Ben and Alise and Ramona have been gone for over two weeks now. We had a wonderful week together at the end of May, a week full of love and the joy of having your children and grandchild under the same roof. It was a visit that reassured me deep in my heart that, despite the geographical distance (2500 miles), the fabric of family is still strong. My only regret (well, other than that distance) is that the fireflies did not appear for the year until ten days after they left. (Westerner that she is, Alise was so hoping to see one!)
Although they are back home and have been so for half the month, I find myself slow in erasing the final traces of the visit.
The ducks and the fish still sit sentinel on the bathtub.
Fat Cat is on the stripped down bed in the spare bedroom. (The Pack-N-Play went back to my friend Donna.)
The bottle of bubbles is still "napping" on top of the refrigerator. ("Napping" is what certain objects did when Ramona got obsessed and demanding with something. Certain books "napped" for some of the week, for example.)
And speaking of books, the bookshelves are still a mess.
I haven't put the blocks away yet either. The marbles for the one set are still in a kitchen drawer. They are still napping too.
I think I tell myself that if I don't put this stuff away just yet, Ramona isn't quite gone.
When I was a child, I memorized the poem "Little Boy Blue" by Eugene Field. Field was a nineteenth century American poet and journalist. Most of his works have faded from the public's awareness, although his poem "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" has hung on over the century plus since Field died.
"Little Boy Blue" is about the sudden death of a child (not Field's own, despite popular lore). The family does not put away the last toys the little boy played with, but leaves them on the chair where he last placed them. The toys sit, gathering dust:
And they wonder, as waiting the long years through
In the dust of that little chair,
What has become of our Little Boy Blue,
Since he kissed them and put them there.
The toys on the chair in the poem, the ducks on the edge of the tub. It is not unlike what Joan Didion called "magical thinking" in her account of the year after her husband's sudden death. Mine is benign and mild: unlike the lost child of the poem, Ramona will return to pick up where she left off, ruling the house and the day.
I will eventually put away the bath toys, the blocks, the books, the bubbles. But not yet, not now. Let me hold onto my magical thinking for just a little while longer.