This week, Write on Edge (formerly The Red Dress Club) asked us to write about our worst memory. Ever. I’ve already written that—my post Stolen is my worst parenting memory. So instead I chose another one that haunts me.
I had been dreading this day for months.
But time is unyielding and had marched forward.
So here it was.
I don’t remember which suit I wore, or shoes I picked, or handbag I carried. I don’t recall which coat I donned. Although they were all carefully selected—chosen, from my pre-baby wardrobe, to make a statement.
I was back.
I was supposed to be ready to be a lawyer again.
Except I wasn’t.
And I knew, in my heart, that something didn’t feel right.
But I didn’t understand what that meant yet.
As I prepared to leave, I held my son and kissed him. Told him I loved him. And struggled not to cry, to be brave for him.
I can still see his trusting, toothless smile. The way his eyes crinkled.
And I gave into the tears, not for the first time that morning, as I backed my car out of the driveway.
I don’t recall driving to my office or pulling into the parking garage or leaving my car.
But I do remember getting onto the elevator, pushing the button for the top floor.
And the feel of my heart pounding and the sweat on my palms.
I stepped off the elevator, into the quiet lobby, and used my key to open the security door.
The familiarity of the smell—paper and coffee and copy machines—overwhelmed me and reminded me how far I had traveled.
And that I was back where I started.
But something was different.
As I rounded the corner and well wishers greeted me, I fought to control my emotions, to make it to my office for sanctuary.
Finally, at my desk, computer humming and fluorescent lights buzzing, I tried to focus.
I looked around.
The office looked like mine but had the odd feel of a place that had been inhabited by someone else.
It had been a place I knew well, one in which I was comfortable.
But it wasn’t now.
This world was surreal, the past and the present wove together, unpredictably, making me feel disoriented, like I had awoken from a long dream.
I took out pictures of my laughing infant and loaded a memory card into the digital picture frame.
Small tokens designed to ease my transition.
Instead, they reminded me of what, of who, I had left behind.
When I saw them, throughout the day, my breath caught in my throat.
And I ached.
I chatted with friends and mentors who welcomed me back.
Smiled and tried to mean it.
I forced laughter.
But it was hollow.
And so was I.
Finally, as the end of the day neared, I packed my bags and left early.
Everyone expected it—a new mother’s prerogative on her first day back.
I drove home with more purpose than I had felt all day, hope and meaning swelling inside me.
As I rushed up the stairs from the garage, he crawled, clumsily, toward me, still learning to work his arms and legs in tandem.
His face was beaming, love and determination drove him.
Dropping my bags and coat and file folders on the floor, I scooped him up and held him tight.
Pressed his little body into me.
I felt, for the first time that day, whole again. Complete.
Like I could breathe.
I was back where I belonged.
It would take me four long months to realize that, and to accept it.
If you are interested in more of the story of my decision to become a stay at home mom, I have cataloged those posts here.