Tuesday, October 23, 2012


      I was eleven years old. It was Friday, the day before Halloween, and I’d come home from school wearing the store bought Power Rangers costume I'd begged my mom for two weeks prior. She refused to buy it at first, because she took great pride in making our costumes by hand each year. But I was eleven – in sixth grade! I was certain it was going to be my last year dressing up for Halloween, so I didn’t want to be another homemade angel rocking a tinfoil halo and a dress made from an old bed sheet. I wanted the plastic mask and costume all the other kids had. A character costume people could recognize without me having to explain that I was not a fairy, or worse, an insect.
     I got off the school bus wearing the Power Rangers mask pushed on top of my head. (Who knew those made your face sweat so much?) I already had two small rips in the flimsy plastic outfit, and I reeked of vinyl. I hated to admit it, but Mom was right about my crappy costume choice. 
     On my way inside, I glanced at the two suitcases sitting on the porch. In the living room, my mom sat on the couch cradling my three year-old brother, Emile. She was dressed in her church clothes, which was odd considering we never went to church.
       “Mommy’s just going to go away for a little while, baby,” she said as she kissed Emile on his forehead and wiped tears from his cheeks.
       I looked at Dad. He sat hunched over in the old recliner Mom had proudly plucked from someone’s curb on trash day. Dad's elbows rested on his knees and his thumbs propped up his quivering chin so that his hands were positioned as if he was praying. His red-rimmed eyes stared straight ahead at nothing. 
       “Mom, what’s going on?” I dropped my bag of candy on the ground. My stomach filled with a ball of nerves so intense I felt nauseous. “Mom, where are you going?”
       My mother lifted my brother from her lap, handed him to my dad, and came to hug me. “I’m just going to go away for a while, sweetie.” She gave me a quick peck on the cheek and walked toward the door. 
       Emile began to cry harder. “Mama!” He struggled to break free from our dad.
       “Mom, wait! What about trick-or-treating? And our cupcake ghosts?”  I snatched the stupid mask from the top of my head and threw it to the ground. “Mom, I’m sorry about the costume!”
       She went outside, grabbed her suitcases and hurried to our station wagon.
       My heart beat savagely inside my chest. “Dad, why are you just sitting there? Don’t let her go!”
       My dad wiped his eyes and carried my wailing baby brother back to his room. I heard him sit in the creaky rocking chair that had soothed Emile since he was born, and then the rough, loud cough of the station wagon’s engine roaring to life. 
      I ran out the front door. Mom had already started backing down the driveway. Her face was crumpled.
      “Mom!” I ran to the car and smacked at the side with my open hand.
      She refused to look at me, and continued backing out of the driveway.
      “Mom!” I screamed. “Please don’t go! What did I do? Why are you doing this?" I tried my best to keep up with the car. "Are you coming back?”
      I barely heard her repeating, “I love you, baby. Mama loves you,” as she backed out, put the car in Drive and started down the street. 
      I chased her for two blocks with my plastic costume flapping behind me, but she never turned to look at me or even slowed down. “Please, take me with you!” I begged her to stop. I apologized for ever wanting that stupid costume. But still, she never looked back.
      It is fifteen years later, and I have heard from my mother exactly two times since the day she left. I received a birthday card from her two weeks after my fifteenth birthday. All it said was ‘Happy 14th Birthday!’ That was it. Despite the late arrival and the wrong age, I was thrilled. Certainly it meant Mom was coming home. I was fifteen years old, and I’d grown so much, changed so drastically. I was anxious to share my life with her and have her there, finally, to guide me through my teenage angst. Dad was great, and Lord knows he tried – waiting patiently while I tried on my first bras, doing his best to help when I got my period, buying me everything from maxi pads to “Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.” But now, I thought, my mom’s coming home.
      Another four years went by before I heard from her again. That time it was a short hand-written note passed on to me from my Grammy. In the note she asked how I was doing, said she was doing fine, she missed me, she’d try to visit sometime soon. It wasn’t more than a paragraph long. Just enough to rip my heart again.
      I wanted her to be sorry for destroying our family. I wanted her to explain why she left us without warning.
      I also still wanted her to come back.
      My mother’s absence left such a gaping hole in my heart – if it had been filled with anything at all in all those years, it was only with fear of abandonment, a little guilt for her leaving, and always an unwavering, if tiny, bit of hope. Hope that she would someday come back and make things right.
    Tonight I blew out the candles on my twenty-sixth birthday cake without bothering to make the same wish.This year, I decided it is okay to forgive. I've given myself permission to heal. Now I know that I am okay to love my mom. Even if I can only love her from a distance.
~ The End
This is total fiction, loveys. My own mom is super-loving, and never left us even for an afternoon, much less a lifetime. She rocks my face off, for serious.

No comments:

Post a Comment