I made a grand entrance, practically somersaulting onto the patio as I lost my balance and landed on my side. I cradled Felix in my arms and ended up underneath him, cushioning the fall. He cried, startled from the sudden loss of balance but was easily soothed. We were at a friend’s birthday party at a restaurant that hosts kid friendly happy hours on the patio on Sundays, picked so that it could be a family friendly event. The weather was beautiful as we sipped cocktails and let the kids roam by the planters. I sat with Chris and Felix and made small talk with some of the other party guests- including the birthday girl’s parents. We knew a couple people well, but most of the guests were new to us, including the parents. As I held a squirmy baby in my lap, the common question came up- “Is he your first?” the father of the birthday girl asked.
My husband was the first to respond. I’ve answered the question many times but I haven’t had the chances to witness my husband answer.
“He’s our second. We had a daughter, but she died after birth.”
“I am so sorry,” the father responded, easily. “I know what it’s like to lose a child and it’s never easy. I’m so sorry.”
It was perfect. But of course it was- he was a bereaved parent. I had known he lost his son. When Mabel died, his daughter and I shared some moments of understanding. We talked about how even simple small talk can be daunting when someone close to you dies. I had to get used to the “do you have kids” and “is he your first?” She had to get used to “do you have siblings?” These questions can make it hard to make friends or even date easily. Or perhaps they are great screening questions- a litmus test to see if people would be comfortable cavorting with the bereaved.
Later at the party, as the food came, I heard my cousin’s voice from across the table.
“Meghan, look! Carrots!” She offered up a small plate for me to see two carrots accompanying someone’s meal.
“Awww, look. Mabel came to dinner,” I said, easily, happily. Smiling I took one of the carrots offered and crunched.
“How did carrots become her symbol?” asked another party goer- the birthday girl’s sister. After I told her the story, she saw my necklace and pointed it out. “Oh wow! Your necklace is a carrot too.” Though I didn’t know her well, she had known about Mabel through her sister. And she asked easily, bringing Mabel into the conversation without hesitation. Because she knows too what it’s like to be bereaved.
And just like that, my baby was at the party. She was the center of attention, she wasn’t ignored. She was just there. May all my social outings be so easy.