Mother Terrors


The screams jolt through me, pushing me upwards in a panic.  I race towards her room and stumble at the doorway.

It’s quiet.

She is still on her bed, breathing evenly in a deep, dark sleep.

I sit down heavily at the table.  My arms support my head while my heart returns to my chest.

It’s been going on for months, this tormented sleep.

There is nothing to be done.

Sleep terrors are not nightmares.  They don’t come from thoughts throughout the day or fears hidden just under the surface.

No one really knows where they come from.

I can’t wake her during an episode.

I can’t touch her, stroke her hair, or call her name.

She doesn’t remember any of it in the mornings.

She seems well-rested, and is happy and playful all day.

It isn’t infringing on her life.

I am exhausted.

I am scared stiff.

What is terrorizing my little girl?

How can I make it stop?

I want to be there, inside her head, inside her dreams, and kill whatever freakish thing is lurking there.

I can only watch as she battles this alone.

My limitations are glaringly obvious.

I should be her protector, her savior and her strength.

But, as she thrashes around and screams terrifying chills up my spine, I can only be a mother who must sit back and wait it out.

Oh how I suffer for thee, my child, for thee…



We sit beside our friends of grief

And know not where they came

What was once clear and understood

Now hides behind this game

Of fear, distrust, clouded minds

And words that can’t be said

As we race around the things we know

Are locked inside our heads

We struggle to release the sounds

Binding our love

To turn this train around again

And, united, rise above

Embrace me now and feel the beat

Of yearning and of need

For I am nothing without your heart

That’s why I make you bleed.


Can You Hear Me?

Can you hear me?

I search your face, looking for a hint of understanding.

There is no sympathy for me.  Hurt clouds your vision, blocking your mind from mine, and you can’t hear me.

I bow my head.  The silence grows.  It is creeping under my skin, eating at my flesh from the inside.

I square my shoulders and look past you.  I cannot bear to be here, in this room, choking on the stifling silence slowly filling my throat.

My throat constricts and forces out the sound cowards are made of.

“Get out.”

I stare at you defiantly, willing you to see past the cruelty I know you’ll find in my eyes.

I wonder if you can.

I spent years building that special wall you’ll find in the windows to my soul.

The wall gave me the power to beat my oppressors.  It shot down threats and kept me safe.

And then you came along.  You, with your own walls of steel, were not intimidated by my menacing looks and brazen comments.  You saw past that, into my soul where my sweet self lies hidden under layer upon layer of itchy blankets of shame.

You gave me your hand and told me we’d be in this together.

I peeled off so much for you.  I stood bare before you, showing you everything.

And then, he was taken from me.  I turned to you for help.  I couldn’t speak, my voice was stilled, but I looked at you and trusted that you would see what was in my eyes.

But you didn’t hear my silent prayer.

And now, here we are, in this cold, cruel place, and I am so afraid that you can’t hear me anymore.


Mother of Two

Describe yourself, they say.

Make them understand who you are.  Use words that paint a picture.  Dig deep inside and express your qualities with letters and spaces.  Get them to understand you.

So, I try.  I close my eyes and I dig and dig and dig.

In the process, I throw aside the obvious and the mundane.

My age, that’s a given.  No one can gather anything from that.

My looks are ever changing.  There is no defining feature that will tell you who I am besides my eyes, and they are hidden behind unremarkable frames.

My character leaves much to be desired.  I do not want to place myself in the box it builds around me.

My talents are gifts I do not use for the right reasons.

I keep digging.

My hands get dirty as the shovel of my mind tosses words, piling them up around me.

Suddenly, I hit something hard.

The words come crashing through in an avalanche of emotions that hit me, leaving me breathlessly stunned.

Mother of two.

The box is opened and the descriptive words begin to flow, picking up speed with every letter.

My daughter is a gorgeous, vivacious three-year old with an active imagination.  She loves to dance, is extremely musical and her little feet are constantly tapping out a beat.  She hums while she eats, bathes and sits on the toilet.  When she colors, she slants her head in the opposite direction of the paper.  She bites her lip when she’s concentrating.  She stands up and shouts a sincere thank you to Hashem when she prepares to eat.  She adores pretty things and always picks flowers for the people she loves.  She tells me when she’s happy or sad and is quick to warn others of what is dangerous, as well as reassure me when she’s safe.  She has beautiful, long lashes framing big eyes that never seem to close, even while she’s asleep.  She talks in her sleep in two languages and says the most intuitive things when awake.  She is a sought after friend and tends to play the caregiver in her relationships.  She is a superb actor, fiercely independent and a staunch advocate for the less fortunate.  She loves animals, is an avid bug-watcher and has an affinity for rhinoceroses.  She skips when she walks to the park and trudges home despondently when playtime is over.  She shuts down when faced with a harsh tone and thrives on anything gentle; gentle touch, gentle sound and gentle people.  Her disposition is like her name, strong and fierce mixed with soft and pure.  She processes information quickly and thirsts for knowledge.  She is a marvelous being who provides me with endless amounts of joy and gratitude.

