The Most Important Meal of the Day

It took my father an hour and ten minutes to travel the 126 miles it takes to get to Radnor train station.  He carried me into the car and took me to Bryn Mawr Hospital.  The doctors kept on saying things like “hypothermic” and “if she had been out there any longer…”.  I had to talk to a social worker who asked if my father had ever harmed me and all I could do was laugh.

After the doctors put seven stitches in my cheek, another twenty-three in my back and nine more on my thighs…they told me everything else was “superficial wounds”.  I think I actually saw the doctor smile when he said, “It looks a lot worse than it is…you’re going to be fine.”

***

My mother is a complicated woman so it’s no surprise that her daughter is also complicated.  I sometimes wonder if maybe I was the first to be complicated and so made her that way.  This is partially because I remember a time when it wasn’t always this way.

My mother used to put me in the stroller and walk me to Roosevelt Field Mall.  She would take me with her in the dressing room and ask me to clap when I thought something looked pretty…I always clapped.  Afterwards she would take me to the food court and we would split a Coke, a pretzel and a hot dog.

My mother was my hero for so long…I remember my elementary school would release all the kids out into the parking lot where our mothers were waiting.  This boy pushed me and pulled his eyes back with his fingers.  His mother picked him up and didn’t say anything.

My mom scooped me up, stormed over to that woman and told her she should apologize to me.
“Oh please,” the mom said, “they’re just kids.”
“Are you a kid?”  my mom asked.
“No.” she scoffed.
“Then don’t make me treat you like one.”

The woman laughed in my mother’s face and as she went to get into her car my mother grabbed her by the hair, slapped her across the face and said, “I’m sorry Lauren…but this woman is also a child and doesn’t know any better.”

I wonder if my mother had been a rebel in her youth.  Because as I began to develop my own ideas and enter the battlefield that is high school, it seemed like she was trying with all her will to suppress me…as though she knew the pain of being different, and didn’t want me to suffer the same fate.

Now, looking back on it, I think my mother was tough on me because she knew the world would be tougher.  She knew the cruelty of life before I did and was trying her best to save me.  But, as you all know, you can’t save someone who won’t save themselves first.

***

She didn’t say much when I came home – only that she and my father had assumed I was never coming back and had moved everything into the attic and were now using my room as a guest/exercise/computer room.

It would be years before I found out about the institutionalization…about how she would lock herself in my old room and call out my name.  How she boxed and packed away every memory of me because she had though I died…how my father found her in a pool of blood with a bottle of empty pills and a picture of us at Disney world…

I walked up the stairs into the attic, fell to the floor and laid there for three months.

I had no idea what to do, not an inkling of what to say and I couldn’t make myself go downstairs.  I couldn’t face them, the mirror…nature.  I couldn’t bear the world.

I was filled with such an emptiness the likes of which I was sure no living person could ever empathize with…and I was determined to let it end my life.

I would urinate in a pot my mother had left upstairs after she cleaned up my first accident and she would bring me breakfast everyday.  Some days it would be oatmeal…other times she made Eggos with cinnamon.  And at the times I did manage to close my eyes and let my mind rest, I’d see myself in that trunk and wake screaming for help.

And whenever I woke, there she was…lying next to me, holding my hand and telling me I was not alone.  She would hold me when I asked her not to, stay when I begged her to leave, and sing when I told her to shut up.

Where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin,” she would coo, holding my hand tight, “Here I am, here I am.”
“Mom stop…” I would sob, “JUST SHUT UP!  SHUT UP!”
How are you today sir, very well I thank you…”
“Mom.  It hurts!” I would cry.
“I know baby, I know.”

She would hold me through the night and be gone in the morning until one day…there was no breakfast.  I waited and waited for what seemed like hours until I noticed a note on the first stair,

Pumpkin Pie, It’s time to get up, come downstairs and have some breakfast.  M<3M.”

And so, after ninety-two days of eating one meal, urinating into a pot and crying myself to sleep on the attic floor…I got up, went downstairs…and got some breakfast.

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