Today I will be continuing my “A Day In the Life” Series, about growing up with a mom who had schizophrenia. In case you missed it, my previous post can be found here.
The joy we all felt about my mom’s pregnancy lasted that entire summer and into the fall. In fact, although I didn’t know it at the time, that summer was to be our best summer ever. Like the warm, dry air that settles down to the earth before a storm, there was a quiet, calmness in our home that we hadn’t experienced in a long time.
Throughout the long hot days, my mom spent hours outside gardening, and bright-colored flowers miraculously started sprouting up in every corner of our yard. I remember sitting on the wooden swing in our secluded back yard, my feet dangling down, watching my mom with admiration, as she strolled across the yard with her bandana and garden gloves, methodically plucking the weeds out of her perfectly arranged flower beds. In my eyes she was a rose amongst the flowers.
Despite her growing belly, my mom still loved being outdoors, so on a couple of occasions that summer we headed off to the local state park 45 minutes away for some weekend camping trips. My favorite trip was the one in which we stayed in the lodge. My dad taught me how to do a back flip off the diving board at the pool, and I was excited to wear the two-piece suit my mom had hand-picked for me. My mom would sit by the poolside, a book resting on the small bump on her belly, occasionally looking up with amusement at our antics.
On one trip mom had a craving for peach ice cream, so we stopped at the local ice cream shop and picked up a gallon. We went to a shaded picnic area, spread out a blanket on the soft pine needles, and polished off the entire gallon. I thought my mom was the coolest person on earth. I’d never heard of anyone allowing their children to do such a thing.
That fall, one day after my 10th birthday, mom stayed up chain-smoking and finishing off the last of my birthday cake. She had somehow left the sugar out of the cake mix, so none of us would eat it. After polishing off the cake, she went to bed only to be awakened an hour later with labor pains. I had trouble sitting still that day in school, anticipating the news about my new sibling. Finally towards the end of the day I was called to the office, where my dad was waiting with a smile on his face. “It’s a girl”.
Oh how we all loved that bald-headed, 5 lb. little baby girl. My brother and I fought to take turns holding and feeding her. We would sit on the floor next to her pumpkin seat making faces and cooing at her to try to get a smile out of her. I thought about her even when I was in school, turning every writing assignment into an essay about my baby sister, with illustrations and in-depth descriptions.My mom still seemed different from her pre-pregnancy self. She smiled more and the worry lines in her forehead had softened. I found myself following her around, watching her with awe as she lovingly cared for my sister. I found myself basking in her happiness.I wish I could say that all of this bliss lasted, but in the following year an event would happen that would cast a shadow on her next pregnancy, and send her into the downward spiral that led to an exacerbation of the illness that had started shortly after she was married.