Creative non-fiction was my first foray into the writing world. I wanted to capture the feelings and emotions of my tumultuous childhood living with a mother with bipolar disorder. The plan was simple: I would pound out a lovely little memoir as an adult but from the point-of-view of my childhood self. It might be wonderful, help other estranged daughters, and maybe even have a place on one of the front tables at Barnes & Noble (this all before the electronic age of books, before even Amazon).
The first few chapters were easy. I sat at a wood desk in a bay window my first apartment in Minnesota and wrote as fat flakes of snow accumulated outside. When it came time for my evening shift at the hospital, I closed down my computer (an old tower CPU with floppy disks), donned my parka and headed to work where I cared for kids and adolescents often struggling with bipolar themselves (more likely–eating disorders, behavioral discontrol, depression, and suicide attempts).
And then the writing got progressively harder. It wasn’t a matter of getting the words on the paper (or screen), but it was the emotional work involved. Plus, I was highly drained in my professional life. Managing a unit full of children and adolescents in an acute psychiatric ward was no walk in the park.
To top it all off, I wasn’t sure how the story was going to end. My mother was alive. And unstable. We were estranged. She knew I lived in Minnesota, but not where. I wasn’t willing to provide my mailing address. It was a safety thing. She did not know when I moved from the Rochester apartment to the 1920s stucco in Northfield, the first home I shared with my hubby. And when our two girls were born, she was not on the list for birth announcements.
Still, I had stories brewing. I knew one day I would get back to the aborted “mom-oir,” it was just a matter of when.
My mother’s body was found in her home June 15th, 2015. The authorities said she had likely been deceased for about 2 weeks: suicide. Somehow I knew.
As we hung up the phone that summer’s evening, my husband comforted me and offered his condolences. He knew I had grieved the loss of my mother all my life. He knew I struggled with our relationship. In many ways, her death was a relief. And perhaps, the only good that came from the experience is that now I know the ending of this bittersweet story.
My mother was an interior designer. She knew how to create ambiance. Growing up, our home sparked of custom design, personal touches; it felt loving and solid. Until, one day the flimsy facade was revealed. MODEL HOME is a story of hope and heartache. It’s about the choices we make and the repercussions on others.
[Check back on this page for updates, excerpts, and more on MODEL HOME. House image retrieved from on 11.01.15 Thanks for popping by].