I've never written about this before. It's likely I've mentioned my sophomore year of college, emotional trainwreck that it was. I've probably also mentioned the first two months of that school year, see also: interminable insomnia. I may have added that the insomnia only ceased after I went home one weekend in November and cried for a good hour at my mother's kitchen table. Cried so hard you could have gone over the kitchen table in a barrel, or taken a tour around the kitchen table on The Maid of the Mist. I cried over the summer that was in which I played a starring role as The Massochist in a play called "How to Spend Every Day with the Boy Who Broke Your Heart, Who Will Unintentionally Break it Again Every Day You Spend with Him." I cried because my mother never landed the part of the Intercessor, nor the Referee, nor told me to take the night off and leave the playing to my understudy.
After the weekend of the Good Cry, I went back to school. I wrote The Boy a note and told him not to contact me until I was ready to contact him. Shockingly, I stopped missing my 8 AM class after that. I got an "A" in my 8am class.
That Christmas, The Boy and several of our cronies showed up at my doorstep. I was wearing my pajama pants and a vintage sweater from my mother, circa 1968. I could barely speak, I was shaking so hard. A month ago, I had started the healing process. How do you heal when a month later, someone shows up at your doorstep to rip out all of your stitches?
Three nights later, I was still wearing the same pajama pants and sweater. It was 7:30p.m. and my mother informed me that she was going out for coffee. I was lying on the couch, my face, hot with tears, was buried.
"I'll have my cellphone. Just give me a call if you need me and I'll come home."
My mother had never said something like this before. I know that sounds strange, but she is a very pragmatic person. She does not, as do her children, ferret her way through life's decisions by listening to her gut. When we were sick, we had to tell her that we were sick and needed to be taken to the e-care for a strep culture. She would not intuit this otherwise. She would not understand why someone would spend idle hours in her room contemplating "why the world doesn't get me." That was, to my mother, a waste of time since the world was not predisposed to getting anyone.
My mother left for coffee and I experienced racing thoughts, which I believe was the first time I had experienced them. If I kill myself now, I will not have to pick out an outfit for New Year's. If I try to die right now, no one will be able to stop me because the only person home is my brother. My brother will not understand what is happening. My brother will be hurt. I don't want to hurt my baby brother. But I don't want to feel this empty ache all the time. I don't know if this empty ache will ever go away. I will keep seeing him, every holiday. If I kill myself now, he will know it is because of him. And then he will feel punished. And then he will understand the pain that I have felt. If I kill myself now, it will be with the exhaust running and the garage door shut. It will be quick and the least painful way to die....
I called my mother and she came right home and for the first time ever, she knew exactly what was going on and she said she thought I was a little obsessed and maybe I should probably see someone and soon.
I spent New Year's at my father's that year and he accidentally said, "Yeah, Mom said she didn't want your sister to be at home by herself on New Year's." He slipped. He realized it had been me that my mom said should not be left alone. I wasn't supposed to know, but in hearing that, I knew she had given me a great great gift that year. The gift of a mother's intuition.
Sometimes I think that I don't need my mother as much as I do, and then I think about that holiday, about that winter of my unspeakable discontent. And then I think how my mother made it possible for me to be someone's mother this holiday. Which is a gift that I can only hope to regift once upon a holiday in the future.