So God Made a Mother Collection ➔

When I was 16 and on LSD, the decorative apple split open and so did I.

Let’s start from the beginning.

So I was 16 and naive enough to try (almost) anything once, but as I sunk heavy into the kitchen chair to wait for the fog of the LSD I had taken hours earlier with my friends to lift, I knew this was likely going to be both the first and the last time I messed with acid. It had been fun for a little while.

When the drug had kicked in, I had been flooded with what I thought were deep revelations of my psyche: We are stardust. We are golden. We are billion-year-old carbon.

Heavy stuff, am I right? Soon enough, I figured out those were actually Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young lyrics. Then, I just felt raw and a little lonely inside of my own head, which when you’re prone to serious fits of existential angst (and really, who isn’t at 16?) is the last place you want to be. I would argue that at least for the sensitive ones, those of us desperately trying to find the answers to the big questions by reading the Bible, our palms, our tea leaves and everything in between, hallucinogenics may not be the ideal form of recreation.

So I sat in the warm kitchen, waiting impatiently for the drug to be done and watching my mother make dinner. She was a sight, as put-together as I was disheveled, fresh from work in a power suit with full and flawless make-up, her shoulder pads erring just on the inside edge of ridiculous. By then, things were tense between us even when I wasn’t high. In the kitchen, we were quiet enough together that the sound of her heels on the hardwoods felt like a heartbeat through my buzz-filter. 

“Are you OK?” she asked me, breaking my reverie. “You’re awful quiet.”

I was sure she could see I wasn’t if she just stopped and looked, took in my dilated pupils and the new dusting of freckles on my cheeks I should not have gotten had I been in school all day where I belonged.

“I’m fine,” I lied, “Tired is all.”

She took me at this and didn’t press the issue. I was surprised by how much this stung. Then, the air filled with the smell of garlic and good olive oil, and ravenous, I forgot. This isn’t surprising. In every memory of high school I have, I am ravenous, empty, desperate to fill the emptiness inside of me with something, even LSD, I guess. I was just beginning then to fall into the eating disorder that would consume me the next year, but no one knew this yet, not even me.

All I knew was the hunger, and on the table, in front me, was a bowl of the most perfect looking Granny Smith apples. Yes, I thought. That. I picked one up, the best of them all, and noticed it was shiny enough for me to see my distorted reflection in it. I looked terrifying if I turned the apple one way, terrified if I turned it the other. I think I was probably both.

My mother tsked at me, waving her hand.

“Oh, don’t eat that one,” she said, looking up at me for the first time. “There are apples in the fridge if you are hungry.”

I could have just done it. I could have gotten up and gotten an apple from the fridge like she said and left it at that, except I was 16, angsty and didn’t really understand what it meant that we were both made of the same stardust. Plus, I wanted a fight.

“What’s wrong with this one?” I asked her. Other than my screwed up face in it.

“Nothing. It’s perfect. That’s why you can’t eat it.”

“It’s for… decoration?” I said this the way you would talk to someone who was maybe a little dangerous. I talked to her a lot of the time like that then. I was a bit of an asshole.

Under the lie of the shoulder pads, I saw her sag, and then, inhale and recover.

“Exactly,” she spat at me. “Put that one back. I’ll get you one from the fridge.”

She clicked toward the refrigerator and pulled the door open, hard.

“Mom. It’s fine.” I waved her off, feeling guilty. “I’m not hungry.”

This, of course, wasn’t true. I was so hungry. Hungry for the chemical-tightness in my jaw to release and my acid trip to end, but there was more. Everything was shifting and new, including this hard and unmanageable thing between her and I. Like the apple in my hand, she was so perfect, so clean, orderly and put-together. I just wanted to sit next to her for a while and take it all in. Reset.

I missed her, really. I should have told her, but I didn’t. She clicked back to the garlic on the stove, and I played with the decorative apple, twirling it around in a circle on the table like a top until it spun so fast that it got away from me, hit the side of the shallow blue bowl and cracked clean in half. The two pieces fell open onto the table, and I gasped. The inside of that perfect apple was totally rotten, all brown, soft and mealy. I spent a long time looking at it lying on the table in front of me, smelling its earthy fermentation smell, convinced there was a message there for me. It had looked so perfect.

When I finally looked back up at my mother, I did so in slow motion, sure she was as floored by this fruit-revelation as I was.

“Jesus, Elizabeth,” she said, her face all screwed up like she had seen something, well, rotten. “Put that sh*t in the garbage.”

I had forgotten she was not on hallucinogenic drugs. However, the moment commanded something more than that, something deep and real. I made no move to get up.



