24. Sometimes small things set me off.

Sweater There’s this little sweater — a Western sweater, the color of oatmeal, with a brown horse stitched into it and a bright red yoke and cuffs. It has fringe in the same bright red yarn across the chest and back, and down the sleeves. The fringe is matted, slightly felted, because the sweater is 35 years old. I wore it when I was two years old. My mother kept it, and then gave it to me as a baby shower gift when I was eight months pregnant with August.

August died, of course, so he never wore the sweater. Now my daughter Pearl wears it. But only sometimes. Most of the time, it lies folded in her armoire or her closet — wherever I happen to place it. Every time I see it, it pulls at me. I think it is the cutest, sweetest little sweater. I so looked forward to seeing my own child wearing it. But I can only bring myself to dress Pearl in it sometimes, because it makes me feel bad.

As soon as I look at it, I get a knot in my chest, and I start thinking again about The Badness. The thing that will never go away: The loss and absence of baby August.

That’s been happening a lot lately. Yesterday was cold, so I dressed Pearl in the little Western sweater. There was a lump in my throat, my chest, my heart, all day. Finally, in the afternoon, she asked to take it off. I pulled her onto my lap and undid the buttons for her, working in a hug at the same time. I told her how much I love her, and thought about how I think I love my two living children extra because of the one who isn’t here.