The funeral was sad and uncomfortable, like most funerals, at least for those who understood what was going on.
Lucy was too young to understand that her grandmother was gone.
To her, the funeral was just boring. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t go outside and play in the rain.
Her mother eventually had to take Lucy out to the lobby of the funeral home after too much fidgeting during the service.
“Lucy Dreaming Sawyer,” her mother quietly uttered in exasperation when she was sure they were behind the closed door.
But she softened and didn’t finish her admonishment when she saw Lucy’s bewildered eyes, as if she wanted to cry but wasn’t sure why.
Uncle Joey came out to relieve her mother of the duty so that she could return and continue saying goodbye to her own mother.
“Lucy Dream,” Uncle Joey said with a forced smile. “How are you today?”
Uncle Joey never really knew how to talk to children, even when he was a child himself. Lucy didn’t notice how awkward he was though. She just ignored him.
She walked over to a closet door and tried to open it. Joey rushed over and grabbed her hand from the handle.
Lucy just looked at him, still confused by why they were there, what they were doing, and why there wasn’t a puppy she could play with.
He pulled out his phone and handed it to her. The screen was black. She pressed all the buttons. There weren’t many. It wasn’t fun. She left the phone on the floor and wandered around.
Eventually all the other people in their black and white clothes started to drift out through the now-opened doors. First it was the people Lucy didn’t recognize, followed by some who seemed a little familiar, but not enough to make her notice that fact.
Finally her mother returned. She ran to her mother like she hadn’t seen her in forever, which was true to her.
Her mother picked her up, but couldn’t force a smile.
The house was dark when they got home after the burial.
Lucy had mud on her shiny little black shoes and splashes up her socks. Her mother would normally have been upset, but her mother had made her stand there under a big umbrella in the rain in the stone garden for thirty minutes before Uncle Joey took her back to the car.
He had told her something she didn’t understand about how he knew she wouldn’t understand for a while what was going on.
Lucy didn’t understand why she had to go straight to bed after her bath. Sure, it was dark, but they didn’t do anything fun all day. She napped in the car. They ate boring sandwiches at Uncle Joey’s house with all those people who came over and said things to her. Uncle Joey didn’t have a puppy either.
She was in bed, waiting for her mother to come in and tell her it was time to play, because that’s what she wanted. But that didn’t happen.
Her mother came in with a cardboard box and set it on the floor. She reached in and pulled out a nearly featureless stuffed doll. It wasn’t well put together, with different colored thread stitching on different limbs, and some in places where the stuffing had breached.
“Honey, Lucy,” her mother said. “When I was your age, my mother made this for me.”
She handed the doll to Lucy.
“I don’t know why I didn’t give it to you sooner.”
Lucy turned it over in her hands and squeezed it’s little ears between her fingers.
“I remember thinking it was magical, that it came to life and danced and played with me. My mother told me it was true. We had such fun. I hope you love it like I did.”
Lucy fell asleep holding the doll.
She didn’t think much of it, certainly not with the same fondness that her mother scarcely remembered, until it put its soft, fingerless hand around her wrist and pushed its head into her arm and also fell asleep.
Lucy’s mother slept in the next morning. Uncle Joey came over and made Lucy breakfast, poorly, and kept her quiet while her mother rested.
He sat in the living room reading the newspaper while Lucy snuck off back to her room.
When her mother stepped in, she was relieved to see Lucy playing quietly. Lucy didn’t notice that her mother looked rather disheveled in her robe or that her raw eyes were highlighted with the drying streaks of tears she’d brushed at moments before pushing on the door.
“Mommy,” Lucy said, as she lifted up the lifeless doll to show it to her. “Maddie says she’s hungry.”
“Okay, dear,” her mother said. “I thought Uncle Joey made you breakfast.”
“He did, but Maddie didn’t have any.”
Her mother was too tired to argue. She always wondered if Lucy would develop an imaginary friend. But something else was actually bothering her.
Lucy dragged the doll into the kitchen and sat it in a seat, much too low to see over the tabletop.
Her mother was in the living room talking to Uncle Joey.
“No, I didn’t tell her. She probably heard it several times yesterday,” he said.
“I don’t know if I can handle her saying mom’s name all day.”
“Tell her the doll already has a name. Make one up.”
Her mother finally came into the kitchen and poured out a bowl of cereal without milk.
“Maddie likes biscuits and gravy,” Lucy said.
“Well tell Maddie we’ll have to get some at the store. We don’t have any here right now.”
“That’s okay,” Lucy said. “She said she prefers them homemade.”
Her mother stared at Lucy playing with the doll. A flood of half-memories came back to her, remembering her own mother being delighted with the stories she made up about the doll — stories of tea parties and baking and adventures in the backyard. Her mother encouraged her imagination. However painful the details Lucy was clearly absorbing from the world around her, maybe she should still encourage it also?
“Lucy…I don’t think I should have given you the doll. It was very special to me when I was a little girl and I thought it might help you, but I don’t think it’s the right time now.”
“What’s not the right time?”
“I think I’ll put it away and we’ll get you something else, a new toy.”
“Grandma is old.”
“Yes, she was. And the doll is delicate. I don’t want it to get hurt.”
“Maddie says she can’t get hurt.”
“Well, Maddie doesn’t understand either.”
Her mother picked up the doll without another word, leading Lucy to scream.
“No! No! No! No!”
The screaming continued until her mother gave her the doll back.
She was still saying “no,” but quieter and holding the doll.
Uncle Joey was standing in the doorway to the kitchen.
“Kate, maybe it’s okay. Just tell her you love her and let it go.”
“I can’t let it go.”
“What you can’t let go, Mommy?” Lucy asked.
“Lucy, honey, your grandmother is gone. She died. I explained that to you already,” her mother came in close and wiped the hair out of her eyes.
Lucy just hugged the doll closer for fear that her mother would try to take Maddie away again.
“Honey, Maddie doesn’t talk.”
“Yes, she does. She says she’s still here. She says you’re never really gone.”
“What do you mean?”
“She says when you make something, when you put yourself into something, there’s a piece of you always, even if people can’t see it. She says it’s true for dolls and for daughters…and granddaughters.”
Her mother just stared with tears welling up again in her eyes.
“She says you forgot the magic, but she can remember it for you.”
Uncle Joey dropped the newspaper to the floor.