Friday, September 21, 2007

Figs and strollers

Sorry that it's been quiet here, all. Time gets a little tight around our house during the Jewish Holidays, and we are still in the middle of them. Tonight and tomorrow are Yom Kippur, and Sunday we need to put up our sukkah in time for the beginning of Sukkot on Wednesday. Day care keeps closing, I haven't been getting enough time at work, and the evenings have been crowded with errands and back-to-school events. In the triage of focus that comes with the beginning of the year, blogland has lost out to the real world. I promise to catch up with everyone when things settle down ... after, oh, Columbus Day or something.

And, oh yeah, my head has been done in a little, too. I've had this one in draft all week, turning it over and working at it for really much longer than you'd think, given the end product.

Monday, I kept Z. home from school even though she was not sick. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll realize that for me, admitting this is a little like someone in AA admitting to spending last night with a fifth of bourbon. Getting Z. to school on time, five days a week, every day she's fit to go, has been my marker of functional recovery since last Spring, and on Monday I blew it.

It was the Monday after the big school break for Rosh HaShana. And last year, on the Monday after Rosh HaShana, the first day back to school after that same break, I turned at the top of the garden steps and picked two figs.


It was a perfect, sunny, cloudless, early-Fall day. You know the kind. Z. was standing behind her stroller. She was in a phase of pushing the stroller. She was too short to see over or around the stroller. She wasn't touching the stroller. The stroller was at the top of the steps, and she was behind it. I turned and walked three steps to the fig tree. I picked two, for her lunch. I turned back. Her stroller was beginning its first bump down the steps. She was flying in an arc through the air above it. Somehow I was back on the top of the steps. There was no way I could throw myself beneath her to break her fall. She fell head first. I saw her crown was going to take the impact. I saw her death about to happen in front of me, while I was trapped at the top of the stairs.

It wasn't so much I shouted as the words tore themselves out of me: "Oh, God, Z.!" I do not pray for things. I don't think that prayer works by intervention. I don't even capitalize "god." I don't believe there is a personality behind that word. But when my daughter's death was in motion in front of me, I prayed for something omnipotent to stop it from happening.

At the moment of impact, I did not close my eyes, and I did not turn away, and she did not come down on her crown. Somehow, she twisted. The sound of her hitting the sidewalk was the kind of sound you never want to hear, but it was her ribs and her arm that hit. In the final instant, she twisted towards me, towards the sound of my torn words. The thought of an interventionist god is as alien to me as ever. But maybe, maybe, I can believe in the fierce desperation of my love for her.

When I kept her home this past Monday, the Monday after the big school break for Rosh HaShana, I did not turn at the top of the garden steps to pick figs. There were, blessedly, no strollers in my day.


Phantom Scribbler said...


kathy a. said...

oh! (((( S )))) how horrifying. i'm so glad she is ok.

there was a time when my daughter was two, and we were loading everyone and their equipment into the car. i looked up to say something to my husband, and my daughter careened into the middle of the street, laughing at her own cleverness. a car appeared. don't think i've ever run so fast or yelled so loud. it has been 16 years, and thinking of that day still makes my heart thump and eyes tear up. "fierce desperation of love" is an exact description.

Magpie said...

Oh, my heart stopped a little. It seems right that you stayed home on Monday, your AA analogy be damned.

I am glad you posted; I was wondering and worrying.

Furrow said...

I just finally went back and read your story from the beginning. I don't know what to say except, I get it now.

jo(e) said...


S. said...

Phantom and Jo(e)--thank you for being here for me.

kathy a., how terrifying! I'm glad she's okay.

Magpie, I'm so sorry to worry you! Now that I've written the post, I feel better about the decision, too.

Furrow, wow, I'm so touched that you read through all that. You are excellent.

susan said...

(((S and Z)))

E. said...

I think you did right keeping Z. home on Monday. It serves as a ritual marker of remembrance, not a moment of weakness. Love to you, S.

E. said...

I think you did right keeping Z. home on Monday. It serves as a ritual marker of remembrance, not a moment of weakness. Love to you, S.