Last week after a lazy Sunday morning I got an unusual urge to clean my dirty house. I'd originally set out to clean the kitchen and our bedroom. Both were in need of some undivided attention. As I finished up the kitchen and passed the boys' room I glanced at Colum's crib that was now full of blankets and random items that needed a home. As I walked in the room I decided that today was the day that I'd finally finish cleaning their room. It's a tiny room and so is our 'master bedroom'. Our house is small and the rooms reflect the modest post-war era of the American dream. I was relieved when we found out Colum was a boy because they'd be sharing this small bedroom, along with all the little boy paraphenelia it could hold. As I started sorting through the items I saw the Bed, Bath, & Beyond bag and the familiar blue blanket with little airplanes on it that he was wrapped up in the night they wheeled him over to our hospital into my room where we would say our final goodbyes. Also in the bag was his blue vintage coat and his best pair of blue jeans he'd been wearing that horrible night. His jeans had an adjustable waist which I always tried to buy and they were adjusted to fit my baby angels perfect little waist. I ran my fingers over the buttons and down the elastics, the tightest they could go... I tried to imagine what life used to feel like when I adjusted these. I remembered how cute he looked in them and I saved them for special occasions; never knowing they would be the pair he'd be wearing when he would smile his last.
I moved to the closet where the last of his shirts and jammies were hanging. I'd already put away about half of his things and planned to get to these a lot sooner. I got out the large tupperware I'd put his bottom sheet and blanket in, the only things I had left that hadn't been washed and still contained his smell. But to my dismay upon opening the tupperware our cleaning ladies had thrown in a couple of those stuffed animals with scentsy scents in with them. His blanket and sheet are now contaminated with the smell of counterfeit fruit and my tears began to fall harder as I chucked the animals across the room. I told our cleaning ladies that our son had died and pointed to this particular tupperware and tried to explain that this was his and to never touch it. I'm not sure how much English they know and must've not understood and assumed that tupperware was just the right place to put the scentsy stuffed animals in. They must not understand why I cry so much and spend a lot of time in my bed. Or why I'm usually still in sweats when they arrive, why I walk a little funny, or who that blonde baby is in all of the pictures hanging on the walls. I let myself be angry for a minute and then decided to just let it go. I added the coat, jeans, and blue blanket to that particular tupperware because his smell was nowhere on them and started taking his clothes off of the hangers. I stopped and just grabbed the rest of them, hangers still attached. I got the empty tupperware and dragged it all into my bedroom where I could sit in my bed and slowly put away each item. When these were placed on the hangers he was alive and well and things were normal. I tried to smell every inch of every item hoping the washing machine missed a spot... I held up every pair of Carter jammies, the ones with the feet and the zipper that I stocked up when they were at Costco every year and I held them against me, wrapping the arms around my neck imagining what it used to feel like to have him in them. I imagined his head on my shoulder and his arms wrapped around me like he used to, my hand under his shirt tickling his back. Him breathing heavy, he was a heavy mouth breather and a tiny drop of drool hanging off his bottom lip. I can imagine him focused, playing with a toy, mouth open, breathing heavy, and the collar of his shirt was damp from his drool. I continued my ritual with the rest of his last bit of clothing as each piece took my breathe away as the memories swarmed and my heart broke over and over again.
I've heard of other people taking items of clothing of their loved ones who've passed and making blankets out of them. I think I've even had offers. But for me his clothes and blankets are just as precious as all the pictures. Evidence of my sweet little dove who lived in this house and once even shared a tiny little room with his brother Finn. I'm positive that if we got lucky and were to have another son that I wouldn't let him wear Colum's old clothes or swaddle him in his old blankets. They are just too precious to me. The two large tupperware containing these priceless things I will hoard and will stay with me until the day I die. I wish more than ever that our 'master bedroom' was bigger more than ever now just so I could store them next to me or even in our room at all.
My bedroom door was locked until the end of this painful routine when Finn came looking for me. I held up some of his outfits and watched Finn's eyes as memories played in his head. Some memories that are only his and perhaps Colum's. I held up the blue vintage coat and Finn said "that is what Colum was wearing during bingo", ...Christmas bingo not what he was wearing when the bad guy hit us. He talks about Colum multiple times a day. He has started telling us stories using his new timeline of either before Mommy and Daddy got hurt or after Mommy and Daddy got hurt. The other day he found a "Cars 2" ball, a toy from a kids meal. He was so extraordinarily happy and immediately said that "this had been Colum's ball and he was so nice and he'd shared it". I wasn't sure if he was right at first because with both boys being so young I wasn't buying each of them kids meals and I'm not a fan of fast food myself, but a few minutes later he found the 2nd "Cars 2" toy and it was a green spinning top. Ryan and I were amazed and our hearts beat with excitement every time Finn shares one of his memories or does an impression of his baby brother. Colum was born with a natural gift. He could slurp noodles extremely fast and succeeded on his first try when he was around 9 months old. This was followed by his I'm so cool grin and Ryan and I freaking out about our son's new found talent (it really was pretty amazing). To this day, every time Finn eats noodles he tries so hard to slurp the noodles up like Colum could. Sometimes he can kinda do it but honestly he's nowhere close. I laugh and say "good job buddy but you still can't do it like Colum did, none of us can". I pray that he remembers a lot and looks back with fondness and pure joy. I hope that he keeps some of Colum's things with him always and they remind him of the days before our 'new normal'. I hope although he is young that this experience helps teach him compassion and drives him to work hard and live to his full potential for himself and for his baby brother.