“The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.” -Maya Angelou
We were homeless the whole month of July 2012.
During our cross country move, we spent some time on the shore, waiting for a million flying puzzle pieces to fall into place. My brother from New York came to visit us and stay in the beach house a couple days after the Lydia’s first major voice-induced tantrum, found here. He is a much loved uncle, one of my greatest supports, and amazing with the kids. Gardner was a welcome distraction from the mounting tensions in our little “moving vacation.” I picked him up from the train station alone, filling him in on the move and the situation developing with Lydia. He was quick to reassure me that it was just the move aftermath…I just needed to show patience and love. He stayed with us for three days. On the third day, Rick had begun his new job and I had to take the three kids with me to the train station to drop my brother off. I made every effort to make the drive easy for Lydia. I handed them cue-ball sized gobstoppers on a stick. The treat was a true vacation prize, the smooth shiny surface inviting their little tongues to bore a hole through the center. It would take weeks to eat. Genius! I turned a movie on that Lydia in particular would enjoy, and we were on our way.
Within a mile of our ride, every time I spoke, Lydia would react. Five minutes into the drive, she politely demanded that I stop talking to Uncle Gardner. Annoyed, I told her that she had a movie to watch, candy to lick, and I wanted to talk to my brother. I was not going to sit in silence for the 45 minute drive. She interrupted me constantly. She began seething, spit bubbling between her gritted teeth as she hissed at me. She made fists at her sides and began ramming into the back of Gardner’s seat with both feet. Gardner tried to intervene, reason with her. I tried to discipline her. I got more firm, and then angry. Finally, I was silenced. Tears streamed steadily down my face, desperate and impotent. I was white knuckling the steering wheel, anger towards her behavior was furiously fighting to be unleashed.
When we came into town, we had intended to get some lunch. I needed to ask my brother what he preferred to eat, the exact time his train arrived, if he had time. During these necessary exchanges, Lydia lost it. Completely. She was suddenly a feral animal, tied down in the car with us. She bucked and screamed like she was being beaten. Carly and Stella burst into bewildered tears. Lydia screeched in panic. She kicked the seat in front of her so hard I thought she would puncture the leather. “You hate me!” She roared, over and over. “I know it! You HATE me mommy! YOU. HATE. ME!” she screamed it like she was fighting to the death. My anger quickly became horror. Her words shredded me. I choked on my anguish, my throat throbbed. I drove into a strange city I was about to get lost in, I was lost.
“I hate me! I don’t want to be me! I hate myself!” She howled and then wordlessly screamed. I found a street off the freeway and pulled the car over. I turned to Gardner in despair. “What do I do?” I risked speaking, totally lost and fighting panic. Carly, her nine year old sister, lunged forward in the car. “We need to get out of this car right now and leave Lydia alone!” Of course. We all scrambled to the sidewalk. I threw Stella at Gardner after rescuing her from her carseat. I walked back to the van, opened the door, and risked speaking to my rabid daughter.
“I love you Lydia. We will wait here for you.”
The door slid firmly shut, muffling her animalistic fury. Exhaustion and fear for our future burst like fireworks in my mind. We stood hand in hand on the sidewalk, and she raged in a way I did not know was possible. The car shook. I shook.
It had to happen. I had to hear her tell me I hated her, that she didn’t want to be her, for me to understand. This is not a discipline problem. The sound of my voice is an assault. My little girl can not bear the sound of my voice. The enormity of what that means for her life, my life, our family …swallowed me like a giant hole in the ground. Gardner slumped on a store front stoop, the shock glittering in his eyes. My body held the small hands of my two year old and eight year old daughters as we stood on that sidewalk, but my spirit lay down flat and wailed. An unbearable something stood on my bared throat, its weight crushing my voice, our silent barrier pressing me into the hard concrete.
When Lydia finally emerged from the van, still sobbing, fists clenched at her sides, the world was not the same.
Home is in the loving arms of mother…we had lost our home.