While National Mental Health Awareness Month (May) is still weeks away, the COVID-19 pandemic has called greater attention to the need for support. Youth.gov explains the purpose of the national focus: “Mental Health Month raises awareness of trauma and the impact it can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children, families, and communities.”
I note that children are mentioned first. They are at the mercy of the grown-ups, and when the grown-ups in their lives are suffering, children suffer. They often don’t understand or have a framework for understanding, not for years to come, or maybe ever. To a child, your norm is your norm. You have little to no power of your own. Think of how long the Turpin children suffered, before one managed to escape and get help.
Last month, in the neighborhood of the school where I work, a little girl was found dead with her mother in an apparent murder-suicide. I didn’t know this child; she wasn’t one of our students. But I have mourned her, mourned for whatever she suffered in her short life, mourned that a mother, unable to cope with whatever lies in her untold story, would resort to taking the life of an estranged partner and then her child.
People speak of unbreakable bonds, of the ties that bind. Sometimes those threads are very, very fragile.
Some of the threads running through the background are beautiful and bright, even as the family portrait bleeds away from the canvas.
Sometimes destruction doesn’t come all at once, but by a long, slow unraveling.
This morning I trimmed the threads off of my patchwork writing journal.
As I balled them up to throw them away
I realized the tangle of color in my hand.
They spoke to me: Remember?
Oh yes, I used to see you all over the floor when I was a child.
Rolling lazily across the hardwoods when we walked by
or nestled in the frayed carpet of the living room.
Fragments of my mother’s handiwork
vestiges of the artist she was
crafter of clothes we wore
tailor for many more.
Who’d have believed that such a creator
could destroy so completely?
A family of threads, each one its own vibrant color
in seams ripped apart
scattered far and wide
The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 20, I am writing around a word beginning with letter t.
The poem has been sitting as a draft for exactly two years today while I pondered publishing. I wrote the original draft as a participant in professional development for literacy coaches, of all things. I can’t remember the prompt now, only that we were to share our poems with a colleague.
My colleague wept.
I share it for the children.