I tried to concentrate on what she was saying, but after the first sentence, I tuned out.
"I need a break so I'm going away…."
The next thing I remember is Mother kissing me on the cheek and breezing out the door, her rose-scented perfume trailing after her. It hung in the air long after she was gone, and I stood breathing it in until the very last trace disappeared.
To me, "break," was a week or so. Like Spring Break from school. But when a week came and went, I told myself Mother must have meant, "break," like Summer Break. Surely she would be home within three months.
Emotionally, I did what I needed to do. It was much easier to hold on to the belief that she was coming back than to face the reality that she had left me for good, so that's what I did. My father must have felt the same because he never said another word about Mother. It was almost like she had never existed at all.
Except for the photograph on my dresser.
I looked at that photograph every morning when I woke up and right before I climbed into bed at night. I would hold her picture next to my face as I looked in the mirror and marvel at how much I looked like her. Same thick, auburn hair, same hazel eyes and small turned up nose. The photo was the only thing I had left to prove she existed. That she wasn't some figment of my imagination.
I made up a fantastic story to tell my friends. "My mother is away taking care of my very sick grandmother, who needs her much more than I do. Isn't that the most selfless thing you ever heard?"
My friends started getting suspicious of my story when, after several years, my grandmother never got better or died.
It was then that I had to face the truth myself.
My main question was, of course, "Why?" What had I done to cause my mother to leave? Had I been such a bad daughter? I started recalling every time I disobeyed. Every temper tantrum. Every "C" I'd received on my report card. Every time I'd disappointed my mother or made her cry. I asked myself again and again: Which one of those things had pushed her away and out the door?
And then I got mad. Mad at my father for letting her leave, mad at the world in general, mad at God. I yelled and screamed into my pillow and up at the ceiling, demanding that God explain why He would take my mother away. If He supposedly loved me, why would he let me hurt so much? I challenged God to answer me audibly. To strike me with lightening. Something to prove He was there and listening.
But his voice never shook my walls and lightening never struck.
And then the evening came when I held Mother's picture up to my face for the last time. I traced her face with my finger, then flung the frame against the mirror with all my might. The mirror cracked in several places, but amazingly stayed in tact on my wall. As I looked at myself through the broken glass, I saw my heart, shattered seven years ago, on the very day Mother left.
Like the mirror, I had stayed in tact too. Although parts of me were cracked and broken, I hadn't shattered completely. But I didn't want to be broken anymore. I wanted to be whole.
I came to the conclusion that God had spoken to me through that broken mirror and had allowed me a glimpse into my heart. I replaced the mirror in my room and with God's help, also began the process of putting myself back together. My mother may have done the breaking but God was doing the fixing.
Now twenty years later, I've learned that the cycle of walking out on her family had begun with my great-grandmother. These days, instead of being angry with Mother, I feel sorry that she wasn't able to experience the true joy that motherhood brings. And when I look at my seven-year old daughter, the same age I was when Mother left, the answer I had begged God for becomes perfectly clear. The reason, "why," was so I could break that cycle and give my own daughter the mother she needs.
And that is the best reason in the world.
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