Will it be a good day or a bad day?
Trudging through the snow on our way home from school, that’s the question Liza and I ask ourselves. With mom, you just never know.
As soon as we open the door, the scent of newly baked chocolate chip cookies tickle our noses and the sound of Mom’s singing rings in our ears. Liza and I look at each other and grin.
Today is a good day.
Mom scoops us into her arms. “Welcome home, my darlings! Who wants a chocolate chip cookie?”
The three of us stand around the counter, pigging out on cookies and drinking large glasses of milk. While we lick the chocolate off our fingers, mom claps her hands. “Let’s go to the beach!”
“The beach? But it’s winter.”
“So what? The snow is absolutely gorgeous. Something is telling me that we just have to go! Are my girls up for it?”
“What about our homework?” Liza asks. At ten, she is two years older than me. On good days, Mom always says Liza takes things much too seriously.
“Homework? Who needs homework? The beach is much more important than homework!”
Liza and I squeal in delight. The beach in the winter? Of course we’re up for it!
We build snowmen and have a snowball fight and dig through the snow until we reach the sand. When we leave, Mom stops at a coffee shop and buys us hot chocolate with marshmallows. Today has been the best day ever. Even better than other good days.
Dad isn’t too happy when we get home. I hear him saying he was worried sick. That he’s been trying to reach us for hours. Mom laughs and says she forgot to charge her cell phone. She goes on to tell him what a wonderful time we had and that next time, he should come, too.
Mom tucks us into bed. She tickles us for a long time and then tells us three stories. We laugh when she does her funny character voices. She always changes the stories and makes up extra parts. She says life is always better with some variety in it. That same is boring. Different and new is fun. She always says that on good days.
Liza and I both go to sleep smiling.
We love good days.
When Liza and I get home from school, the house is quiet and dark. Today, there are no cookies baking in the oven.
Right away, we know where Mom is. She is in her room, tucked into bed, curled up in a ball.
Today is a bad day.
We walk slowly up to her room. The blinds are all closed and the room is completely dark. Squinting into the darkness, we can barely make out her form on the bed. We tip-toe across the floor and stare down at her.
“Hi Mom,” Liza whispers.
Mom isn’t sleeping. But she stares off into space like she doesn’t even know we’re there. Liza reaches down and smoothes Mom’s hair. I kiss her on the cheek. Then we walk back to the hallway and quietly shut the door.
On bad days, Liza and I make dinner for Dad and the three of us eat together in silence. There’s nothing to talk about anyway.
We do our homework while Dad reads the paper. There are no bedtime stories. By the time we fall asleep, our cheeks are wet with tears.
Liza and I hate bad days.
Mom isn’t here when we get home from school today. But Dad is. He says he didn’t go to work but instead brought Mom to a hospital. Liza and I ask what’s wrong with her and Dad says something about Mom having Bipolar disorder. The word makes me think of polar bears, which reminds me of that day on the beach. We had so much fun.
Dad says the doctors and nurses will help Mom. He also says that Mom will have to take medicine for the rest of her life. Yuck, I hate medicine. I can’t imagine having to take it every day. But Dad says the medicine will help Mom get better.
It will be hard without Mom. For a while, there will be no bad days or good days, there will only be days.
But Dad promises that when Mom comes home, there won’t be any more ups and downs. There will only be normal days.
And that sounds pretty good to us.
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