My son is but a babe.  He is soft, sweet and wondrous.  In the two months since his birth he has transformed an entire family unit.  He constantly kicks his legs and throws his arms about, itching to run.  He does not complain and is inherently patient.  He makes sweet noises while he eats.  He smiles wide and laughs silently at the angels dancing over my shoulders.  His eyes are big, round and hungry as he takes in the world around him.  He is quickly distracted and notices everything.  Music sooths him and he is easily appeased.  He is both simply unassuming and intrinsically complex.  He is adoring and wants nothing more than to feel the love he evokes in me wrap around him in a cocoon of warmth and security.

And I, I am their mother.

The Losing Game

Love is not a game for losers…losers make hearts bleed and blister…losers never get it right…

Hearts can get broken… they can shatter… wilt…they can cease to beat…

 Dying cries of murdered love…whispered accusations…wordless shame…

Nothing can bring back the sparks that set the fire ablaze…nothing can extinguish the rage…nothing can make this cold fire warm again…

Red-eyed woman…curled on the floor…her heart ripped open…leaking hopes and dreams…soaking her…draining her…sucking the life out of her…

Devil’s laughter rings loud and strong…mocking…mimicking her acts of love…knowing her to be nothing more…than an actor giving up on the lead role…an understudy…

She can’t go on…she can’t move…she must give in…to the overwhelming sadness…of the realization that she does not know who this woman is…or what she wants…

He cannot be the man of her dreams…never sweep her off her feet…he will never hear her heart beat full…of love…of life…

His mind stumbles over what is true…and what is perceived…by her…by him…by others…

He wants to understand…he cannot…he will not…

Love is not a game for losers…losers make hearts bleed and blister…losers never get it right…

Dear Son,

As I look at you, so beautiful, so new, I am struck by a thousand thoughts colliding together in my heart and mind creating a symphony of love, an orcheshtra full of life, laughter and an overwhelmingly strong urge to give.

I am so blessed to have carried you, birthed you, brought you home, be able to provide for you, be able to love you and to be able to share you with our family.

And you…you are so blessed to be brought into this world surrounded by people who love you and are committed to taking care of you.

 We’re going to have a good life together, you and I.  We’re going to help each other grow.  We’re going to change the world, I know.  Because you make me the best mother in the world.  And with you, I can do anything.

Thank you, my son.  Thank you for making me your mom.

I love you.

Remember Me

We have spent the past nine months together, every day, every hour, every second, intertwined.

You heard me laugh, you heard me cry, you heard me sing, you heard me yell.

You took my blood, you took my food, you took my air.

You felt my joy, you felt my fright.

You knew me inside out and I knew you.

We did not keep anything from each other, as we were one.

Things are about to change.

You are about to break free.

I will no longer know you this way.

We will have to learn to understand each other.

It will be difficult.

At times there will be misunderstandings.

At times there will be needs not met.

At times there will be pain inflicted on each other.

At times we will get frustrated.

At times we will feel distanced.

So my dear, I promise you one thing.

I will always remember me, no matter what happens, as I am today.

I will remember the woman I am, as I sit here thinking of you, overwhelmed with the love that fills my heart for you.

I will remember the woman who cried tears of joy at the fluttering feeling of you move.

I will remember how I grit my teeth and took the pain, because it was for you.

I will remember feeling that you are an extension of myself, and that you make me a better person.

I will remember that I vowed never to forget.

And one day, I hope you will read this, and you, too, will remember me.

Falling in Love

I remember the first time I thought of him as more than a friend.

It was my one year anniversary of sobriety. It was an open meeting, and I was supposed to share my experience, strength and hope, whatever the hell that means. I was scared. I had never told the truth before. I had never told so many strangers who I really was. Supported by two wonderful women, I made my way towards the entrance of the building.

And there he stood.

It was a Thursday night. I knew he would never miss his martial arts class. I also knew how much he despised Narcotics Anonymous. He had gotten out of rehab the summer before, and he didn’t believe in most of the crap they tried to shove down his throat. I didn’t even remember telling him about the meeting.

My escorts went inside. I stood there opposite him, not knowing what to say. He shrugged and said something about just wanting to wish me a congratulations and that he would see me later. It was right outside a meeting place, so, in the meeting mode, I threw my arms around him and gave him a hug.

It was awkward. I hugged people every night, some who I had only just met. I saw people in the street and gave them the ‘quick hug, hello how are you’ thing. It never bothered me.

Hugging him felt like hugging the only other two people in my life I never hugged, my father and my brother.

That’s when I knew things would never be the same.

That year was filled with random conversations. Usually, we just sat next to each other on a little step in town, chain-smoking. He would be listening to his music and I would be people watching. On the rare occasions when we were on the same planet, we would talk.