“Are you happy?”

I wanted her to laugh, maybe, or touch my arm. I wanted her to know exactly what I was asking her, which was, “Is it going to get better? Am I going to be OK? Are you? Are we?” I wanted her to stop what she was doing, put down the knife and look at me, see me and know, in that moment, I needed her to just be my mother.

Yet, 16 is just old enough that even if she had, which she didn’t, it wouldn’t have been enough. 16 is the beginning of having to figure it out yourself.

“Happy?” she asked, in that same tone I had used when I mocked her decorative apples, and I wondered which came first: her parroting me or me parroting her.

I dug in. “Yes. Happy.” I nodded.

She didn’t speak for awhile, long enough for me to assume that the silence was her answer. I had started to gather the pieces of the apple together so I could throw them out. Then, I swear I heard her say, “Of course not.” It was so quiet that I’ll never know for sure if it wasn’t just in my own head. “Don’t be ridiculous.”


That time in the kitchen with the apple was, thankfully, the only time I ever took LSD. It was also the first time I understood in a real way how our outsides don’t always match our insides. Our outsides can lie and say, “No, really, everything is great here,” when the truth is we are dying a little inside. The way my mother, mid 40s and brewing up the kind of depression that would eventually take her life, was, and the way I was too at 16, brewing up an eating disorder that almost took mine.

The lesson was in the apple, but I didn’t get it then. It took me two decades and a funeral where people kept coming up to me and wringing their hands, saying, “I just had no idea. I’m so sorry,” as if the fault lied somewhere in them, as if we should have all looked really hard so we could have seen the struggle shining for help in her eyeballs the way Gotham City shines out for Batman.

Here’s the lesson: Struggling can hide. You just can’t know. Maybe it’s the woman next to you in Target, her hair perfect and her heels clicking behind her cart. Maybe it’s the woman at school drop-off who looks so damn put together that you feel ugly just passing by her. Maybe it’s your neighbor with the best manicured lawn, or the guy in the cubicle next to you who chews so loud that sometimes you forget we are stardust and feel stabby instead.

If we can’t know, then I don’t know what else we can do other than this: Maybe we could just try to normalize the struggling. When I figured this out, it felt like the kind of earth-shaking revelation that had to be shared. I tried for a while in different ways to let people know I knew, that I got it, that we all are carrying our brokenness and our stories inside of us. For a while this meant I cornered people in bars or supermarkets and made them answer me, really answer me, when I asked them how they were doing. This didn’t really work and also had the unintended consequence of making me look like a deranged stalker. I try not do it as much these days.

But what else can we do, I thought, desperate. And then a familiar so-quiet voice said: What if you told the story of your own pain?

Yes, I thought. That. What if I owned it, wore it and refused to be ashamed or quiet? What if I tried to make space in my heart for other people to do the same? So, I did, and people responded. They sent me messages. They stopped me in the grocery store. They said, “Me too!” “I hear you!” and “I’m here!” Then, the best thing of all happened that I never even dreamed of: I stopped being so hungry. Many hands make the struggle lighter and the happy mixes in with the broken bits. We are a mosaic of real-ness, the true beauty, where the inside matches the outside.

Sometimes, I wonder still what would have happened if my mother and I had opened up to each other there in the kitchen. Could we have saved each other? It’s a slippery path that I regret. I can feel it pull me, tug my leg, hungry. I could have looked at her and said: “We can do this. We can carry each other.”

I didn’t, but I can say it to you. We can do this. We can carry each other. We’re all made of the same stardust, after all.

This article originally appeared on Liz Petrone

Liz Petrone

Liz is a mama, yogi, writer, warrior, wanderer, dreamer, doubter, and hot mess. She lives in a creaky old house in Central New York with her ever-patient husband, their four babies, and an excitable dog named Boss, and shares her stories on She can also be found on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

How Grateful I Am for a Mother Who Believed in Me

In: Cancer, Grief
Mother and grown daughter, color photo

It was a hot summer day sometime in the middle of high school. I was young and naive, but the ugly six-letter word was looming over our family: cancer. Although I didn’t know it then, this would be our last normal summer before my mother’s health would worsen. Cancer would give way to terminal cancer. It’s funny how something so big can seem so small in those moments. My mom and I were sitting on our back porch, encased in a narrow hedge of yew bushes. It was a yellow, lazy Saturday, and my brothers and father were at Cub...

