Iowa has always been my happy place, but even more so in this past year. When I return to the home of my childhood, I feel a peace I don't often feel these days. The world moves a lot slower, which is good, because Jason and I feel stuck in a place that refuses to move forward, when everyone else seems to be racing ahead.
In my perfect world we would spend our full summer in Iowa, June to August. Hopefully that can be a reality someday. I would love for Ted to experience a true Iowa summer, from camping in June, RAGBRAI in July, and all the way to the fair in August. Until then, we just get a two week slice of heaven in June.
This year, Ted and I went for two weeks and Jason joined us for the end of our trip with our annual camping weekend with my sweet Iowa girls. It always flies by way too fast and I start missing it before we even leave.
It was my third trip home without Lily and I thought it would be a little easier this time, but honestly it was the hardest trip of all without her. I recently shared with some friends that it's harder now because I can spot a baby her age without even asking. (I don't ask anymore because I fear the answer.) Lily would have been seven months when we were there. She would have been crawling and scooting all around. She would have been in the baby carrier with me while Ted went on all the rides with his cousins. She would have been passed around to every aunt at the wedding and everyone would have gushed over the sweet dress I picked out for her. I thought it would get easier, but each day I am reminded of what is missing.
Despite the ache in my heart missing Lily, we still had a wonderful trip. That's what's so surreal...I can miss Lily with tears in my eyes, but a smile on my face watching Ted with all his sweet cousins. During the first week, Ted got his first hair cut in a savvy salon, went to Adventureland (twice!), danced until he dropped at my cousin's wedding, splashed with cousins, showed off his awesome swimming skills, and played some more with his sweet cousins.
The second part of our trip was just as fun when Jason arrived! We went to an Iowa Cubs game, more splash pads and my favorite weekend of the whole year, camping in Anamosa with my sweet friends. These beautiful ladies mean so much to me and our friendship just gets better and better as each year passes, we are a fine wine of friends. The weekend always fly by and before we even leave town, I find myself counting the days until I get to see these beautiful faces. I love these women for always loving me from afar. They have been such a rock for me as I miss my daughter and walk this foreign path of grief. I know that I can always count on them for a great hug, a belly full of laughs, even with tears in my eyes.
Again, though, this was a tough trip and I was really missing Lily. I could picture her crawling and scooting all over the grass, loving the water, and laughing at how silly the big kids were acting. I overheard one of the big kids saying that it was the first year without a new baby...but the truth is, it wasn't. Lily was the new baby, she just wasn't there with us. It's moments like these that have me begging for answers. Why? Why didn't she get to be there? Why do I have to understand this type of loss? I miss her. I miss her so much and it doesn't matter where I physically am, either Iowa or Arizona, I am constantly aware that my daughter is missing. I am constantly aware that things are not as the should be.
But somehow, we continue to move forward...not onward or over, but forward. And moving forward is hard and slow.