We spoke about our parents and our family dynamics. We spoke about how our future Shabbos tables would look. We spoke about how to raise children. We spoke about connecting to Judaism.

Once, we spoke about how girls like me never get to come back because boys like him tend to want to marry perfect little virgins. He proved the point by going around his school asking the guys if they would ever marry the girls they were hanging out with in the streets. I felt like I had an ally in my quest to change the world.

One night, I met him on the corner, standing with his hands behind his back. He looked guilty. He gently broke the news that he had started drinking again. I didn’t really understand why he cared what I thought of that. I said ok and told him he didn’t have to hide three beers behind his back because I happened to be sober. He looked relieved.

He went on a crazy drinking binge that summer, while I struggled with being homeless and broke. We saw each other every night.

One day, I went with a friend to work out some kinks in his ticket.  He was leaving the next day.  On a whim, I asked the agent if there were any seats left on the plane.  There were, and I had an open ticket.  I was in Tel Aviv that night, and flew out the next morning.

I came back months later, a different person.

My first night back in town, I saw him. We exchanged pleasantries and then he told me he was leaving. My heart stopped. I panicked. I felt something I had never felt before. I asked him how he could do that to me, just leave me like that. He looked at me with an expression I had never see him wear and asked, “what about me?”

I knew then that we had never had a chance to fall in love.

We were already in love.

We had grown into it.

How I Met My Mother

I was fifteen years old when I realized how much she loved me.

I was going through a tough time.  I lived far from home and was trapped in an abusive situation. I hadn’t spoken to a responsible adult in over a year.  Things weren’t looking good.

And then I received a fax.

It was an old fax machine with waxy paper, barely legible text, and pink lines streaked down the sides.  The cover page contained a few hastily scribbled lines in her distinctive loopy cursive.

“Went through this song in music class today – couldn’t stop thinking of you – love, Mommy.”

The song was one I knew, an old one of my mother’s, simple and yet to the point.  It spoke of darkness leading the way to light, of hope following despair and of better days to come.

I broke down and cried for the first time in years.

I always thought my mother was a paradox.  She couldn’t seem to say anything emotional, yet would produce masterfully written songs expressing a range of emotions most people are not in tune with.  She would sit at the piano and compose something stirring and roll her eyes when she noticed the tears her music brought to others.  Her written word was strong, meaningful, and expressive.  When she spoke to me, she was distant.  There seemed to be a split between my mother on paper and my mother in the flesh.  I hated her for lying to the world, claiming to care, when she seemed to be nothing of the sort to those who knew her best.

It took me years of therapy to understand how she could exist as one within herself, not by looking at her actions, but by digging deep into myself.

I, too, can be a paradox.  I had to learn how to express basic emotions verbally, even as I entered page after page of soul-stirring words in my diary.  I can write loving notes to my husband, expressing my remorse for yet another stupid reaction of mine, although I can’t seem to look him in the eye when I tell him I’m sorry.  I clam up in a confrontation, writing my feelings down in detail, later on.  I am my mother.

Now I understand what it’s like to have the words there, with no way to get them out until a pen and paper surface.  Now I know what it’s like to love so profoundly that nothing that can be said could convey those feelings.  Now I know what it’s like to feel trapped in a world where verbalization is not enough, so there’s no use in trying.

My daughter is almost three.  I will not wait until she is fifteen to let her know I love her.  I will say those simple words every day until she can read.  I will continue saying them as I write little notes of endearment on scraps of paper hidden in her lunch.  I will keep saying them as I fill in birthday cards with my own distinctive cursive.  I will say them as I share these writings with her.  I will say them when she doesn’t say them in return, and I will know that somewhere, she is writing it down in words bigger than mine.  I will continue saying them, knowing that no matter how much more expressive she thinks she is, nothing is more significant than a mother saying, “I love you.”  I will continue saying them because, one day, she will look back and say she always knew.

It’s been a decade since I got that fax.  I speak to my mother every day now,  and she always says I love you.  We worked hard, my mother and I, to have the relationship we have today, but that fading piece of paper will always remind me of how I met my mother.

To My Beloved

How do you put the music of the soul on mere paper?

How do you paint the notes of the song of two hearts,

Beating together in symphonic harmony?

What are the words to describe the jolt of joy,

Racing through my veins when he closes the door,

With a sound that says, “Sweetie, I’m home”?

No human speech can display the picture of him,

Sitting back with a smile of pure, simple contentment,

Watching our child play, at the end of the day.

How can I tell him what he means to me?

My mind seems to be empty,

Yet my heart overflows with wordless rivers of love.

He guides me to a place where the world expands.

He shows me I can be anything I want to be.

He lifts me up, and I can fly,

Though I turn to him, and hold on tight,

For nothing in this world is as sweet,

As belonging to him.