On Friday, we returned home from a trip to the most magical place on earth.
For five days, with intentions of a good time for C.T., we were inundated with Disney's attempt at manufactured happiness. Which is actually a pretty brave (or stupid) thing to subject oneself to, in our situation.
With some planning, our days at the theme parks were essentially scripted on autopilot. An app on our phones ushered the three of us from fast pass window to dining reservation to parade or firework display. We waited in lines, donned our ponchos when it rained and walked until our feet ached.
The rides and shows were, for the most part, entertaining and somewhat distracting. Except that I couldn't stop crying as we rode Soarin'. The simulation of hang-gliding over California was truly realistic: the surround sound of the gentle river rapids, the pine-scented breeze, the vibrancy of those orange groves, the instant your mind believes you will actually dip your toes in the waves of the pacific ocean. The assault on my senses was simply too much to experience when Zachary will never see or hear or smell the California landscape, simulated or otherwise.
It was all forced fun, triggered by artificial means, but I think we did okay. I am proud of us for trying.
It was all the many in-between moments that were the most difficult. Each monorail or bus ride seemed to involve sitting directly across from families that look like ours should, or like the life we had for the two weeks that Zachary was alive (when just one dead child was our invisible family story). There were older brothers holding littler ones for candid photos or to allow curious eyes to see out a window or up and over some obstruction. When I see C.T. studying these now unobtainable brotherly interactions, I can hardly bear it. Overheard casual conversations amongst other families often highlighted the unfathomable ease and confidence with which others are able to live. One grandparent, holding her three or four year old grandson while looking at an unrelated baby girl, exclaimed, You're going to have a baby sister soon too, aren't you? And, as it does for most people, her expectation will become reality. The pregnant belly of her daughter will materialize into a healthy little girl who will not die, who will grow up before their eyes.
As we walked through the parks, we bypassed the many photo opportunities staged throughout, where happy families presumably capture and then upload glimpses of their magical time to one of many social media sites. As I looked through the few photos we took on our own during the trip, mostly one of us with C.T., the brokenness in our half-smiling faces is absolutely undeniable. The weight of Zachary's absence has permeated our physical existence, even our public personas captured in photographs. Wherever we are and whatever we do, we seem to drip of grief and brokenness.
The whole trip was dull and muted for B. and me, overshadowed by the fact that Zachary is still dead while we must go on with our lives. I think some part of me hoped to be won over, even if only artificially and temporarily, by Disney's magic. I was able to be swayed in years past, when C.T. was here and B.W. was not. I suppose the saying Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me is spot on. The magic is truly gone for me.
When we returned home on Friday, I caught C.T. inspecting the "trap" he set around Zachary's hand and foot molds, checking to see if robbers have been pricked and deterred by the tacks he left, pointy side up, in front of our precious artifacts. His eyes, level with everything on display, landed briefly and patiently on each photo of Zachary, on the frame that houses B.W.'s hand and foot prints. After he deemed everything was in tact, C.T. reached in carefully to stroke the bottom of the cold, hard, chalky mold of Zachary's foot.
I swallowed hard, submerging what might have materialized into an exhausted sob. It is still hard to understand that this is our welcome home, that making memories together does not, will never again, include Zachary.