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Eighteen months ago, on a brilliant fall day, the sky cerulean with nary a cloud visible, my 16-year-old son was driving, while I rode shotgun on the way to his step-sister’s softball tournament. I was still getting used to him driving with his learner’s permit while I did my best to remain calm in the passenger’s seat. Unlike my mother who had screeched and sucked in her breath sharply at every turn when I learned to drive. Suddenly, my son leaned forward and turned off the music. That was my signature car move over the years when I needed to…

“To bear other people's afflictions, everyone has courage enough, and to spare.” Benjamin Franklin

Photo — Josh Hild @ Pexels

At dusk, I pulled into the parking lot of Carrier Clinic, a privately-run psychiatric hospital in New Jersey. I felt like the raw, vulnerable version of myself I had been when Dad first pulled into the same parking lot the summer before I started Kindergarten, only this time I was alone. My brothers kept to their corners, safe in their protective walls. I hadn’t erected even a paper-thin barrier from her.

I sat in the car trying to egg myself on to go inside. Walking through those doors meant I had to see the face that had spewed that awful…

What a mother 2020 is turning out to be, huh? Pandemic, mystery seeds from China, Tik Tok controversy, presidential election, political divides, and racial tensions. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve been on a rollercoaster ride for the last five months, and not a short-lived, fun-filled ride, but more one that makes you puke when the coaster rolls into the station.

Photo Jens

Shortly after the pandemic began, New Jersey was inundated with COVID-19 cases and I found myself unexpectedly working from home. I was excited by the prospect of having three hours of commute time to use in more productive ways than sitting in NJ highway traffic. I was excited to be the kind of present mom that working full-time had disallowed. I even wrote a couple of articles about how great all of this would be and how there was a silver lining to lockdown. I was so funny. I had grand, grand plans — I would clean the pantries, stock…

After the prongs of honesty

I threw and you returned,

Pierced our white, underbelly flesh,

We sat in silence as the clock we never hear

Tick-tocked its way to the next moment.

Earlier I had decided to let frankness tumble from my lips

Instead of the routine, dry retreat of truth down

The back of my throat to halt conflict.

My belly bloated from the thorny spikes of unsaid things,

I had no choice.

It’s in my DNA,

That need to appease.

Fired off in my synapses

At the first, pungent whiff of relational decay.

Today, it needed a new…

Mom came home that summer from another stay in a mental hospital, stiff like a cardboard cut-out in the New Jersey oppressive humidity. I tried to let the heat thaw out the thick layers of frosty protection that had accumulated around my heart to welcome her home but, trusting her seemed risky.

Photo by Tatiana at Pexels

I was beginning to understand I had two moms. One was loving, kind, warm, patient, understanding, consistent, and fun. The other was irrational, cruel, unpredictable, terrifying, and possibly possessed by the devil from time to time. It was difficult to love the good one when I knew the other one was there, lurking in the background with the ability to spring up at any time, mostly unannounced.

“Jeannine, can you come here, please,” Mom called to me from the kitchen, her sing-songy voice finally starting to replace the robotic one the hospital had given her.

“Yeah, Mom?” I said.


Grandma appeared after Mom had vanished into the mental health system void again.

Photo by Pixabay

The bare ends of our feelings were sensitive, raw, and exposed. Grandma’s presence was like a pair of wire strippers, hastily exposing them further.

She was bending over near the back door — the same door that our supposedly dead father had walked through only nights before — shaking her head as she straightened up the plethora of shoes seven kids could accumulate. She sighed heavily, disappointedly, as she went about making sense of the pile.

“If you children would just keep order, straighten your shoes, help your mother out,” she said unkindly. …

When the lockdown in my state of New Jersey started, I wrote this nice little essay about how great the pandemic could be for our family because we would have all this glorious extra time. How wrong I was!

Photo by Helena Lopes

Here we are into week 5 of the lockdown and here’s how it’s going:

Working from home is hard when kids are also attending classes online. My mornings usually begin quietly. I get up first, let the kids sleep in a bit since they don’t have to log into school at any particular time. Then I walk the dog, fix a cup of tea, empty the dishwasher and open my laptop to start my workday while still in my pajamas. When I rouse the kids an hour later, my work focus becomes a little blurry. There are requests for breakfast…

An excerpt from my memoir, Tulip

Image by Ravi Kant

As soon as I entered the dimly lit kitchen the morning after “It” had happened again in fourth grade, bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, I remembered our predicament. Mom was missing again. The days leading up to it had been a blur of chaos, most of which left me hiding in my room under the covers drawing myself within a cocoon of safety.

Dad didn’t hear me enter the room. He was standing at the kitchen counter with his back to me, methodically making sandwiches for our school lunches. He lacked the ease of routine that Mom possessed. His orchestrated…

Jeannine M. DeHart

Writer, poet, memoirist, stoic, certified navel gazer, die-hard introvert, fitness enthusiast, runner, mom, step-mom, wife, bean counter. 🏳️‍🌈

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