I turned twenty-seven last Thursday.

It feels absurd to me that I’m twenty-seven years old—old enough to have been driving for eleven years, to have been voting for nine, and to have been married for four. It also feels absurd to me that I’m twenty-seven years young—young enough that I don’t feel old enough to be a bereaved mother.

Regardless of my feelings, I am twenty-seven. I am a bereaved mother. I sometimes feel like all the breath has been sucked from my lungs before I ever had the chance to learn to breathe. If I live to be one hundred, seventy-three of my one hundred years will be spent missing my daughter. One single instant without her is too much, but time is a bully who has no regard whatsoever for you as she gives and takes.

Thankfully, she gave me a wonderful birthday weekend. After weeks of debating on a destination—Do we go out West? Do we go North? Do we stay local? Do we stay here?—we landed on a weekend getaway to Petoskey, Michigan, somewhere neither of us had ever been but now both vow to return to.

We did some research on the area, learned how not to be “fudgies” (conspicuous tourists to Northern Michigan who wear bright colors, get in the way of the locals, and spend most of their time in fudge shops), packed our bags and Eleanora Bear, and headed out.

We got to our resort late in the evening, so our first stop Thursday was dinner at a place called Teddy Griffin’s. “Teddy Griffin” is written in a large font on the sign out front, but the apostrophe -s are tiny and squished in at the end, almost like an afterthought. I thought that was funny. We got seated, I ordered a glass of cab sauv, and the waitress asked which kind I wanted because they had three. (Something to know about me is that I really like to try to sound confident when ordering drinks, but all I really know when it comes to wine is that cab sauv is my favorite, and if there’s only one brand to choose from, PERFECT. So I panicked and told her the house was fine. It turned out to be even better: it was divine.)

We looked like a middle-school couple and ordered the same meal, chicken parmesan, and a lava cake for dessert. Our waitress complimented my nails, which I’d had painted green the night before to honor Eleanora. We laughed as the man, whom we nicknamed Bill Gates, at the next table talked way too loudly about his successes in golf. I noticed how tightly we were packed into the corner of the restaurant and realized that we should also be trying to fit a stroller there. I got teary-eyed missing our daughter. From somewhere across the restaurant, a very large man with one of those wonderful, very large laughs bellowed out and made us giggle again. Bittersweet. But still the perfect birthday dinner.

Friday and Saturday, we explored downtown Charlevoix and Petoskey. Daniel took a picture of me beaming with the Hemingway statue in Petoskey. I looped my arm into Brass Hemingway’s and silently thanked him for always reminding me that “courage is grace under pressure.” I promised myself to return the next day wearing the shirt I bought at Hemingway’s birthplace in Oak Park, Illinois, two years ago. It says, “Write drunk, edit sober” and is not appropriate for Facebook. We definitely came back and took the picture, and then we definitely went for beers.

We walked along the shoreline hunting for Petoskey stones (we found a few!) and daydreaming about returning someday for a babymoon. I pulled out the black pen I always keep in my purse (Something else to know about me is that I also panic when I have to sign a receipt after using my debit card. My brain feels like it’s on fire and I can’t find a pen anywhere. So, like a lunatic, I always keep one on hand and whip it out before the receipt is printed. I also take anxiety medication.) and wrote Eleanora’s name on a non-Petoskey stone. I thought about keeping it, but I returned it to the lake. I hoped that someone else would find the stone, pick it up, and hold her name in their hands. Maybe they’d even whisper “Eleanora James” to the lake. Maybe she’d smile down at them.

We walked out to the lighthouse, and I asked Daniel to take a picture. He held up my phone, and we smiled. Really, truly smiled, the way we haven’t in a long time.

Friday and Saturday, we found ourselves continually walking past a little children’s clothing boutique called Fox & Hound. Every time we passed it, I found myself trying to get a good look inside. If Eleanora were here, I’d have walked in without question. Instead, I felt like an intruder peeking at something I shouldn’t be. If we walked in, would the owner be able to tell by our faces that we are in That Club? Would we break down in tears and have to ask for Kleenexes? Or, would we find something we loved and bring it home for a Hopefully Someday Baby?

Eventually, we decided to just go inside. The boutique smelled like fresh air and hardwood floors. Everything was perfectly arranged by color scheme. Nothing was askew, nothing was out of place. Everything within control. Nothing like grief.

We wandered to the back of the store and saw a onesie that said in big letters, “LIFE OF THE PARTY.” I looked at Daniel and blinked back tears. “If she was here, I would have to buy that for her,” I said. Even though she never took a breath this side of Heaven, I knew for her entire nine months of life that Eleanora was the life of the party. I always joked that out of two introverted parents came this wild little extrovert.

We picked up a tiny green shirt and white pants. I commented that I imagine every Baby Main from here on out will be dressed in those colors in remembrance of their big sis. Daniel smiled. I hung the outfit over my arm, determined to bring it home. We picked up another outfit: an orange onesie and a pair of pants with a pancakes-and-maple-syrup pattern. The pancakes have little smiles on them. I imagined a Hopefully Someday Baby wearing that onesie on a cold evening in the early spring, making maple syrup at my parents’ house. I tucked that outfit over my arm, too.

In the back of the shop was a sign that read, “Learn to ride the waves.”

Both of those outfits came home with us.

There was a lot more to this trip—like Daniel’s absolute insistence about riding the ski lift despite his fear of heights, and then panicking the instant we took off, or when we drank champagne out of blue Solo cups, or when we left a tearful note one night for our waitress who was the hostess’s mother. It was National Daughter’s Day. We told them about Eleanora and asked that they hug each other tight.—but our visit to that little store with those tiny outfits is what I imagine I’ll remember most.

I’ll remember talking about Eleanora, wishing she were there with us, but still including her in every single memory we made. I’ll remember our bravery at thinking toward the future. Hopefully, someday, I’ll put a tiny, wonderfully alive Baby Main into those goofy little maple syrup pants and I’ll remember the tiny little boutique that smelled like fresh air and hardwoods and I’ll think to myself, “The day we bought these, we were already praying for you.”

You Might Also Like...