Poor girl. I look at her through the rearview mirror of memory and feel a wash of overwhelming sadness, knowing that very soon her little bubble of self would morph and twist and burst, like a blister on the heel, the watery defenses of a teenage soul seeping out over the floor.
We didn’t know what it was in those days. Now we raise our shields and draw our medicinal swords and attack depression with full force and no apology. But then, we didn’t know what it was, or that it was following me through the halls of school, on the long bus ride home, and straight to my bedroom. Didn’t see it until it snatched me in it’s steel hinged jaws.
Eventually it squeezed itself between my sister Libby and me, staring me in the eyes and flailing it’s big hairy blue arms like a defender in a full court press. Color drained out of the picture of my daily life, eventually going from black and white of full on gray. The color left, and the laughter, and the music. My grades plummeted, friendships sort of diffused into thin air. I came home from school and curled up in Mom’s old white upholstered rocker and glazed my eyes with Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street on our recently acquired second hand colored TV. Looking back, I want to stretch my arms around that girl who probably just wanted to be little again. Stretch my mothering arms around her and draw her in.
When someone is depressed people quit doing certain things around them. Probably in self defense. Or maybe because some things don’t seem fitting. They start to tiptoe in stocking feet. Speak in whispered tones. Sometimes walk down the aisles in the grocery store thinking “What would make her happy?” They shimmy around silently until something bursts from them, or until they can no longer contain the frustration. Then cluttered emotion spews like that fountain of bronze beasts in downtown Kansas City. Tensions spurt and explode into anger, then tears, until finally arms rise up to the heavens in resignation. They breathe deeply, hold their breath, bow their heads, then …once again… fall into silence.
We tend to lose the sweet slushy yumminess of terms of endearment when loved ones are depressed. Maybe because they don’t feel dear, and they make cynical faces at such terms in order to make us stop. “I am not dear. Not dear to you or me or anyone else, so quit trying to make me think I am.” That’s the logic of depression. And out of love we stop. Our self definition, once boldly dimensional and vibrant, thins to a steel blue shaft, almost unseen. We feel invisible. Nameless. It’s stunningly frightening to think of oneself without even a name. Pretty soon we just want to disappear. Pretty soon we do.
Cork MaLork. That was the nickname my mother gave me when I was little. Sometimes she called me Corinna, if she was feeling a little more nurturing. But when she was freely happy, I was Cork MaLork. My father had called me Sport. Dad took my name with him when he left. No one has ever called me that since. And mom, not knowing what to say or do with me that dreary winter of my discontent, stopped using my nickname. She may have tried once or twice, but I likely never responded. It’s a risky thing to tease someone bound in the shroud of depression.
Christmas morning that year, in the mid 1970’s, there was a gift for me under the tree. There were many gifts, I suspect, but right now I am remembering this one. A silver gift box, about the size of a loaf of bread. It was bound by a single red bow, drawn tight and tidy with my mother’s hand. Attached to the bow was a teeny little gift card, about one inch square. The card had a picture Flopsy Bunny on front; the soft gray bunny brother of Peter Rabbit. Inside the card, in the blessedly graceful handwriting of my mother, was this message:
“Merry Christmas, to Flopsy Cork”