Easter has come and gone, more or less. Ethan is combating the inevitable meltdown that occurs from too much chocolate and too little sleep. There are little bits of the Easter Bunny's visit still scattered across the house, on the table; eggs and plastic grass and matchbox cars and other goodies that Ethan couldn't wait to pull out of his basket this morning and while smiling at the very thought of the bunny having paid him a visit. As a nonreligious family, Easter, to us, is about the bunny and spring and the joy of surprises -- and I stayed up well past my bedtime last night ensuring there was a little bit of each of these components scheduled into Ethan's Easter today.
The holidays are hard. Perhaps they will always be hard (I don't doubt they will always be impossibly hard), but I've dreaded all of the firsts. This is the first Easter that Wylie should have been here and wasn't. It was the first time that the table was void of an Easter basket for Ethan's little sister, no eggs filled with puffs or teething biscuits or bubble bath or all of the things that I stuffed into Ethan's basket during his infancy. I know that moms who "do it all" get a lot of flack on the internet. We get lots of angry HuffPo articles skewed towards us, letting us know the way that we ruin Easter for the other moms who maybe don't find so much joy in the little details. For me, more than the joy that I happen to find in the over the top intricacies, is the joy that paints itself on Ethan's face. It's the way he turns the plastic eggs over in his hands. It's the excitement when he pops an M&M -- contraband -- into his mouth and lets the chocolatey spit run down his lips. It's the way he turns his new books over in his hands and holds his new stuffed animals close and the way he squeals with unrivaled excitement at the thought of the Easter bunny having hid the eggs he colored in his front yard. These are all simple joys that Wylie will never experience. She will never come bursting out of her room at the crack of dawn in desperate and frantic excitement to see what the bunny has left for her on the table. She will never twist open a plastic egg and remove vials of glitter or chalk and plot out future masterpieces. She will experience none of it and, so, letting Ethan experience all of it is some kind of therapy for my heart. My heart that aches and weighs down in my chest a little more on days like these. Firsts, and always.
As the one year anniversary of Wylie's birth and death approaches, I find my anxiety level higher than it has been in some time. I've struggled with anxiety for most of my life but have been able to more or less control it during the course of my adult years, at least until now. Now I feel the stress throb in my temples as I realize that I cannot stop May from approaching. I cannot stop May 23rd from showing up. And more than the firsts, I wonder how the holidays feel during that overlap, the time when they are no longer firsts. When they become routine. When my world is so very without her, again.
Ethan spent his day immersed in bunny pancakes and chocolate and toy cars and egg hunts and a trip to the movies to see Home with his daddy and just joy. So much joy. The level of joy that causes toddlers to max out and give in to the sugar crash and exhaustion. His joy is worth so much and even more so on holidays when no one will convince me that the world doesn't revolve around his laughter. Mine does. Oh, does mine ever.
It's a strange place to be, this limbo. I can laugh with Ethan and experience the joy of his happiest Easter ever (which he says it is each year right before the sugar crash kicks in) while also feeling lost. I can feel both complete and incomplete. Full and also empty, watching my beautiful boy run around the yard while his sister sits as ash in an urn on top of my mantle missing every moment of the celebration. I usually feel as if I'm able to steer this wayward ship straight enough to fool an outsider but on holidays, on the days leading up to holidays, I often feel back at square one. And somewhere in the mess of missing my baby girl, I am able to say that it was a wonderful Easter having lived through Ethan's joy. I am living solely for his joy as his happiness is my own. His happiness is everything. And, for that, it was a wonderful Easter.