Mental Health Memories from Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day was always a time when I wished mom was dead.

One year, Dad and I drove home from brunch, and we passed a flower shop on the side of the road. I looked out the window and saw a nice flower bouquet that said, “Mom” in large letters. It had poles sticking into the ground.

A great mother’s day gift?

“We should get that for mom,” I said.

Dad guffawed. “Honey, those are the kind of flowers you put on someone’s grave to remember them,” he informed me.

An awkward silence ensued as we both considered the implications. The what-ifs. If only she were nothing but a memory and a plot of stone in a burial ground…

My classmates didn’t understand my angst. Every child hates their mother at some point, so it’s hard to take seriously. When mother’s day rolled around, our school would inevitably make us work on some terrible art project. One year, we made hyacinths out of tissue paper and toilet paper rolls.

“I loathe my mother,” I told my classmates. Why would I want to spend any amount of time on handicrafts designed especially for her? If anything, I would want to put my hands around her neck.

My classmates laughed at me. “How can you loathe your mother? Everyone has a great mom,” said the girl who sat in front of me in woodworking class. She looked like a young version of Lindsay Lohan, with short reddish-brown hair. Her eyes shined and her teeth were perfect. I envied her and tried to laugh back, hiding my rage and stuffing my vulnerability back under my chair.

Dad and I planned times to sneak into the closet together. Our family room closet was filled with board games and children’s toys. As a pre-teen, I never understood why I couldn’t access my own belongings. No matter what boundaries we set, mom would fill the front of the closet neck-high with her stuff. She had bags filled with papers and trash. None of it could leave the house. It could be important, she insisted.

So when she went to the grocery store or across the bridge on a cigarette run, we would make our move. We crept into the closet, pulling out bag after bag. We built a tiny mountain in the family room. None of mom’s stuff could leave the house, but we could at least get it out of the way long enough to clear space. I was a child who was determined to get to my games, and I brought dad on the mission with me.

Every time, it seemed, mom would come home early. Or, we would start to tire after more than five hours of moving bags aside. And then, the inevitable shouting started. My mother’s rage ripped into the air and pinned us inside the closet. We were trapped. Pinned in that tiny room as effectively as antlers glued over a fireplace.

“What are you doing touching my stuff,” she would scream. On and on for at least the next three hours.

“Go,” Dad would whisper. I would sneak a few games and toys under my sweatshirt, rush out of the closet and thunder up the stairs towards my room. Dad stayed for the onset. He would emerge bruised and battle-weary from the endless litany of mom’s grievances. For hours, she raged until she could scream and suffer over her belongings no more.

Defeated, she slinked away into a pile of bags, tucked away in a room only she knew existed. We wouldn’t see her for days. She knew that we wouldn’t dare to move her stuff again in those next three days. No human could deal with such agonizing, blind anger directed their way twice in a week.

Dad and I were driving home, and the phone rang. “Hello,” he murmured tiredly into the mouthpiece.

“Can you bring home pizza?”

The command cut through the air, hidden behind her sickeningly sweet tone. If you didn’t know her, you would think that she was making a simple request. The frequency gave her away. If Dad didn’t follow her marching orders, she would explode.

“What about something else,” he groaned. “We had pizza two nights ago.”

He already knew the answer.

By now, her voice had the aggressive edge of a starving animal.

“I’ve been thinking about a pepperoni pizza all day,” she barked. “Don’t you think it would be nice?”

Staying at home and not working meant that she didn’t eat all day, either. This would be her first meal of the day, and Dad knew it.

“Fine,” he said. “We’ll pick it up on our way home.”

Another evening of my childhood slipped away. Dad and I became the joint caregivers of the household, supporting her life through grease and cheese.