After I drop my daughter Miriam off at school, there’s a shortcut I like to take back home. Not only do I avoid the traffic light, but this ordinary residential street always seems to have “gifts” just waiting at the curb. Amateur paintings of elephants and flowers, ceramic vases, full bottles of kid’s bubbles. I found a nice wooden chair, window box planters, a spice rack, and a suitcase with 22 assorted books inside. Yes, I counted them. I’m always looking for deeper meaning or a message in everything. I’ve always been like that. But after my son Noah died, it became more out of desperation than a philosophical viewpoint.
I found this doll crib two days ago. I had to swing back around at the end of the street. A beautiful shade of pink stood out amongst the autumn colors of the street. The crib was almost cartoonish in color. It was in near perfect condition except for one part of the base. A quick fix with my hammer and glue gun. The paint was still perfect. It was very clean. And the painted phrase of “Once Upon A Time” spoke directly to my heart.
I picked up the crib and put it into the backseat. Miriam has started showing interest in baby dolls recently. She sings them to sleep on the living room floor and covers them with potholders, blankets, and wash cloths. I was so excited to surprise her with this! The Giving Street, as I call it, gave yet again!
I wondered about the little girl this crib belonged to first.
Did she play with it a lot? Which dollies slept in it? Maybe it was filled with dinosaurs or Barbie’s instead?
If only all these curbside finds came with a storybook of their inanimate life…
We gave most of Noah’s belongings to a place called The Center for Great Expectations.
“A safe place, a safe presence and a safe path” for
homeless, pregnant or parenting, adult women and adolescents,
and their children to overcome, and break, the destructive generational cycle of trauma, abuse, homelessness and addiction.
Hal handled everything that pertained to Noah’s stuff. It was all in a storage unit for at least two years. We just couldn’t part with it. We could barely stand to think about it. I couldn’t handle seeing it and Hal sheltered me from ever having to. He would go and pay the monthly rent. It was so odd. Paying to keep the stuff of a life that had ended. His stuff was. He wasn’t. Stuff alive. Noah dead. Crazy making thoughts.
Hal made a few trips to the Center with carloads of Noah’s stuff. Clothes, toys, furniture, even unused diapers. I had just bought two big boxes the week of the accident. He spaced out the deliveries by a few weeks. He needed that time to recover from the blow to the chest that it inevitably was every time he set foot in that storage unit. He was always visibly shaken anytime he came home from working in that cubicle of memories. But it was more important to him that I would never have to.
One day, Hal came home from a trip to the Center with a conflicted smile. For the first time, he saw a child playing with some of Noah’s toys. This little retro looking rocket car that I had bought at a garage sale. We were so happy the toys were being played with. And so sad. So extremely sad. Stuff here. Noah not.
Sister Madeline was our contact at the Center. She was, no pun intended, a saint. So gentle with us in this unbearable circumstance. She recognized the fine line of us saying goodbye to Noah’s things and the joy they would bring the mothers and kids at the Center.
I was pregnant with Miriam at the time of our donations. I remember always calling to let Sister Madeline know when Hal was on the way so she could get some help with all the stuff. She always had beautiful nun-like blessings and wisdom to say to me on the telephone. We never met. I promised her a picture of Miriam when she was born.
There is much deeper meaning to the slogan of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle. Not just materials. Not just cardboard and metal and wood and plastic and cotton. Not just hand me downs. Not just outgrown toys and jackets.
Dreams and goals and disappointments and achievements cycle through our lives. From our little broken family to the ladies working hard to build a life for themselves at the Center. The common denominator being Noah’s rocketship ride-on toy or this pink doll crib left at the curb for me to find. Our stuff, as unimportant as it all is in the end, is actually very important.
We kept Noah’s JELLO Museum t-shirt for Miriam. She likes to wear it. Seeing it instantly brings me back to the trip home from from visiting my best friend, Stacy, in Buffalo. We stopped at this little museum in Leroy NY. It was the birthplace of JELLO. He had made a stinky poop in the play kitchen area with all the faux JELLO boxes stacked up and I changed his diaper outside in the grass. This shirt was my link to that moment in time. Something tangible. And that memory was now passed on through Noah’s little sister we never in a million years dreamed we would have.
Tomorrow, I’ll drive down The Giving Street again. I don’t think I’ll stop even if I see something incredible. I think The Giving Street has given me enough right now.