I was to have an art exhibit on display in a tiny gallery on the corner of Madison and 57th. The gallery stood in the foyer of a large high-end maternity clothing store. It had been a fluke that my pieces went there at all. I was almost literally riding on the coattails of my artist friend who was showing there, as she only created large pregnancy themed sculpture pieces and the gallery needed 5 small pieces to fill some small shelves that stood empty. She invited me to join her in the show with my small pregnancy sculptures, and several months later we found ourselves making plans to go to New York and see the exhibit. After all, when would I ever again have the opportunity to show work there? I am not, and doubt I will ever be, that kind of artist. We were so excited, and to top it all off we had recently learned I was pregnant. What a wonderful way to begin what promised to be an adventuresome year.
A few days before we were to leave for New York, on our 13th anniversary in fact, I began to bleed.
In the ER we sat by a drunk woman with a bloody gash on her head, Sponge Bob blaring from the TV in the waiting room. An agitated radiologist tried to separate us for the ultrasound, and when we refused to be parted, she pouted and scowled, slamming things around and speaking curtly. I begged her to understand that if I was going to find out that my baby was dead, I needed my husband by my side. She was silent until she finally said, flatly, “I don’t even see a baby in there.” We waited to cry until we were in the car.
On New Years Eve, I had the miscarriage. We were to leave the next night for New York, but somehow that didn’t matter at all now. Guy said I should decide, and at the last minute, I realized that not going would not change my empty belly. We would go.
We were met at the airport by my friend’s parents, Stan and Loretta (of course, in New York, what else could their names be?) who would become a B&B, concierge and foster parents for our five day visit. We stayed at their home in Queens and took the train in to the city each morning. Manhattan was all dressed up for Christmas, and the tickertape and confetti from New Years Eve still spun in the frigid air in Times Square. The city wrapped over the top of us with buildings that seemed to bend at their tops like trees arching over a path, making me feel sheltered and protected. The food was comfort upon comfort, and each night as we waddled home on sore, cold feet, we were welcomed with hot herb tea, homemade cookies and love notes from Stan and Loretta with maps and subway routes for the next day. Those good people comforted us.
Away from anything I knew, alone with my sweet husband, I grieved, and he held me as we walked dozens upon dozens of blocks through the strange but somehow kind city. It seemed as though I left some part of my pain there in those million footsteps, like the bits of paper blown there by the wind. We were quiet a lot, and we could be. We had no responsibilities but to our bellies and our daily phone call home. We laughed in a reverent way, like you do at the luncheon after a funeral, and we cried once in a while. We connected in a new way, like a honeymoon, but far more… real. Just us. Just the quiet reality of a new future.
When we got home, the depth of my loss hit me smack in the face, coupled with the chores of motherhood and housekeeping. It was a surprise after such a tender, gentle week. But even still, the thoughts of those days anchored me to the task of getting well and coming to terms with what had happened. I kept every train stub, every cannoli bag from that trip; religious relicts from a fragile and precious time.
When I see New York on TV now, my heart pounds like I am seeing an old flame that I never got over. A New York accent makes me homesick for a place that was never my home. From time to time, Guy brings me cannolis from the Italian bakery in Fair Oaks and I am filled with the sweetness of those few days of healing.
It’s no surprise that the coming New Year fills me with memories from that time. I still grieve the four babies we have lost, and sometimes the future seems as uncertain as it did two years ago.
But for tonight, I miss New York.