When I was 20 years old, I worked 2 summer jobs at the beach. When I was 20, I spent a semester in London. When I was 20, I cut my hair short. When I was 20, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. When I was 20, I had a pair of purple high top sneakers and a leather jacket. When I was 20, I was dating the man that I would marry. When I was 20, I did not know that I would birth 4 children who would bring me joy, pain and endless love. I also did not realize that I would birth a silent baby girl named Margaret whom I would miss…forever.Today Margaret would be 20 years old. 20 is milestone number in many ways: To be on earth 20 years, to be married 20 years, to be a teacher or at another job for 20 years. It is a big number, yet it is still young in the arena of wisdom. Wisdom comes with age.
What color high tops would 20-year-old Margaret have? Would she work a summer job at the bakery like her younger sister, Lila, cater like her oldest sister, Elizabeth, throw fish like her brother, Martin, or may be do something totally different? I don’t know. Most days, this far after her death, I’m okay with not knowing but on milestone days, my mind races with questions of what she would be like at that age. My list of questions is endless and though I know they will never be answered, as her mother, I cannot help but continue to ask them.
For our recent 27th anniversary (belated 25th) Glenn and I were in Italy. Our last day in Florence, our feet were ready for a rest and a glass of wine but something propelled us to keep walking up a hill until we came upon a church, San Miniato Al Monte. It stands at one of the highest points in Florence so from there you can see the city and the hillsides all around. We walked up the steep stone steps and saw that it was enclosed on one side by an ancient wall that was built in the 16th century. After walking around the inside of the basilica, we were drawn to greenery through an archway towards the left side of the church. There we spied pink Geraniums, red roses, and various plants on graves and we spied a lone gardener, with brown boots and a watering can watering those delicate flowers. When we decided to get a closer look, we noticed that each of the small graves in this area belonged to a baby or young child. Some dated back to the 1920s. My heart filled with emotions as I read each tombstone, but what struck me the most were the well kept flowers and the black and white photographs of a lost child atop many of the gravestones. The photos were blurry, but I could see them. I saw 5-year-olds, 8-years-olds, 2- year-olds, and stillborns who only had one date: the day they were both born and died. There were words of love written in Italian on many of the stones. Though I could not read them, I could imagine what they said. The wall in this area shielded our sight of the city. We could only feel the warmth of the sun amongst the clouds, heaven breathing on our backs. I felt sad for all the parents who had lost their darlings and who had gone to such effort to make sure they were both honored and remembered, but I also felt an indescribable amount of comfort to be standing there among those babies knowing that all their parents said and continue to say, Ti Voglio bene (I love you ) to them each and every day.
Ti Voglio bene Margaret. Happy 20th. xo