“Close the door Michael. I can still hear them.”
Michael obediently pauses Zelda and walks over to the lightweight door, closing it on the sounds of my parent’s argument.
“Now turn up the sound on the TV and just ignore them.”
Michael again complies without protest, spinning the volume control on the old 32” TV. He picks up the remote control of the Nintendo and scrunches up his little face in concentration.
He is probably about 7 years old.
I am probably about 10.
This is not the first time we have performed this ritual.
It will not be the last time either.
About an hour later my mother knocks softly on our bedroom door.
I get up, reluctantly pausing Link mid stride across his never ending quest through the green maze, and open the door.
Michael looks at me worriedly.
I look up and into my mother’s red rimmed, glassy eyes.
I see the tears still pooling in the corners of them just about ready to spill over. Just about, but not quite.
My mother will rein them in, sparing me from having to wipe them from her cheeks.
My mom will pretend to be strong for me.
Even though I know she’s not.
Even though I know that she has once again been defeated.
“Are you okay?” I ask although I already know what her response will be.
“Yes. I’m fine.” She answers in a voice that is too high, too cheery, to be anything but fake.
It is only now that I notice that she is carrying two plates in her hands. She lifts them up towards my face.
“I’ve made pancakes for dinner!” She says this like someone would announce that they are going to Disneyland.
She says it like she’s just given me exceptional news.
I’VE MADE PANCAKES FOR DINNER!!
“Thanks mom.” I respond quietly. I try to pretend that this is good news. Pancakes. I love pancakes and so does my brother Michael.
I know what those pancakes mean though.
My eyes cast around her to the doorway and towards the silence that sits awkwardly beyond it.
My mother is confused at first by my sad expression. Then she meets my gaze with eyes pooling with tears once again.
She knows that I know.
She knows that even though I am only 10 years old, I now understand that pancakes for dinner is never a good thing.
Pancakes for dinner means that my mother is not okay.
I’ve kept that memory since childhood. I still associate pancakes and dinner as a very bad thing. I’ve had my own children now. Three of them. And guess what?
I’ve made them pancakes for dinner a few times.
Very few times, but I have and I cringe at that memory too.
I told the young child me that I would never do it.
I would never turn those light, fluffy, syrupy plates of deliciousness into a dripping plate of sorrow…but I have.
I have fought against instinct and upbringing and tried to swim against the tide that tries to push me in the direction of my mother’s life.
To no avail.
Points in my life have begun to mirror my mother’s despite my every attempt to fight it.
Of course it doesn’t all look the same. But a lot of it does.
More than I’d probably like to admit.
And so when my life falls apart and the tears stream down my face and my sobs threaten to choke me… I do what feels right. What feels comfortable.
I make pancakes for dinner.
That’s how I’ve come to measure my sadness and my coping skills.
Am I making pancakes for dinner?
If I am?