Silent shock shook my picture of this ‘perfect’ mom

Silent shock shook my picture of this 'perfect' mom
A woman's guttural cry cuts into the cold, colorless predawn air, hammering me out of deep slumber into the mid-April morning. Pounding fists. Breaking glass.

My heart races. Exhausted rage gives way to moaning. New muffled voices coax, calm. Shuffling through shattered pieces of glass. Silence.

Sun edges through the curtain of a new day. Rising, pensive and puzzled by this awakening, I give in to uncertainty and get ready for another boring day in eighth grade.

"Did you hear a lady screaming this morning?" I ask Pamela and Jeanette, at the school bus stop at the end of our block, half expecting confirmation. Pamela's frozen face stares through me.

"Ya," Jeanette says timidly. Her eyes dodge mine. Pamela looks away, sending her thoughts off way past now into some distant place where this morning does not exist.

Their censored responses mute my inquiry. Swathes of tension wrap around the circle we make, isolating us from one another.

Somewhere a woman crashed into morning darkness, sealing lips.

After school, I ask my mother about it. A slight breeze slips in through the open window to where we sit at the kitchen table.

Glancing over her reading glasses, which had come to rest on the bridge of her nose, she replies, "That was Mrs. Jennington; she had a nervous breakdown," mother explained in a clinical tone.

Droning quiet follows the diagnosis. Mrs. Jennington. Pamela's mom. A nervous break down. Confusion stalks me. Why? How?

Silent shock shakes my picture of Mrs. Jennington. Stranded by deception, I picture her perfect curtains, hanging in her perfect windows, with light pouring perfectly through her perfect house in her perfect world.

At opposite ends of the Formica-topped table, Mother and I sit motionless, speechless.

Dinner's aroma lingers in the air, as I try to read her for more information. Mother does not budge.

"Well, get busy and set the table. Dinner is almost ready," she says, getting up from the table, hurriedly sweeping away my curiosity to inspect the pot roast.

Today, I wonder: What kind of insanity pushed Mrs. Jennington up, over the edge, causing her to race wildly into the dark part of morning, screaming across an empty lot, into the neighbor's yard and crashing through their sliding glass doors. What was her tipping point?

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place national and state awards in The Federation of Press Women competitions. For more information, e-mail

� 2007 Paula Damon

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