We sing lots of made-up songs, my daughter Iris and I. Since she was an infant, I’ve made up silly little tunes, as I’m sure most mothers do, to teach her the steps of getting dressed or to remind her how much her papa and I love her or to just keep my worrying in check.
EWOP is one of our favorites. The concept isn’t mine, but the tune is. “Everything works out perfectly,” we sing. “Everything works out per-er-fectly.” Over and over. It’s soothing and catchy and reminds me that I don’t need to control the world because however it goes, it’s going to be fine.
All of it.
It’s going to be fine. Everything’s going to work out.
Even when it doesn’t seem to.
I named the miscarried embryo Celia Rose. I had written that name down at the top of a list that I thought I would add to over the months. Days beforehand, Iris, without even knowing I was pregnant, announced that we should name her baby sister-to-be Rosie. And then after the miscarriage, my mother-in-law happened to bring me a single burnt-umber rose. So, the name was right. And having the name felt better than pretending this was all nothing.
Everything works out perfectly.
After the ultrasound appointment that confirmed what we already knew, I was emotional and quiet. Tony took me to look at Christmas trees, though he hadn’t been particularly keen on getting one as early as the day after Thanksgiving. Last year, our tree lost about 75% of its needles the week after we brought it home. As aromatic as the mess was, the fallen needles filled a 5-gallon bucket, and we were leery of a repeat disaster. But as is his way, he wanted to cheer me up.
We walked into Carol’s Cedar Cellar to inquire about the Christmas trees out front, and the first thing my eyes stopped on in all the lovely home-décor clutter was a small wooden plaque. “Dear God,” it said in large letters across the top. “I would have loved to have held my baby on my lap and tell them all about You, but since I did not get the chance, would you please hold them on Your lap and tell them all about me?” Tony would normally leave the talking to me in a store like this, but I was back in tears and unable to speak. He stepped up quickly and had Carol outside moments later getting her recommendations.
We ended up with a lovely, monster of a tree that would barely fit in the bed of the truck. Wedging the trunk as far under the toolbox as possible, the top still hung over the tailgate and we couldn’t close the tonneau cover. When we arrived at the Canadian customs station, the agent asked if it was a real tree and if so, what kind. “Uh, the Christmas kind?” we said quietly to each other as he walked away. This particular agent does his job well and follows the law to the letter. While others are kinder and more lenient with us Angle residents (last year no one even blinked an eye at our Christmas tree), this guy seems to have no sympathy for the fact that we’re just trying to get back home to our Minnesota enclave.
“The tree needs to be in an enclosed container,” he said as he walked back to our window; he’d been inside for some time looking up the regulations. We asked a few more questions, stalling, hoping maybe he’d relent, as both of our minds scrambled to figure out how we could manage this without having to go back through the US border, drop-off the tree somewhere in Roseau, drive back through the border, home to The Angle for our enclosed trailer and then another two-hour round trip to get the tree.
We pulled over so the agent could check the next vehicle through, and as we stood there looking at our tall tree wondering what the solution was – because there always is one – Ray Omdahl in his very big truck with a fully-enclosed-container-of-a-truck-bed pulled up beside us.
While I made the ask of Ray, Tony respectfully cleared it with the customs agent. After we had the tree loaded in Ray’s truck, I gave him a hug. I had been in tears when we arrived at the border, and not too much later I was hugging a man who looks more like Santa Clause than just about anyone I know. The irony was so perfect. “Thank you so much, Ray,” I said loudly enough for the customs agent to hear. “You just saved Christmas.” We thanked the agent – he does do his job well – and were on our way.
A few days later, with our tall tree still undecorated and my tattered emotions and low-energy keeping me a hermit, Tony came home with the wooden plaque that had brought me to tears. I found a special spot for it, displaying it with the dried umber rose and a small white button Iris had given me. She gives whatever and however she can, and I treasure all the pretty rocks and dead leaves and endless stick-people pictures. She had found the white button somewhere, and again, both pregnancy and miscarriage unbeknownst to her, the button was in the shape of a heart with an embossed rose on it.
Everything works out perfectly.
Even in the raw and ragged moments of life that don’t seem to have any answers.
Even in the beautiful, random questions Iris asks now that we’ve gently told her about the baby that died before it lived.
I look at our beautiful tree that insists on standing crooked no matter what we do, and I look at the wooden plaque that reminds me of the gift of Celia Rose. I feel love and gratitude, and the grief fades, the wanting everything to be my version of perfect fades.
Life has a better plan.
We’re all sitting on the lap of God.
(Column 74 – Published in the December 5th issue of the Warroad Pioneer)