I wanted to upload this post on 3rd January 2012 but we were in Port Arthur, Tasmania and the motel internet was not working well.
My daughter was nine years old on 3rd January. What would she have liked for her birthday?
Today, I will make cupcakes with pink icing as I have done every year for her. And as with the past three birthdays, I will place a cupcake on her grave (for the birds to eat says Jordi). We know she will not eat the cupcake but it is an offering of remembrance of a time when birthdays were special and exciting not sad and haunting.
We were not home for Clea’s birthday. We were in Port Arthur, Tasmania. We lit a candle and two sparklers whilst we sat on a hill overlooking the ruins of Port Arthur. It was not quite dark as dark does not come until late during summer in Tasmania.
We often go away between Christmas and Clea’s birthday. Usually, we make it home in time for her birthday. Last year, we did not, and this year, we did not. The cupcakes have to wait until today.
Clea missed her 7th and 8th birthdays; and now she has missed her 9th birthday. She had a party for her 6th birthday. I told her she could have a party every second year so she had her 8th birthday party all organised; invitations written, ready to be sent. After Clea died, I gave my sister the invitation to her sons (to the pirates and princesses party – they could go as pirates Clea said).
After Clea’s 8th birthday, sometime after as we were in London for Clea’s 8th birthday, I found that invitation at Clea’s grave. My sister had written on the bottom that she was sorry they were unable to be at the party that Clea had so desperately wanted. I have that invitation; it was wet and difficult to read. I cry when I read it. It took me sometime to realise that it was the invitation Clea had written to her cousins.
The night before she died, Clea told the girls she was playing with that she was nine years old. They asked me if that was true and I said no, Clea was only six. She spent the rest of the time before dinner sitting on my knee with a sulky face. Now, she really is nine but she is not here to enjoy the age.
I saw one of those girls in the refuge the next day. She asked where Clea was and I told her that she was missing presumed dead. She said that was very sad because she thought Clea was a very nice girl. I agreed with her. Clea was indeed a very nice girl and I am very proud that she is my daughter.
New year has passed and we have entered yet another year in which our daughter does not exist. This is the third year in which she has not existed. This year, we were in Campbell Town in Tasmania. We took a floating candle to the river and we lit sparklers for Clea. We spent New Year’s Day at Freycinet National Park.
I have often said that I cannot begin to explain to people how much I miss Clea and what I miss about her. It is all of her that I miss.
I realised more than a year ago that there was something strange about the smell of our house. It took me a while to register that Clea’s smell had gone. All I smell now are sweaty little boys and men. The house does not smell the same. There is a scent missing and it is Clea’s. I want our home to smell of a little girl. Too many boys do not smell very nice.
Someone once asked me if I could still hear Clea’s voice. I said yes, I hear her voice but I can’t smell her any more. I would kiss Clea so that I could smell her. I would place my nose close to her hair as I cleaned her teeth. I would rub her nose against mine so that I could smell the sweet baby smell. I remember when the baby smell disappeared but this is different. That beautiful scent of princess has gone from our house. I sit in Clea’s room but there is no scent or aroma of her here. The smell of my child has wafted out of our house.
I wear a pink headband on my left wrist. I have worn one since I crawled into Clea’s bed the night I had to begin a life without her. I found her headband and wrapped it around my wrist hoping to keep the smell of Clea close to me. For Clea’s funeral, I found a pink headband with a butterfly which she had left at home. I wore it and Jorge took the headband which I had found in her room in Samoa. We both wear the pink headbands still. I have washed mine because there is nothing of Clea on the sweaty, dirty headband but Jorge has not washed his. Maybe one day we will throw them into the ocean – that’s what Jorge says.
I watch families with their daughters. I watched a couple in Bicheno with their daughter, she was probably about three. I remembered when it was just Jorge, Clea and me; when we went to Singapore together and I rocked her to sleep in my arms at a restaurant in Little India. I watch families and I remember. I will always remember because that is all I have. I only have memories and I will never get new ones to add to the collection which I return to each day.
I had news on 4th January that another little girl had been born. Clea would have been very excited that this little girl had been born so close to her birthday. Clea was very close to this new mother. And now the new mother has told me that she wants to use ‘Clea’ as a middle name for her little girl, another princess name for their princess. I cried when I heard the baby had been born on 4th January and I cried when the mother asked me if it was OK to use the name ‘Clea’. All the expectations of a life which for me have been extinguished.
Happy birthday Chickie.