Spending the day without Mom was always a scary experience for me. Things were still happening. I anxiously needed to see her smiling strength. I tried to bring joy into her life to cover up the creepy things that were going on in our household. She did not need to know. She had too much to bear already. Almost every week I would clean and organize the house. I rearranged the furniture in hopes of changing the environment to cover what was happening while she was away. I cleaned, organized, and rearranged the furniture. I rearranged memories and neatly organized them inside of me.

A couch was anger. I moved it several times per week. Both the floors and I were dirty. They were scrubbed – daily. I cleaned often so no one would notice the ugliness in our home. I ended up doing the same thing as a grown woman. It was at one time almost an obsession.

Mom would arrive home completely exhausted. Sometimes she did not notice the changes. By 6:00 P.M. on a summer’s eve, she would have drifted into a heavy sleep. I missed her while she was out at work and did not truly understand how tired she was. Sometimes I lay in bed next to her and cried. She was still “Mommy” to me and this was the easiest way to get close to her, to touch her, and smell her hair. I needed Love.

I shielded my need for love by talking people to death. “Chatterbox,” my grandfather used to call me. Talking was my revenge, my refuge, my body’s way of engaging. My brain was active and full of life. Talking seemed to be something people were not afraid of. Underneath, as a frail, fighting young girl, I believed the world was a battleground between good things and bad things. Goodness struggled with the restlessness of chaos.

My heart ached. Laughter hurt.

An excerpt from Colors of Amber, A Memoir.