I started drawing pictures the very first day my mother left. My grandmother suggested it, no doubt, in order to distract me. “Draw me something,” she said with tears in her eyes. Tears that predated mine since in that moment I didn’t truly understand what leaving meant. Or how long she’d be gone. Or what it meant when adults told me it had nothing to do with me. But she’s my mom, I’d think. Who else does it have anything to do with? I drew my grandmother a picture of a flower with arms coming out of its stem. She liked it.
A few days in, it occurred to me that I should make each drawing about something that happened that day, so they could be a sort of visual diary my mother would catch up on when she came back. Surely she’d want to know what I’d been up to. I tried to make the situations realistic. Russell pulling my hair during the pledge of allegiance. Dawn and me playing hopscotch barefoot, getting chalk on our feet.
While at first it seemed using my actual day for inspiration was the way to go, after a few weeks with no her in sight, I decided I should try to make the pictures more alluring, perhaps influencing a more speedy return. I drew a portrait of myself sitting quietly on my bed studying and wrote “Not Causing Any Trouble” at the top, incase the intent wasn’t clear.
More time passed, and none of these tactics worked, so I decided to go another way. I drew a picture of Thom Yorke at the dinner table with Dad and me. He wore a Radiohead t-shirt and I drew a thought bubble coming out of his mouth that said, “Baby’s got the bends.” Thom was mom’s favorite singer. Surely she’d be bothered to find out that Dad and I were getting up to this kind of day to day excitement and would come back to join us.
The last picture I drew before giving up was a threat. Me on a rocket ship with Saturn in the background. She’d said it was her favorite planet because of its rings. I sat in the rocket looking out the window and directly into the center of the page where I figured my mother’s gaze would rest. I gave her plenty of time, my engine idling, and waited as long as I could, and when she didn’t stop me, I hit the accelerator and took off.