On The First Day of Autumn

On The First Day of Autumn September 23, 2021

It was so gray yesterday, on Rosie’s tenth birthday.

I should have been spending the day having fun with Rosie, but I needed a moment to myself.

Ten years is a long time. Ten years of wishing I could forget and ten years of wishing for just one more chance. Ten years of flashbacks, with the time between flashbacks gradually increasing, thinking I’m getting better and then getting triggered again. Ten years of learning to sleep without jeans and a heavy blanket. Ten years of thinking “this will be our year, this year will be better,” and it not being our year. Ten years of learning how to be a mother and never once getting it right.

Last week I was in Columbus and everything felt so hopeful, but now I’m back the same as ever. And this anniversary stings more than the past several years. It’s the tenth. Rose’s tenth birthday. More than half of Rosie’s childhood is gone forever. I promised myself a thousand times I’d get her away from this dreadful place, and here we are. I promised vacations we didn’t take and happy times we didn’t get, and now she’s ten. She is happy to be a double digit, and all I want is to know where the baby went.

I’ve been having a problem with an internet troll who thinks I wasn’t really raped, in my childbirth with Rosie. She has been libeling me for forty-eight hours now, because she isn’t satisfied with how fast I got help and she thinks that means I made it all up. She won’t stop. I blocked her but I keep seeing replies. I can only conclude that she is a monster like my rapist. There are so many monsters in this world.

The menacing neighbor is still clinging to life, letting her dog out twice a day to do its business on the noisy chain. She likes to sneak under our window and eavesdrop, which she does ridiculously noisily. I know we’re going to have to mow the lawn one more time before it stops growing in the cool weather. The thought of the backyard is making me panic.

I had a small stack of Chef Boyardee and a few boxes of milk I’d forgotten to bring the Friendship Room, so I got the car out of its hiding place and drove them downtown. I put them on the shelves next to an enormous collection of canned peas. Someone must have donated a whole flat.

The cans were packed into a cloth bag with Spider-Man silk screened on it. I left the bag too. Rosie used to love Spider-Man, but she’s into Transformers now. Next year she’ll be into something else.

I should have gone home just then, but I didn’t want to go be cheerful just yet.

There was the old Baroque church across the street, the one where the important people go. Michael and I were married there. Rosie was baptized there. That was where I went to Mass, shaking with PTSD, in the weeks after she came home from the hospital. Michael got told not to sit down in that church once, when he showed up on Assumption Day in his shabby coat and hat and an usher mistook him for a beggar. We used to take Rosie to this parish sometimes, before the pandemic. Now we go to Mass across the river in West Virginia, where people are better about social distancing. I don’t know where she’ll ever receive Holy Communion. I don’t really trust pastors anymore. Finding out about Father Morrier was the last straw. We wander from parish to parish and don’t talk to anyone at the moment. Fulfill our Sunday obligation, wonder how to do it next week, do it again.

I didn’t want to go inside anymore than I wanted to go home, but somehow I did.

I snuck past the statues of Saint Therese and the Virgin Mary as if they’d come to life and slap me. I half wished they would. I wanted them to get good and angry. Anything but the terrible, lonely, ladylike silence.

I chose a seat in front of the Tabernacle, with the window of the Annunciation hidden behind a pillar so I couldn’t see her.

I gazed at Him, and He gazed at me.

Sometimes, that’s all there is.



image via pixabay

Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
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