August 17, 2018

By Sanda Rathamone

It should have been the two of you, playing. Together. 
I could hear her crying. She had just awakened from a nap in her grandma and grandpa’s bedroom, right across from our room. Her hair was in a curly mess, like always, but more frizzier than ever.

She saw that our bedroom door was cracked open. Peering at me through the crack, with her pacifier still in her mouth and her blankie in her hand, she looks at me, curious.

I greeted her with a smile and a wave of hello. She smiles back and wave at me and stands there, waiting for me to beckon her in. Waiting for me to give her permission to enter. I open the door wider and she walks in, still looking at me, leaving her blankie on the hardwood floor.

She smiles through her pacifier, excited. 

Her grandpa decides to grab her blankie and puts it back into the room. He walks away, free to roam the kitchen and search for something to eat.

With the pacifier still in her mouth, she murmurs, “up, up.” She tells me to help her up onto our king-sized bed. I grab her and sat her down next to me. She turns to the right and looks for something on my desk: the iPad. She moves herself towards my desk and grabs the device. She flips open the case and tries to press the circles with the numbers on them.

She hasn't yet remembered the password. 

I hold her right pointer finger and press her fingers onto four numbers. The iPad quickly opens to the home screen and I click on the YouTube icon. She sees Peppa Pig and clicks on it. She watches the video for about a couple of minutes, but then looks and feels for something on the bed. She pulls herself down the bed and goes back inside grandma and grandpa’s room.

Feeling a tad disappointed, I thought, “Wow. OK. Such a short attention span on that little thing.”

She comes back to the room with her blankie in her hands, dragging it on the floor. The orange
blanket with patterns in orange, green, and white.

Oh, I see. 

I decide to turn on the T.V. and get Peppa Pig to show up on there, so she doesn’t have to slouch, hunched over, watching at the iPad’s low level on the bed.

When Peppa Pig appears on the big screen, I turn off and close the iPad. She lays on the pillow, still sucking on her pacifier and holding onto her blanket. After awhile, she decides to sit in front of me, on the insides of my legs. We sit there, quietly watching Peppa Pig and her little pig family.

Although, I'm not actually watching with her... I'm watching her. I watch how focused she is.

She takes off her pacifier.

Suddenly, she turns to the right and heads toward my desk. Not again. Thinking that she wants me to switch on the lamp, so that she could try switching it on and off herself for the fiftieth time, I was proven wrong by watching her little hands reach for a photo frame. It was the first time I have ever seen her take notice of that photo frame.

It is a photo frame of Elijah. 

I placed his photo on the right side of my desk maybe a month ago. I switched it from the left side, wanting a different view. His photo frame placed next to the bed, on my desk felt more... comforting? It makes me feel like he is sleeping right beside our bed, like where we had placed his crib months before we knew he was a boy.

She holds onto Elijah's photo frame with a long silence, as if she doesn't know what to say. She silently studies the photo.

Trying to elongate the word, I tell her, "Baaayyy-B." 

She repeats after me rather quickly, "Baby?" She says the word in a way that sounds like a question. 

I say, "Yes, Baby!"

With full confidence and energy, she says, "BABY!" 

I think she knows what "baby" means. 

I tell her, "That's baby Elijah. Bay-B E-li-jah." 

She says, "BABY!" 

I say, "Yes, Baby Elijah."

She looks at the photo for another long minute, quietly studying, like the way she had done earlier. Her legs start to wiggle and I could feel her trying to get off the bed and walk away. She holds onto the photo frame, as if she wanted to take it with her, but I decide to grab it and put it back where it was. She walks away, out the door, empty handed. I could hear grandpa saying something to her.

I wasn't ready to see the photo frame go through any accidents. She's at that stage where things being thrown onto the hardwood floor sounds interesting to her. She isn't afraid to throw things onto the floor very loudly, either.

I don't remember when, but she's known the word "Baby" for awhile now. Ever since I saw her playing with a baby doll and pushing it on a baby stroller. It was adorable to see a baby taking care of a baby. I wondered if she knew that she was a baby herself. Sadly, she no longer plays with it as much as she does with tablets and other random things in the house.

When she was gazing at Elijah's photo, I wanted to tell her his story. I wanted to tell her that he was her cousin. I felt bad about telling her that he was, "Baby." Today, he would be almost 22 months old, 3 months older than her. He wouldn't be a baby, he would be a toddler, like her.

But I wondered why she was so silent. I have never seen her so quietly focused on something, other than on the T.V. or some cartoon or T.V. show.

Did she already know who he was?

I remember when she was a baby, before I held her. She would stare at me walking by, her eyes would follow me. She was curious to know who I was and why I never held or greeted her.

As time passed, I held her and fed her. When I held her, she would look at me, as if something was floating above me; she no longer has that look. When she started walking (running), she would follow me. At times, she would hug my leg or pull on my pants. She says, "Hi" "What's that?" “cute” “OOH” and "WOW" all of the time. She's now learned to say "Mom" and wave goodbye. She also knows how to give a kiss. She gave my husband a kiss and my husband told her to give me one, I said, "Oh, no."

That's too soon for me.

This one day, we were playing by the window and she kissed me. She caught me by surprise and all I could say was, "Thank you."

Some days, it's hard to be around her because I miss Elijah. Other days, she's too curious and uncontrollable, digging and getting into places she shouldn't be.

Most days and probably every day, she is a constant reminder of what happened to Elijah, even though I could never forget anyway. Her presence just intensifies his absence. She makes me miss the memories that I couldn't have with Elijah.

I don't know if there will be a day that I will tell her everything about Elijah. I don't know if she will ever learn to say his name, either. 

But I hope so. I hope that I could tell her the reasons why I find it hard to do certain things with her. I hope that I could tell her that I never meant to ignore her or shut her out. I hope that she isn't mad at me for closing the door and not opening it for her because I'm crying and in pain. I hope she knows that I am doing the best I can to be her aunt.

(Related Read: I Couldn't Do It)

I hope that she knows that she likes watching Peppa Pig only because I showed it to her...

Yet, a part of me thinks she knows these things. She knows why I find it hard to do certain things. She knows why the door is closed. She knows when I'm in pain. And she knows that I am trying my best. I can see that she reads me, she knows me.

The other part me believes that she has already known Elijah.

And Elijah already knows about Jazmine.

How could they not know about each other? They're cousins.

With love,

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