Through the years, I lost myself in intermittent pieces. Often did not notice them leaving. Small fragments I chose not to miss. Refusing to admit any loss could be important.
I was in the Dollar Store and Connor was melting down. He was screaming and hitting while banging his head on the cart. Someone I knew from High School was there shopping. She was the perfect mom with a perfect child. They ended up in the checkout behind us. She praised her child with a snide laugh vaulted in my direction.
“I am so glad you are not a bad girl. You would never behave like that.”
I paid for the cheap Chinese crap I was buying. I carried Connor to my car and sat there, crying with him accompaning me in a sad duet for thirty minutes, until my eyes cleared enough to see well enough to drive home safely.
Another time, I dropped Connor off at a local playgroup for toddlers. The pediatrician thought socilization would work wonders for his unusual combination of skills and negative behaviors. He simply needed some time with peers. To stop stacking and lining things up, and open up to a world of friendship and common interest. But the teacher told me to not bring him back again. She said I should learn to enforce rules and standards of proper behavior. If I worked diligently enough with my child, he could return on a trial basis in a few months.
I was a bad mother.
Last month, the doorbell rang in the middle of the night. I reluctantly peeled myself from my daughter as we curled under a comforter, deep into our own dreams.
The officer asked if I was the owner of the property on Marble Hill. He said the structure was a total loss. It had become ovrercome with flames too late in the evening to be noticed and saved. Police escorted us through barricades. The flames were fighting a battle with powerful hoses shooting water at the remains of the place that used to be my home.
The space on Earth that used to be my bedroom was open to moonlight and missing both floor and walls. Smoke enveloped in water droplets choked my lungs. I coughed but still did not cry.
I drew crude sketches of where rooms had once existed. A kitchen where my favorite food had been once prepared by loving hands. The living room where I had watched Monster Movie Matinee, trying to be brave while peeking around my mother’s bookshelves at the television. I remembered helping Mom wrap Christmas gifts at the dining room table, carefully choosing bows and tags that the recipient would appreciate. Trying to make every gift look perfect as Christmas Carols played from the record player.
The sunlight overcame the darkness and I stood at the roadside watching the remains of my past burn to ash.
I am not the girl who once lived in the structure. I am not the uncertain young mother lacking confidence and strength. I am no longer the inadequate wife.
I am Diane. Each night I go to bed regretting the day’s mistakes. I wake trying again to make my loves feel happy and cared for. I keep changing. I make new mistakes.
But I refuse to give up. What burns to ash rises once again like a Phoenix. Hearts can be broken, yet never lose strength. I am loved immensely. I have no other choice.