Posted by: scintillatingspeck | April 2, 2010

Lily is three years old today.

Three years.  It has been three years since the day Lily was born.

Some readers will remember that April 2, 2007 was a harrowing day.  I won’t repeat all the details, but to summarize, it was the most frightening day of my life.  I thought my baby was dying, or dead.  But by some miracle, Lily Angela Hartley was born via emergency cesarean, alive and well.

Not all babies and their families get to experience this miracle.  When I was trying to make sense of the terror of Lily’s birth (although, honestly, I guess I’m still working on that, and probably always will be), I came across a blog that changed my life, The Happy Sad Mama.  There I learned about Charlotte Amelia, who died at birth, and her mother Carol, and through them I also came to know the stories of many other babies who died and their grieving families.  A lot of people who haven’t experienced baby loss seem to find these tragic stories intolerable, too sad, too overwhelming.  This is tremendously upsetting because these families deserve our love and support, and these babies deserve to be remembered. I am committed to doing that, especially on Lily’s birthday.  At the same time that I’m so deeply grateful that my child is alive, I hear the tiny voices of the children that aren’t here.  In celebrating life, there is the ever-present reminder that we are all mortal and our days are numbered (and some babies don’t even get any numbered days).

Lily’s birthday is made all the more vivid today by two recent deaths this week.

The first was my great-uncle in Bologna, zio Dedo (Alfredo Foschi).  He was 90 years old, fortunate to live a long and happy life.  He was the last of seven siblings to pass away (he was my grandfather Gigi’s younger brother) and it feels like the end of an era.  I still feel the intense pull of my faraway clan in Bologna.  I am all the more eager to return, in order that I might offer condolences and shared memories with my extended Foschi family, in an effort to keep the flame of family unity alive.  I also want to immerse Lily in the stories, surroundings, and people in Bologna, that she might start to get a sense of her family heritage.  I don’t know how to express how important this is to me.  I want to take Lily by the hand and say, This is part of who we are.  This is the land of our ancestors.  This is where Gigi stood in the middle of the road to wax rhapsodic about the facade of a palazzo.  This is where I ran and played as a child your age, another little girl with blue eyes and blond pigtails, in Giardini Margherita.  This church, Santa Maria dei Servi, is where my Nonna Rinda came to pray to both official and unofficial saints, and also where your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother, Angela, came to pray– your Nonna Grazia told me that she knew she could find her Nonna here.  Lily, I always want you to know where you can find us, all of us.

The second death was someone I was not close to and did not know well, but it is nevertheless affecting me very much.  The daughter of a dear family friend, 34 years old, died suddenly, and I don’t know what caused her death, and I suspect that it was under terrible circumstances.  I am heartbroken for her dad, who also lost his first wife (this young woman’s mother) to breast cancer years ago.  It’s a great shock, and it’s bringing to mind the stories of other untimely, tragic deaths of young women I have known.

In the midst of grief, I’m mindful that it is still my utmost responsibility to hold fast to joy.  It is absolutely possible to both grieve and celebrate; in fact, I find that lately I don’t have a lot of patience with those schools of thought that seek to banish complex and seemingly contradictory emotions.  So today is still a day of great joy and celebration.  My girl is three years old, and I am grateful.

You’ll notice that in the picture above there is a cake.  It’s a carrot cake I baked today, using a recipe from the Moosewood cookbook.  I am deeply grateful for the ingredients that went into this cake, for my hands that turned the handle on the grain mill and grated the carrots and stirred and measured and placed raisins, and for the chance to take a photo of my beloved girl with her special cake.  The winter wheat that I milled by hand was from my grain share through Pioneer Valley Heritage Grains.  The eggs were from local hens.  The vanilla extract was home steeped by Kent and Donna Byron of Grace Note Farm; I had the good fortune to barter with them at the Northampton Winter Fare in January, where I traded them a whole bunch of my foraged hickory nuts.  The lemon zest was from some precious Meyer lemons given to me by Adrie.  The carrots were from Winter Moon Farm.

Yeah, that’s the kind of blogger I am… birth, death, and local food.  🙂



  1. And we LOVE that you are that kind of blogger! Ups and downs and downs and ups. These lovely little challenging ones we gave birth to, and watch grow, are a wonder. 🙂

  2. I love that photo! May your uncle rest in peace, your story reminds me of that of my family, only it is my grandmother hanging on (almost 92!) and it is the trials and tribulations of the Old West that I strive to someday share with Winston. Luckily for Lily the history of Italy is a little more set in stone. Literally!

  3. This is an incredible post! Lovely, thank you. Birth death and local food – I believe you have extended the traditional writers duo there (birth and death), and hooray for that. And my heart goes out to your family – it is so hard to see a generation pass.

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