...she said, mimicking handwashing the sweater. We were standing on the corner of Broadway and 8th, it was sunny but too cold for a toddler, and the hand knit sweater was Jesse's size. And wool. Bright blue, darker than the sky. On the chest was an applique merry go round with little cloth dolls sewn onto the horses. The kind of thing I would have loved at two, myself. Expensive for me back then, $25. It had probably made its way up to New York from somewhere in South America, but I don't remember any more and now, anyway the tag is too faded to read.
It was seldom cold enough for him to need it, so it never saw much wear. It still looked new when I opened a box today, marked baby clothes. The worst though, was the little stuffed-tiger headed slippers I'd wrapped in a plastic bag -- long forgotten that I'd done it, kids size 5-6; I nearly doubled over. I sat down and dumped the whole box out onto the bed, wanting to get it all over with at once, like ripping off an enormous bandaid.
Time goes by for all of us. Everything changes. The baby is gone, no matter what happens to the man. I buttoned together a little onesie, and realized I will never do this for my own child again. I'm fifty. That part of my life is over. How do I let go of it? Long before anything had happened to Jesse, just after my new husband told me that he'd changed his mind, and didn't want to have a child with me (despite what he'd said repeatedly when we were dating, when I asked, when I told him that's what I wanted)I told him, if I lose one of them, I'm going to have another. I must have had some idea. Maybe just knew that I don't get to go through life unscathed. No Hail Mary pass gets me safely to the future. That's never been the life I had.
If I were to write a play about this, act two of my life with Jesse would have begun with the phone ringing on June 10, 2004. "Mom, don't freak out.... I have leukemia."