How a Family Can Heal

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Every night, my mother transformed. Her alter-ego was no superhero, however. This lady was louder than my mom, a bit slower-moving, and she laughed much more often. She looked the same as my mom, except that her eyes were vacant like one of my dolls. She was clumsy, too, though it didn’t seem to bother her much. I’d run to her side when she tipped off her chair, only to find her giggling in a crumpled heap on the floor. “I’m gonna lay here for a little bit, baby,” she’d assure me as her eyelids fluttered shut. Watching her sleep, I felt deep in my stomach a fear that she wouldn’t wake up, or that if she did she would be stuck as the stupid smiling lady forever. I hated that lady for stealing my mom from me.

When I’d wake up wherever we had ended up the night before, I’d be alone. I’d get up to find my mom, without fail, in the kitchen making breakfast. Leaning over the stove, she sang along to the radio, and she’d hand me a plate of pancakes with purple flowers painted on using food coloring. When she smiled at me the light was back in her eyes. I knew that we would not talk about the bathroom floor, the dinner which had gone unmade, or the fear I’d felt. So I found refuge at school. In class, I felt in charge of not only my...

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