In the dream, I lay by a pool during that magical hour when the water seems a galaxy of sparkly bobbing stars. Relaxed and content to be there, I was also profoundly sad. A small girl, about two, stood next to me. She had bright dark eyes, pink cheeks and the sweetest crop of brown hair that swept over her forehead, curled around her tiny ear and blew in the evening breeze. She was mine.
Deep in thought, I hadn't noticed my towel had slipped off a shoulder. She leaned over and gave it the most tender baby kiss. Whatever was making me sad vanished and I was filled with nothing but love for her. We grinned at each other, me squinting into the sun in an effort to see her face better. Delighted she had caught my attention with her kiss, she laughed. Which made me laugh. So she did it again, a quick succession of tiny pecks on my shoulder. She repeated the move, ended it with a flourish and we both burst into giggles at her performance. Her perfect little head was backlit by pink-gold warmth. She climbed into my lap and hugged my neck tightly, burying her nose under my ear. Wrapped in my arms, she curled her small fingers around my thumb and we lay there watching the sun disappear. I woke up and she was gone.
When my first son was a toddler and before the second was born, I had a series of miscarriages. Two of them were so early I didn't have time to get attached but one was particularly tough. The baby was just into the fourth month when we lost the heartbeat. I had to go to the hospital for the procedure. It was awful and heartbreaking, but I was busy with my little boy Will and so in love with him that I soon put the sadness behind me. Then along came his brother Charlie and we were complete. We had two robust, darling, happy boys that brought me so much joy. It wasn't until much later that it hit me what life would be like with the one I lost. What has caught me by surprise is that it seems to hurt more now than it did then.
This dream came to me on the last night of vacation with my husband at a jewel of an inn set high in the cliffs of northern California. Earlier that night, we sat on a bench nestled into the ferns and cypress and watched the sun slip into the ocean and toasted our twentieth anniversary. We were lost in the wonder of it all when a hummingbird buzzed by, hovered for a moment right in front of us, then vanished. Immediately, I thought of my mother in law who died soon after we were married. An avid gardener, hummingbirds were her favorite. Chills broke out on my arms and up the back of my neck.
A close friend of mine had stayed at this same hotel years earlier. She believed that her father, who had died unexpectedly when she was young, "came back" occasionally and watched over her in the form of a bird. She said it happened to her often that a bird would land on a windowsill, a tree or post nearby and appear to observe her. It gave her comfort to think it was her father "visiting" her. Before my trip, she related to me that when she stayed at the inn, a seagull landed on her railing each night at sunset.