Sharing Raggedy Ann with My Twin
Her grave was very well kept. I didn't remember it being as freshly trimmed the last time. The gravestone was flush with the ground, flat, small and rectangular. Very plain and unfancy. Mom and Daddy never visited much. Mom cried all of the three times we came, a silent cry with her hand cupped over her mouth to hide the distortion. I even saw Daddy cry once. There was one visit when I was fifteen, I insisted we stop and buy flowers to put on her grave. "Please, Mom," I said, leaning up toward the front seat of the car. "We can find a florist on the way to the cemetery."
"I don't know where a florist is. It's been a long time since your dad and I lived here."
"I know that. But Indianapolis is a big city. Surely we can find one close by."
My dad sat silent and angry in the driver's seat. I was fighting in the back seat not to scream at him for his disassociation. Mom kept looking over at him and I was littler than Daddy, so of course he won. Dana wouldn't have gotten any flowers if there hadn't been that tiny flower shop tucked into the corner of an Amoco gas station on our way.
"Stop! Stop!" I yelled out the window. "Flowers!"
They wouldn't even let me go in. Mom came out of the ragged looking store with a single lavender orchid. It was fake.
Throughout my childhood, I could count on one hand the number of times we went to Indianapolis. The only thing that made it bearable was the fact that she was in another state. Daddy was in the army when Dana and I were born. When Dana died, my parents took me back to St. Louis where Mom's family lived. We have been in there since.
Driving through the cemetery was strange. We all got very quiet. Dana was in Babyland and Daddy had trouble remembering exactly where this section was in the three-acre cemetery. I hated driving around aimlessly searching for her. We should have known exactly where she was. "Why did you bury her here, Mom? Why didn't you take her home?" I asked.
"This is the only place she ever knew. Your dad and I didn't think it was right to take her to a strange place."
"I want to be buried here in Indianapolis too. Right next to her."
"They won't let you do that, dear. She is buried in Babyland. You aren't a baby anymore." Mom said.
"I don't care. I will be buried next to her."
We never stayed long at the cemetery. Daddy stayed long enough for Mom to cry a little and then we left Dana again.
But crying just wasn't enough for me. I needed to stay. I desperately needed to sit down by her and talk and touch her gravestone with the little baby cradle on it and the rattle. I needed to know her. We never stayed long enough for that. We only stayed long enough for me to put a tiny artificial purple orchid in the ground. Then it was time to go. I needed to be with her for hours.
She had a huge oak tree close to her place. It was broad and full. I wondered if maybe she was in that tree watching me. The leaves were constantly shuddering against each other in fluttering waves.
Last summer we came to her again and I begged to be left alone with her this time. "Just for a little while. You guys can go somewhere else for the afternoon." Mom's face got that look. It was the ‘my daughter isn't going to do whatever she wants’ kind of look. She said, "I am not leaving you there all by yourself for an entire afternoon. No."
"Mom, I'm seventeen. She's my sister."
"I don't care. You're not staying there by yourself."
In the end, I convinced them to stay in the car fifty paces away so I could have a little privacy, but they could still look out for my safety. We parked the car in a shady spot under a hickory. All of us got out and walked to her. I carried my bag of treasures and followed my parents to Dana's tree. Mom cleared the grass off of the stone so we could see the entire rectangle. "She never even had a stone for a few months. Daddy and I couldn't afford to buy one. When we finally could, this was it."
The stone was a small rectangle that hugged the ground. It was a grainy blue gray color with an embossed image of a baby rocker and ribboned rattle. Engraved in the stone was Dana Lynn, beloved daughter of John and Dorothy Lenz, March 5, 1975 to March 6, 1975. After a few minutes Mom cried and Daddy hugged her. Then they returned to the car.
For the first time, I was alone with her. That in itself made tears run down my face. I kneeled and sat back on my feet. My fingers felt the grooves in the letters of her name. My hand pressed flat on the stone, absorbing its heat. Then, running my finger the length of the stone, I felt the smooth surface change to the bumpy texture of the baby image. The sun beat hot on my skin and I thought I might melt into the ground. I wanted to.
