In the entryway of Target I spotted her. An old...acquaintance, Kathy and I had grown up in the same ward. She was four years older than I, so as Young Women, we'd never really been peers. Yet here we were at the entry of Target with a couple kids each in our carts.
I peered in the baby seat at her newest addition. The baby was tiny. "Oh, Kathy!" I exuded, "A new one."
Kathy nodded with appropriate motherly pride. I asked how old the little girl in the cart was. She was 3. Did Kathy have other kids? Yes. A kindergartner and a baby between the two she had with her who had died.
My heart ached for her. A lot of people would say, I can't imagine. But I have a good imagination. And the thought of losing a little one is horrifying.
At girls camp, I stood in the shower shivering in the mountain cold water. I always sang in the shower and this was no exception. No one was in there, just me and the freezing cold water. After I shut the water off for the final time (mountain cold water requires shutting the water off and regular intervals so you don't go hypothermic.) I pulled my towel off the curtain rod.
Mom would never let us pack good towels to girls camp. We had to pack the worst, threadbare, tiny towels we could find. This one didn't quite reach around me. As I pulled the towel around me, I had a huge slit exposing one thigh and up past my hip. No matter, though, I only had to step out to where my clothes lay on a bench and step back inside the shower curtain. Once modestly sequestered, I could dress.
I stepped out the shower. My clothes were gone, as were my shoes. Everything was missing. I stepped back in the shower, my mind racing. Was it some kind of mistake? Someone accidentally taking my clothes? My bigger problem was how to get back to camp with bare feet and in a towel that barely covered my bottom.
I hadn't gotten very far in my thought process when I heard a voice. I peeped my head out of the shower and was relieved to see a girl from my own camp. Someone I knew. I don't remember how the conversation started, but I do remember begging her to go for help. Please get my sister. She could get me some clothes.
Trickling into the bathroom, faster than made logical sense, the girls from my ward congregated around my shower stall with me in my tiny towel. Suddenly, my clothes had arrived. I was thankful. I didn't even have the presence of mind to be angry.
Only later did I learn that Kathy, my youth leader, had asked Karen, who was the same age as my sister, to steal my clothes. Kathy found me sassy and wanted me punished.
The practical joke she played on me at girls camp is always the first thing I think of when I see Kathy. I earned The Emperor's New Clothes award at the final camp meeting back at home. I laughed till I cried when I got a clear plastic garbage bag as a memento.
Some time later, I ran into Kathy again. I had had a baby since I'd seen her last. I had heard she might have too. "How many kids do you have now?" I asked without thinking. She didn't answer directly, but instead named her kids one by one in birth order, reminding me about the one who died. Mentally, I got lost. Had she had another baby or not? What were the ages of her living children? I had no idea.
I wanted to ask these questions, but they were so obviously insensitive that I couldn't bring myself to do it. She was still aching for the loss of this child (a boy maybe?) and his position in the family. My seemingly innocuous question was almost impossible for her to answer.