I thought I would make it through April unscathed.
March, with spring break and family birthdays, came off swimmingly – and I entered April giddy about stepping into the spotlight for my five minutes of Listen to Your Mother fame on May 5th. My stepdaughter decided to come home for the show. She’s never seen me on stage. My mother had airline reservations for the first time in seven years, right on the heels of her quick jaunt to Vegas and her selling of my childhood home. And the sunflowers we planted from seed were beginning to poke out of their little environmentally friendly pot in our sunny back office.
Then, during a long weekend away, the sunflowers wilted and cracked on our windowsill.
And on the afternoon of the second-to-last day of April, the birds chirped while my youngest handled her homework outdoors — lighthearted, focused, remembering 7-times-6 without pause.
And ten minutes later, I, without warning, flew out of my house in a sudden temper with the dog on a makeshift leash, abandoning the half-done school project after my daughter ripped her paper to shreds and poked her palm with a pencil.
How quickly things turn on their head.
But I’ve handled that before. That temper. Her temper. Mine. She didn’t break the skin. I’ve responded calmly before. I’ve banned her to her room. I’ve taken sharp objects out of her reach. Yet, not this time. This time, I fled. (Yes, my partner was home when I made my escape.) Yelling my way out the door.
Why did I leave this time?
For twenty-eight years, without fail, I have lost my mind during the month of April. It is not rational, but it is predictable. And yet each April, I have fresh hope. So MUCH hope that I didn’t even warn anybody this year.
And I nearly made it. Really. I nearly did.
Then came April 29th, the day we all ate dinner on our Midwestern patios and posted pictures of our feasts on Facebook, neglected jackets, and smiled simply to be in the sun. I had one day left of this crazy month. I could feel it! I was high-fiving myself in the mirror – elated, you might even say.
Never mind that our basement flooded and all our downstairs belongings – including every single item of adult clothing and 95% of my daughter’s diversions and toys – were under dusty plastic tarps to protect them from the fix-it work underway.
Never mind that my mom, who hasn’t visited in seven years and might not come again for another seven, would miss the beauty of our basement guest space.
Never mind the health scare of a family member whose call caused my heart to skip a beat. Maybe two beats. Although said-family-member will really, truly be okay.
I was on the verge of exiting April without damaging anything but a tiny trio of sunflowers and for that, I was truly, deeply, wonderfully proud.
It would have been the first April since my mom’s attempts on her own life nearly three decades ago that I had not lost my mind. Crazy-me used to stay two or three weeks. This year, she hung out for twelve hours. Maybe fifteen. Twenty at the most. Progress. Right?
Here’s the thing: My mom’s good. She’s fine. She’s delightful. She went to VEGAS, for heaven’s sake. She’s selling a gorgeous house in Silicon Valley so she can move in with her partner. They dote on our kids, adore our family, and they’re coming to see us – in fact, they’re here right now.
It’s just that the aftershocks simply.won’t.go.away. No matter how hard I push back. No matter how many times I lock the door.
After twenty-eight years, therapy, writing, and professional success, after climbing back into the spotlight and managing homework and projects and behaviors and moods – so many moods – in my home for so long – I still snap. Over nothing!
When I came home, my little girl, who is really my heart walking around outside my body (I heard this somewhere and can’t get it out of my head) approached me warily and said to me right away, “You were gone a long time.”
“I was, Honey,” I replied. “I was gone a long time.” She read me the paragraph she’d been working on, and gave me a big long hug. “I didn’t know how to handle myself,” I admitted quietly. She nodded, but she was concerned.
I was back, but still shaky.
Next year, I may want to light a candle. Or release butterflies. Or something. To mark spring – to mark the month of April – to invite Crazy-me in, where I can dance with her and make her tea instead of pushing her out into the cold, giving her blisters, making her sad. If she’s coming anyway, I might as well make her feel at home. Don’t you think?
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Dedicated to those who mark an anniversary which is not cause for celebration.
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