Death and Christmas

I hate the cold. I shiver uncontrollably in misery. And normally I like the rain. It sings in my stove pipe and makes me want to curl up and read.

But cold and rain. It’s just not Christmas to me.

I’m supposed to be working on Baby Dust, but the rain just pours and the cold seeps in, and even my flannel pajamas and flannel sheets and the continued cranking of my heater to 68, 69, 70, 71, are not helping.

I found out via a Christmas card that the husband of a long-time friend of mine died this summer. How did I get that out of touch? What sort of ego-centric island have I lived on? I imagine her receiving her holiday card from me a few weeks ago, addressed to both her and her dead husband, and thinking–wow, she didn’t keep up with us at all, did she?

I remember my first pregnancy, signing up in a giddy fervor at every maternity shop for their customer lists. As my belly grew, I loved getting the diaper samples, the powders, the baby catalogs.

But then, baby died. The mail became a mine field. My husband tried to shield me from it by throwing things out before I saw them, but still, the trash was stuffed–Pampers, Enfamil, Gerber.

Were my friend’s cards like this for her? Every envelope addressed to both of them a reminder of what she lost this year, with a good kick from her so-called friends for good measure in their ignorance and lack of keeping touch?

I recall walking down the hallway of the high school where I taught that terrible year. I still felt fat–I didn’t lose a lot of weight right away just because they took the dead baby out of my body. But one day, I felt a little slimmer so I wore an old dress, slightly fitted. As I passed a boy I had taught the previous semester he looked up and said, “Ms. Roy! You’re too skinny! You better go feed that baby before he starves to death!”

I remember stumbling, falling into the wall. I did not acknowledge his comment, just kept going in my klutzy way–an acute lack of coordination is always my sign of distress.

He hadn’t known. And I tried not to hold it against him. But today, nine years later, sitting here in the cold, listening to the rain, by myself, feeling rather full of self-pity, I remember his name, his posture, the desk, his red shirt, his haircut, and the tone of his voice.

And probably, my friend, my poor friend of 20 years, knows the color of the envelope, the font of the address, the way the label landed slightly askew. And it stabbed her. I stabbed her. She’ll forgive me, but she won’t forget.

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