Since I have become more comfortable telling people about my mom’s illness, I have gotten a lot of questions, mostly about what it was like growing up with a mom who had paranoid schizophrenia. It’s been obvious from some of their questions that they don’t understand. It wasn’t like you could look at my mom and see that there was anything different. Most people who saw her on the street would not notice anything but a quiet, attractive woman, dressed normally, and minding her own business. There were ups and downs in our daily lives. There were periods of time when her symptoms worsened, and periods of relative calmness.
In order to dispel some of the myths about mental illness, I have decided to write a series called “A Day In the Life”. It will be a collection of short stories about daily life in our household.
I would like to start with a lighthearted story about the day my mom announced she was pregnant with my sister.
When I was nine years old, I came home from school to find my mom in an exceptionally cheerful mood. She was wearing a white button-down blouse and a pair of blue jeans and stood at the kitchen sink preparing dinner. She was in one of those moods that opened me up like the springtime buds blossoming outside on this sunny day in April. She listened intently when I told her about my day at school, and didn’t even mind that I ate several handfuls of crackers at the counter before dinner.
After I told my mom about my day, she turned on the radio and proceeded to finish her meal preparation, singing along with the Bobby Gentry song that was playing. When the next song came on, she kicked up her heels and started dancing, leaving black scuff marks on the floor. In our house, leaving black scuff marks on the floor was like committing a mortal sin, and I started wondering what had gotten into her. When my father arrived home, instead of withdrawing from his hug, she threw her arms around his neck.
The TV that sat on the corner table in our dining room was turned off during dinner; the incense that she usually burned was lit, and as we started to dine, she made the big announcement. She was going to have a baby. My brother, Scott, who was a year and a half older than me, looked at me with wide eyes. It was no longer going to be just the two of us. We were getting another sibling. A day ago, we would have never guessed something like this could happen. That day, it felt like our family had won the lottery.
We were the happiest, luckiest family in the neighborhood. I couldn’t wait to tell everyone. I couldn’t wait to tell my teachers at school and share the news with my classmates. I didn’t expect the reaction I got from my best friend, who decided to let me know how babies were made. The horror of that revelation put a damper on my mood, but it was short-lived, as I was already in love with the little baby growing inside my mom.