She is in a dark room, there is music on the other side of the door, and voices. She is crying and afraid. She doesn’t like being in here in the dark, alone. But no one hears her crying. Then the door opens and a man looks in. She can see the outline of his body in the doorframe. He sees her there and closes the door again.
She is walking home from the movie theater with her little sister. No one came to pick them up. They went back in and watched another movie, but still no one came. So they walked. A police officer stopped them thinking they were truants. They tried to explain that the reason no one was answering was because he had ripped the phone out of the wall, again. The officer didn’t believe them. So they stayed overnight at the police department. They were twelve and eleven years old.
He turned to his dad and said, “Are we going to the liquor store daddy?” He was barely verbal but he already knew the way.
She walked across the cemetery hand and hand with her Irish twin. It wasn’t that far from their house. They could see the Hollyhocks and Poppies as they approached. They knew she would be there waiting. Their parents were already down the hill at the bar. But they could always count on grandma, until the oldest one’s ninth birthday. She promised she wouldn’t go on her birthday. She passed away three days later.
She woke up, disoriented. She looked left then right. She could hear him crying. She had passed out and now it was the next morning. Her infant was sitting a few feet away. In a ditch.
She said she’d be alright. She didn’t want to call a cab and she didn’t want to explain to her husband that she needed a ride because she had had too much again. So she drove. Her three babies in the back seat. She felt uneasy as she drove over the bridge, one of many that crossed the Willamette. One swerve and all would be lost.
She sat in the hallway, peeking out from her bedroom. She knew they were finally home because she could hear the screaming. And then the crash. Glass, everywhere. The police. She could see all of them outside her bedroom window, red and blue flashes lighting up the night.
This is it.
Hear the drums.
See us marching.
We march. The generations ahead of us need not know what we did.
But still we march. In celebration.
Because we did it. We broke the cycle. We healed it.
I am in the kitchen. It is that frantic time of the day when I race the clock to make sure the three of them are ready in time for school. Plastic plates in colorful shades filled with scrambled eggs sit on the kitchen island. I am standing behind one awkwardly trying to maneuver her hair into ponytails. I call to another to look for his coat and shoes.
My husband walks in. He’s dressed and ready for the day.
“I’m off,” he says to us.
“Bye handsome,” I say.
“Bye beautiful,” he says back to me.
My six year old walks toward him as he stands in front of the door in all of her swagger, she looks up at him and says, “Goodbye snuggle bear.”
“I’m your snuggle bear?” he laughs.
“Yes,” she giggles as he swoops her into his arms.
I stand there in the kitchen watching him hold her in his arms, the two of them smiling.
The Sonos is playing a song from my playlist.
“Catch and Release,” it’s called.
“Everybody got their reason
Everybody got their way
We’re just catching and releasing
What builds up throughout the day
It gets into your body
And it flows right through your blood
We can tell each other secrets
And remember how to love”
And I remember…
The three little girls alone all night in the back of a car outside of the bar.
The phone ripped out of the wall, again.
A shattered glass table.
A little boy sitting asking “are we going to the liquor store daddy?”
My three babies, buckled up in the minivan as I drive over the bridge drunk.
Today I am three years sober.
I stand there in the hallway watching this scene feeling like am both a spectator and a participant. Then suddenly I am overwhelmed by the feeling that it isn’t just me watching them, I am sharing this moment with all the mothers. All of the mothers who came before me — Kathy, Marjorie, Ethel, Maud
— and the generations before that.
We did it. We broke it. It is what we were meant to do. It is what we are all meant to do. You are no different.
We remembered how to love. And now, we march together. For ourselves in celebration and for the generations to come.