Why I write began earlier, just before my seventh birthday when my mom was taken away to the hospital ‘for a rest’ in the hours just before the sun rose.
This was not the first time my mom had ‘gone away.’
The scene that played out that chilly October morning was a repeat of two years earlier. Then, my younger brother and I were packed up immediately after Mom left and taken to live with Dad’s sister. This time was different. I was in school and my oldest brother, then 14, was home convalescing from a broken leg, so we remained home.
As she was hurriedly packing, again forced to leave this second time, Mom told me she wanted me to continue reading the chapter book we’d begun together. It was my first and I was reading aloud to her every night at bedtime. Like Mom, I loved to read and our weekly trips to the library was one of the few times we had alone together.
Devastated by the loss of Mom yet again I didn’t know how long she’d be gone this time and the heavy workload of cooking, cleaning, and laundry split between me my twelve year old brother, overwhelmed me. (At four years old, my younger brother was too young to help and my oldest brother couldn’t walk without crutches.) I grew melancholy. The weekly Sunday evening phone conversations with Mom, that lasted the duration of her one dime for all four of us, were little consolation to my broken heart.
In spite of her own struggles with depression, Mom recognized my withdrawal into sadness. I spoke very little and rarely laughed any more. She urged me to write letters as a way to ‘talk’ to her, and tell her about the book that I was now reading alone. Skeptical at first, each week I struggled to write about the chapter I’d just navigated through on my own. I wasn’t even seven years old and didn’t think I could do any of what she suggested, but she was encouraging.
In her devotion to me and our shared love of books, each week Mom would write back to me. I began reading more so I had more to share and eagerly looked forward to the mail every day, looking for word from Mom. For two months, we ‘talked’ by writing. I was no longer lost.
Writing was, and still, is my connection to someone very special to me.