From my bag, I pulled a tattered Raggedy Ann doll. My parents gave me the Raggedy Ann and Andy doll pair for Christmas when I was five. On their chests were embroidered the words "I love you" inside a red heart. My name was even sewn into each doll. They were my favorite toys. This was easy to see‑‑both of them were truly ragged. Raggedy Ann's face was smudged and misshapen. Her vibrant red yarn hair was unraveling and the white apron had been lost years ago, leaving her blue gingham dress plain. I held her up before me and her red and white striped legs dangled freely. Many a night I had curled up in bed and snuggled Raggedy Ann close to my face. Her musty stuffing odor was strong and I liked it because it was her smell.
Dana had a smell too, but I couldn’t remember it. Couldn’t remember anything about her. My knowing of her was not like a memory. It was just a knowing. We spent all of our before time together and then she was gone. I never once thought it might be hard for Mom and Daddy. I mean, they still had one premature baby to contend with. Maybe it was hard for them and that’s why they hardly visited her.
Mom told me the story of how I was so tiny, my whole body would fit in the palm of Daddy’s hand.
“You looked like a frog!” Daddy said.
I asked, “Did you get to go to Dana’s funeral?” I wanted to know all about it. The colors, the people, the smells, the casket, everything. I wanted to be able to picture it in my head. As it was, I just imagined a dark, musty room with no lights and a single candle burning next to a tiny box. But I couldn’t see inside the box. It was covered up with a hospital blanket.
“No, I didn’t get to go to the funeral. They wouldn’t let me out of the hospital.”
“So you never saw her?”
“The doctors told me you were the one who wasn’t going to survive. So I went to see you. Dana died after only eighteen hours.”
“She was small, too. We had to bury her in a baby doll dress, she was so tiny.”
I wondered what color it was. Mom didn’t know, or wouldn’t say. When I imagine it, it was pink and had pretty white ruffles at the bottom. And Dana had blonde hair like mine. We weren’t identical twins, but I always pretended we were. If she had light hair, that would have made us the only two blondes in the family.
At her grave, the sun washed over me. I closed my eyes and let the waves of bright red and orange swirl in my eyelids. Raggedy Ann was cradled close to my chest. I rocked her, humming Fur Elise. Dana and I were alone together.
A couple of years ago, Mom cleaned out the safe. She came across an envelope of documents from mine and Dana’s birth.
In the envelope were two five by seven postcards from the hospital. Each one held a set of foot and thumb prints. Mine were normal, as if the nurses just let my feet touch the paper in their normal position. Dana’s were backwards. Her left footprint was on the right side and her right print was on the left. They were uneven. Looking at them made me shake a little. Somehow, her backwards, uneven footprints held death in them. I heard myself saying, “If they’d have just done her footprints right, she would still be alive.”
I knew that was absurd.
At her grave, I laid down next to her. The grass pricked my bare arms and cushioned my head. Mom and Daddy made this trip for me. They knew I was lonely and Daddy told me one afternoon, “We’re going to Indianapolis this weekend. Momma and I thought it might help you out.” He smiled his closed mouth, sweet, Daddy smile.
Lying there with my head on the ground, Dana was all mine. Close. Close to her. We were always together. Always touching and yet never quite. I was close to her and was looking up at heaven, bright as pain, through my eyelids. She was in both places. No. She was everywhere. I sat up and looked at the stone. It was glowing in the sun; the surface had a metallic look to it. Then I looked at the car where my parents sat fifty paces away, in the shade. I couldn’t see them because the shadow of a limb made the windshield like a dark wall. But I knew they were there. They were watching me. Dana was with them, too. I wondered if Mom ever held her stomach and felt the memory of the two babies there. She gave life. Daddy gave life. Dana wasn’t just mine.
Suddenly, I was crying. Turning back to the grave, I wished I had a purple orchid to put in the ground. Mom picked out the purple orchid for me the last time. Purple was her favorite color. It was her gift to Dana through me. My tears smeared the back of my hand as I tried to wipe them away. But I was crying harder and harder. I thought I might cry until my insides were completely empty, but instead, when the tears subsided, I was full. My body was solid.
Raggedy Ann lay on the corner of the stone, her feet dangled in the grass and her yarn hair mingled with the green blades. I love you, Dana. I miss you. I touched my hand to the hot stone again. We all miss you.