An and Em to remind them that in only a year it would be Tobin's turn too. But that vision is just a dream now, much like the ones I used to have of Stella before she was born, when it was all just hypothetical and abstract. Now it all seems to silly, so innocent and entitled. It makes me so mad. So sad and so mad. But mostly mad.
This morning as I sat on the stoop with the cool wind blowing against my neck, giving me goosebumps, I reflected about how Fall has always been my absolute favourite season. Even as I child I thought the change from green grass and trees to vibrant golds, reds and oranges was the most spectacular thing in the world. When my sister Heather and I were kids and our parents took us to the cottage on fall weekends, we used to compete to see who could find the "most beautiful" leaf. Walking along the dirt path by our cottage in our itchy wool sweaters, smelling the fresh coolness of fall, we would scour the ground and low branches for our leafs, placing them carefully in plastic Loblaws bags provided to us by our mom. "Most beautiful leaf" generally had to be large, with crisp edges and several colours in it. It was usually unique looking, not a typical maple leaf, but the leaf off a tree we couldn't identify or hadn't seen before. Often the green of the stem would melt into a soft yellow that would then burst into fiery orange at the tip; as an adult when I saw my first Monet painting, I was reminded of the leaves and the way the colours melted together. I could stare at the veins of leaves for hours and think about how individual each leaf was and how special, because each of those leaves had only one season, and then they would be gone forever. The intricacy of those leaves has always been a source of fascination to me. I sometimes followed the veins of the leaves with my fingertips, tracing how the water would have fed that leaf and made it grow. Sometimes I trace the veins in Stella's wrists in much the same way. Her skin is like mine, so pale it's almost translucent, and so it's easy to follow veins from fingertips to armpits. I see the blood coursing through her veins and can follow it almost right to her heart.
Even though it's not officially "Fall", today, first day of school always feels like Fall to me. This will be Stella's third Fall, but it is different than the rest. Different because, (according to the Doctors), Stella is supposed to die this Fall. Stella is supposed to change like the leaves, growing physically weaker even as her colourful personality grows more complex and vibrant. Stella is supposed to have a rapid and peaceful end of season. Stella is supposed to gracefully fall from the tree of life and float away in the wind, never to be seen or heard again on this earth.
You know, sometimes Heather and I would try to preserve the "most beautiful" leaves we found by putting them under our mattresses for a few days and then getting my mom to help us iron them between sheets of wax paper, creating "art" out of the leaves. But drying them out always made the colours fade a little, and we could never quite seal the wax perfectly, so inevitably the leaves would eventually dry up and crumple into tiny crumbs that would get all over the cottage floor and be swept outside by our feet running in and out, slamming the wooden door behind us as we ran down the path in search or more "perfect" leaves.
I wonder if the photographs, the stories and the memories of Stella will remain as vibrant as she is in real life, or if they will slowly fade and crumble like those leaves. I wonder if it's possible to capture her vibrancy, energy and love of life in a way that is true to who she really is. I wonder if we're doing enough to ensure she is not forgotten and that she has every chance to make her mark on the world, even though her life will be cut short. I wonder if this fall will result in my falling…falling helplessly out of the sky, no safety net, no vision, no way to stop the darkness from coming as I hurtle towards the ground.
Then I remember that this fall we are going to welcome a little baby boy into our family. A boy who is genetically half the same as Stella. A boy who needs us, who deserves our love and who will also fill our lives with colour and light.I remember that after the beauty of fall, after the cold harshness of winter with its icy winds and unforgiving dark days and nights, comes the spring. In the spring the days slowly get lighter and brighter. In the Spring, the flowers and the leaves come again. They are different, but they are there. In the Spring the world turns 100 shades of green. In the Spring, neighbourhoods come alive again, children play outside, dogs bark and the smell of BBQ's waft across the street. Stella was born in the heart of spring, on April 18th. There is a Tulip tree that was recently planted outside the gates of her beloved Riverdale Farm that is supposed to bloom every Spring, right around her birthday. Bloom with the promise of colour and life and vibrancy. Bloom with the light of the sun, and surrounded by the voices of children who run in the park and exclaim over the cows, just as she has done.
Bloom with the whisper to the world that Stella will never be forgotten and will continue to bring beauty to this world, long after the Fall has come and gone.