There’s this word puzzle I work every morning. It has letter tiles like Scrabble but it’s a solitaire version I play by myself. I sip coffee and move letters around for twenty minutes and it calms me as the kids grind into gear and we set about the day. My aunt (the same one who gave me my Old Faithful nightgown), gave me this puzzle when I was pregnant with Elliott, and I have pictures of myself working the puzzle while balancing it on my pregnant belly and then of myself working the puzzle while preemie Elliott slept on my chest, and now my lapdog, Khaleesi, curls in my lap every morning while I play. This word game is probably the most consistent thing I’ve done for myself from the beginning of motherhood. Nerd alert.
A month ago (Two months? Time is meaningless and incalculable right now), I lifted my “If Daryl Dies We Riot” mug and its crossbow handle slipped in my fingers, spilling boiling hot coffee all over me, the table, and my word puzzle game.
I snatched a towel from the kitchen counter and started mopping up the mess. My dad had just refinished the table so I worked quickly to dry everything. I drink my coffee black—black like my soul, my son teases me—so I thought everything would be okay, no sticky sugar, no curdling milk to worry about, and then I saw the letter pieces on my game. Their black ink shriveled away like they were made of disappearing ink. My game, ergo my sanity, was vanishing before my eyes.
A sob bubbled out of me. I choked it back. I was fine. I kept cleaning. I rarely cry.
Another sob fought its way out of my throat, this time louder. Oh damn.
I rarely cry but when I do, it’s like all the tears that have been backbuilding for months erupt out of me. I am Vesuvius, and my home is the lost city of Pompeii. Somebody come dig my family out of the ashes.
I mopped coffee and sobbed and mopped and sobbed. By now I was attracting a crowd. First one, then all, of my family members trickled in, presumably to help, but the image of their mother sobbing and mopping froze them in place.
My oldest stood in front of me gaping silently. I snapped at her to stop staring at me, but honestly, how could she not? I was putting on an epic performance. KEEP READING