I am bent over a cookbook, ticking off ingredients in my mind and thinking about the task before me. It's a blazing hot summer day. I have written down a new roast chicken recipe on my meal calendar and I am determined to attempt it despite the early September heat. I begin making the spice rub: I measure rosemary and thyme, then reach for sage. The bottle has never been opened before. I don't often cook with sage. I tear off the seal and begin measuring the small amount I need.
Smell the herb. Pull back. Smell it again. And I'm gone. Flying through time to the same kitchen in a different year during a different season. There isn't a little boy playing on the floor as I cook. It's raining outside. I am weak and tired. My eyes are swollen and sore. The microwave is in a different place, next to the sink, and resting on top of it is a bottle of sage tincture. I twist the cap, pull out the dropper - which makes a slight ting against the glass, and watch as the sage darkens the water I drop it into.
My daughter died three days ago. My breasts are bound. They ache with the need to feed a newborn. I am sore from birth and suppression. Suppressed milk, suppressed sorrow, suppressed grief. I replace the dropper. Take the tincture. Shuffle back to the couch where I will spend countless hours in the weeks to come.
B bangs an oatmeal container against a cupboard. I inhale deeply, as if I am coming to from a long daydream, and continue preparing dinner. I put the chicken in to roast, take a break and then prepare the sauce. I pull parsley from the produce drawer. Wash it off. Give some to B who toddles around proudly with it clenched in his fat baby hands.
I slice the bunch lengthwise. And I'm gone. Flying through time to the same kitchen in a different year during a different season. I expect to see my midwife bending to place the parsley she bought so we could make restorative smoothies in our old fridge. I wait to hear her soft laugh and feel her gentle hand on my shoulder. I wait expectantly for her calm voice to filter through the dense layers of grief. But when I turn around seeking comfort there is only a little boy contentedly dropping a measuring spoon through the small slot at the top of the stepping stool in the corner of the kitchen, crushed parsley at his feet, forgotten.
This dinner is a memory minefield. I feel my heart breaking all over again as I work the sage and parsley in my hands. It amazes me how a scent can throw me back to a specific time and thoroughly entrench me there. Just as the sight of a red and white helicopter with a large cross painted on the bottom winging across the sky can bring me to my knees with prayer and remembered sorrow, the scents of parsley and sage bring spring, May and the ripped raw feeling of early grief roaring forth from the dark corners of my mind.
As I finished writing this post the song 'Ronan' by Taylor Swift began popping up in my Twitter and Facebook feed. This song ... it says it all ...
I remember the drive home when the blind hope
Turned to crying and screaming, "Why?"
Flowers piled up in the worst way
No one knows what to say about a beautiful
I miss her so much.