by Jennifer Dryden © 2012
The first heartbreak someone feels is the separation from their mother. As I sit in a three-year-old classroom, Katherine is weeping on her cot in the middle of naptime. She hasn’t felt real heartbreak yet; she’s still a toddler, really. She’s crying like I cried when you left.
I remember trying to cover my sobs with my pillow and when that didn’t work I tried my blankets, and then finally, they rang out loud. The tears smudged my face in all sorts of distortion as my heart simultaneously distorted my insides into knots. My arms and shirtsleeves had residue all over them and if I had enough energy to get a tissue I would have a pile next to me. But just like Katherine, there are no tissues within an arm’s reach. Things become too much if I move and when someone comes over to try and calm Katherine, she rolls over.
She cannot bare the pain in her chest any longer. She moans and forms broken screeches filled with breaths, keeping her last attempt at composure quiet. She really doesn’t intend to wake her friends who slumber around her, probably lost in dreams filled with their mommies’ faces, but she groans, tears still streaming into the pool on her Tangled princess pillowcase. No one wakes around her.
She’s alone in her misery, but the part she always remembers after naptime is that mommy always comes back. She will be here before she knows it. The difference in my sobs and broken sleep is that he’s not… he’s not coming back. He won’t be able to calm me with his ever-so-strong hug or listen to my desperate heartbeat. The same pathetic heart that only beats for a reply from his.
Katherine easily replaces her distorted, wet face with her smiles. She gets distracted by the dolls after nap and becomes a mommy herself or she digs in the sandbox outside, cooking some kind of uneatable cake. The end to her long day is surprised by a tap on the shoulder and the love of her life embracing her with a hug. “Mommy!” she screams with delight. Mine ends with a homework assignment distraction and a funny Friends rerun alone in my one-bedroom apartment.
The next time Katherine lies her head down to sleep, her love will be right there for reassurance and comfort. I’ll endure whatever the darkness and quiet brings. But just in case the tears become too loud for you, I’ll keep my TV on all night so you can safely assume I’m just fine without you.