My middle daughter is a bit shy of the camera, so we often have to broker deals when we photograph her.  Additionally, half the time, she’s buried in a book.  Do you know any girls whose mothers have to pry books from their hands, feeling guilty about it the entire time because they themselves would like to be buried in a book as well?  If you do, read on.  If you are that mother, then Hello!–we’re meant to be friends!

But back to the girl I used to call my Consolation Baby.  The story goes like this.  First, my older daughter was born on my mother’s birthday, a gift my mother affirmed was better than any she had ever received.  She (my mother, that is) arrived at the hospital just after I’d given birth, and when I spoke up and insisted she come into the delivery room, my daughter heard my voice, fell completely silent, and looked right at me, a moment my mother witnessed.  “Ohh!” said my mother, tearing up.  “She knows your voice!”

That was a happy day.

Then.  (Prepare yourselves.)  When I was pregnant with Miss Zinnia, who was due the same day as her sister, my mother–who had been battling lung cancer for nearly two years–discovered that her cancer had spread and that it was on its way to her bones.  And her brain.  You can’t imagine the terror.  Or the grief.  Or maybe you can.  Maybe you’ve lost a mother?

My mother passed away on July 21st, 1998, and Miss Zinnia was born just over a month later, on August 28th . . . her sister’s birthday, and her grandmother’s, too. A mother, gone, just like that. And a daughter, here, her little head completely bald and her eyes so blue you couldn’t help but feel quiet, and consoled, when you looked into them. I like to think Grandmother and Granddaughter embraced as they passed each other, which I believe they might have done, though I couldn’t say how. Miss Zinnia, aka Millay. Those who have always known her will tell you there never was a baby so easily made happy.

Once, years ago, a Bolivian woman who was describing the death of her own mother told me, “No hay nadie como la Mama”–“There is no one like your Mother.”  So unalterably true, isn’t it?  When my mom died, I didn’t even know who to be.  But when my Consolation Baby arrived, I figured that out again.

If you’ve lost someone you loved, may there have been a Consolation Child in your life. They are unusual, these children. At times, they seem to channel the loved one who had to go. Sometimes it feels like my mother is right there, and when I turn, I realize it’s not her but Miss Zinnia, no longer a baby, her blue eyes trained on what else?–a book.

I tell this girl that “Consolation Baby” is merely an endearment, not a job description.  I’ve never wanted her to feel like it’s her duty to make her mother smile.  But she did indeed bring something with her when she arrived, all seven-something pounds of her.  Do you have a child who brought something along with her?  Or him?  I’d love to hear the story.  Indeed, stories really power my family.  Maybe they do the same thing for yours?


{ Comments on this entry are closed }