I have decided it is time to go on a search. A journey backward in time to find this missing girl before she suffocates into mere existence.
Existence: the place where one is neither dead, nor fully alive.
Are you familiar with the cartoon called, ‘Blue’s Clues’. If not, basically it is about Blue, who is this adorable dog who messes up surroundings by putting his puppy prints on random objects. His paws are actually clues, which are strategically placed for the rest of the cast to discover the answer to the mystery before the 30 minutes are up, and the episode is over.
The main character, Steve, was the only real-life person on this fictitious show. All the other characters were cartoon in nature, Blue included. For the longest time I thought Blue was a boy, being that he is blue and all, but I did not discover until much later that he was actually a she.
Anyway, each episode had Steve on a mission to solve the paw-print puzzle. With his special notebook in hand, Steve documented the evidence left from each mysterious clue. And, by the end, with these clues in hand, Steve was able to solve the puzzle.
I hope to have a similar solution by the end of this episode called life. If not, I will remain clueless as to how I have become who I have become.
I had a peculiar dream the other night. Peculiar in the sense I only remember one portion of it. Even so, this small piece is intensely vivid. I certainly could blame it on the pizza the night before. If, of course, I had the delightful dish that oftentimes awakens me hours later with strange dreams and a certain amount of heartburn. But, this piece of a dream was more like a piece of a puzzle.
A clue if you will. Which also happened to be blue.
I stand in front of a large interior wall with a roller in hand, which is covered in thick paint. It appears I am in the middle of a project. One being an attempt to cover the scribbles on the wall that are not entirely visible. Instinctively I know this is the assignment–to conceal them as quickly as possible.
The paint appears to be grayish-blue in color. Similar to a hue you would see in West Elm or Crate and Barrel.
Whatever it is I’m attempting to mask, no matter how much I slather on the wall, it seems to have no impact whatsoever on concealing the messiness underneath.
I awaken somewhat disturbed.
And as the day goes by, the dream won’t leave me alone. It occupies my many moments throughout the last couple of days. It is almost as if this dream is actually a clue. A clue, similar to a breadcrumb to help me find my way.
I wonder if it will unlock the clue to my mistaken identity.
You see, I can easily relate to that four-legged cartoon character who is not really the pup people think she is.
I am confused. I am disoriented. I have lost myself somewhere.
The real me.
I am afraid if I don’t discover these missing pieces of me soon, I will suffocate into existence.
It was a nightmare that occurred in broad daylight.
She was blue. Or, was it the blanket that covered her–is that the blue I see?
Either way, she stopped breathing that day. She, being my baby sister.
Her picture sat in a small, gold frame. No other snapshots of her with the exception of this one from the hospital. Her hair appeared to be blond. Hard to tell really as it was matted down and stringy in the snapshot. I am told it was brown. Is that true? Was it the lighting that made her hair appear lighter, or did it darken in the days after the hospital stay?
Her eyes are closed. I wonder what color they were. I asked my sister recently and she told me they were brown. Oh. I pictured them to be blue. Why did I not ask this question before? I have no idea.
How often did she cry? Was she a happy baby? Did I ever hold her–feed her–kiss her? Was I proud to be a big sister, since until then, I was only a little sister? Many unanswered questions from so long ago of this baby who existed for such a short period of time in life.
I was just six years old that tragic day that changed my life forever. I remember it differently than my older sister. My version has me standing beside my mother as she folds clothes in our small laundry room with the old washer and dryer.
I recall a smile on my mom’s face that was framed by her larger-than-life glasses. I cannot remember a time when my mom was ever without spectacles. I see her take a dingy, faded, brown towel out of the dryer and meticulously fold it into a square. The edges were frayed, I think.
I hear my mom’s voice call out to my older sister to check on her as she was still sleeping. It was late afternoon and it was time to wake up. This is where things get fuzzy. To this day, I recall peering over my sister’s shoulder as she removes the blanket and turns her over. She looks strange. She is a different color, like a bluish gray tint that covers her features.
My sister informs me, years later, that she never rolled her over. Instinctively, she knows something is wrong when she touches her back, and because of this, backs out of the bedroom.
She suffocated. From SIDS: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Is the snapshot in my memory real? Or, did I happen upon this picture moment’s later when someone else turned her over and I placed the pieces together into one scene?
As I ponder this picture, my account of the scene does not make sense since my sister is much taller than me. How in the world did I peer over her shoulder? Did I have a step ladder to prop me up an additional six inches?
Does it even matter?
Screams fill the air, but I am not sure. It is as if someone turned the lights off on the memory of that day, along with many others after that.
The sole recollection of the moments immediately following this incident has me laying on a black and white printed couch. I seem to be fixated on the tapestry design. My finger traces the lines of the pattern over and over again.
I think this may be what I am attempting to cover over. Ironically, with blue paint. The color of her lifeless life.
And the mess resulting from her death.
We did not talk about her end on earth. Nor did we discuss her brief life.
But, I am beginning to realize that even though she was not mentioned, this little life of hers mattered.
So much so, it is still making an impact on mine today.
I don’t know. This is just a feeling.
I do know that I have lost me somewhere along the way. The real me.
Who was I before this day began to define me?
Is it possible for a single moment to change the trajectory of a life?
Has the real you been covered up by a certain circumstance that was entirely out of your control?
Or, are there moments that are suffocating you into a mere existence: that place where you are not dead, but are not really fully alive?
Tomorrow, I will hone in a bit with Blue Clue #2 and a nightmare of a dream. I would love for you to join me.
This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!