This year, I really wanted to run away from it all. Just pack up everything and everyone and escape. But, we couldn’t – instead, we stayed close to home, and tried to get through it.

Annie woke up early, on the wrong side of the bed. I didn’t want to get out of bed at all, but that wasn’t an option. I pulled out her purple skirt and while I was digging through her drawers for a matching shirt, she saw last year’s March for Maddie shirt and asked to wear it.

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She ran around in the warm sun, kicking balls, throwing bark, and improving her mood. I watched her from behind my sunglasses. I didn’t want her to see my tears. She’d have asked why I was crying, and I wasn’t up for explaining.

Eventually we left the house. I had to…I couldn’t be home between the hours of 4 and 6:57pm. If I was, I’d just stare at the clock, counting the minutes, the final moments. I had to get out. I changed Annie’s shirt…I didn’t want strangers to ask, “Who is Maddie?” I couldn’t deal with that question on April 7th.

We had to buy a gift for a friend’s birthday, so we went toย the toy store. We selected a gift for the birthday boy and Annie picked out a small bouncy ball for herself. I lingered in the section for four-year-old girls. I wondered what Maddie would have picked out for herself. I eventually grabbed a doll and bought it. It will be donated first thing tomorrow.

After the store, we wandered over to a play area. I normally keep Annie away from those, but she looked so hopeful when she asked, “Annie slide?” that we let her in. She was timid at first, but then an older girl, probably around six or so, joined her at the top of the slide and said, “I’ll go down with you.” She grabbed Annie’s hand and down they went.

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Over and over, this girl helped Annie up the stairs, and then helped her down the slide. Annie gazed at this big sister stand-in adoringly. I sat on a bench and cried.

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We ended the day with Maddie videos. Annie laughed and clapped with glee. At bedtime, we tucked her in and I said, “I love you Annie.” She replied, “I love you too, mama.”

As I walked out the door, I heard her say, “I love Mama, Dada, Rigby, babies, and Maddie.”

I sat on the couch and cried.