Keep Reading

A Medical Diagnosis Challenges a Marriage

In: Cancer, Living, Marriage
Bald woman holding clippers over husband's head, color photo

It is no secret now that Albert Pujols and his wife have announced their divorce shortly after she had surgery to remove a brain tumor. As a breast cancer survivor, this news hit me in a special way. As I was reading through an article from Today, there was a quote that hit me hard, “But a marriage falling apart is far more common when the wife is the patient, researchers have found. A woman is six times more likely to be separated or divorced soon after a diagnosis of cancer or multiple sclerosis than if a man in the relationship is...

Keep Reading

Dear Grandmother, I’m Not Ready to Lose You

In: Grief
Elderly woman and granddaughter touch foreheads

I had a visit from my grandmother the other day. It wasn’t a regular sit on the porch with a cup of tea kind of visit. It was more of an “I have something I need to tell you” type of visit. She’s been unwell for some time, and I guess I had sort of hoped she would get better, and she would be back to herself soon enough. I noticed when she sat down and tears filled her eyes that it wasn’t going to be a normal conversation. Her eyes widened and she struggled to get her words out without...

Keep Reading

Love Carries On in the Ones We Raise

In: Grief, Motherhood
Mother and son hug

From a very young age, two of the most important men in my life were my grandpa and my brother. I never could have imagined that I’d lose them both within nine months, nor could I predict the profound effects the magnitude of those losses would have on my life. My grandpa was my father figure and shepherd. I have endless memories of him— from splashing in the ocean together to shopping each Easter season for my Easter dress. He was always there. Every choir concert, musical, or school ceremony, I could easily find his face in the crowd. I...

Keep Reading

Friends Can Be a Sanctuary

In: Friendship, Grief
Group of friends hugging

A sanctuary is defined as anywhere people go for peaceful tranquility or introspection. My friends became my sanctuary when my husband, Frank, died. They became my refuge and my safe place. Friendship is one of the most wonderful gifts in this world. It is beautiful, comforting, ever-changing, and, for me, a fixed point.  My friends seemed to know exactly what I needed and when I needed it. Their love and constant support got me through the worst of times and gave me the courage and confidence I needed to move forward.  I could never give an adequate thank you to...

Keep Reading

All I Wanted Was For My Baby To Stay Alive

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Sad woman with head in hands

Today is the day I’ve dreaded and resisted for almost a year: the day I face going through the white plastic bag the hospital sent home with me after my D&C, 10 months ago. This bag held my clothes, shoes, and wedding ring for the short time I was in surgery, but I rescued all of those precious items soon after waking. The items that remain show the paper trail of that difficult day—receipts from my hospital admittance and anesthesia, general post-operative care instructions, and a consent form for “treatment of incomplete abortion.” That last part brings tears to my...

Keep Reading

My Husband Makes Me a Stronger Woman

In: Grief, Loss, Marriage
Daddy standing over hospital crib with infant, black-and-white photo

A little over a year ago, my husband and I went through the unimaginable. We lost our child, Lillian, to a congenital heart defect. The days following that, and even to this day, people will comment on how strong I am. How well I’ve dealt with this darkness. How they can’t imagine what I am going through. The truth is I was never alone. From the day we found out I would give birth to a child who had complex heart defects, my husband has been there. Always in the background of what others saw but ever so present in...

Keep Reading

Mothers Don’t Teach Us How To Live Life Without Them

In: Grief, Grown Children, Loss, Motherhood
Woman in dress with corsage, smiling color photo

When you’re a little girl, you dream of marriage, children, a career, and memories that you will cherish forever—and you want your mother by your side at all times. Our mothers teach us how to live a life we will enjoy, but they never teach us how to live a life without them in it. Our mothers don’t tell us that one day they will not be here to answer the phone when we call or go on spontaneous dinner dates. My mother never told me there will come a day when she will be gone and how bad it...

Keep Reading

When Mother’s Day Feels Awkward, Find Comfort in Community

In: Grief, Living, Loss, Motherhood

Mother’s Day can be beautiful for some women. It can be hurt filled for others. Or in my case, it can just feel plain old awkward. I felt eight years of awkward Mother’s Days. In my late 20s to mid-30s, I felt like the woman no one knew what to say to or what to do with. I felt a double whammy on Mother’s Day. My mother was home in Heaven. My womb was empty and always would be. My desire to have a child was filled with an intentional choice to go a non-traditional route to motherhood and was...

Keep Reading

Sometimes Mother’s Day Hurts

In: Grief, Loss, Motherhood
Mother holding baby near grave, black-and-white photo

I see you moms. I see the moms who will never see all of their children together on this earth at the same time. The moms who dread the question, “When are you having children?” or “Will you have any more?” The moms who pray for that second line, month after month. The moms who are seeing that positive test and don’t know how they are going to make this work. The moms who can’t shake the blues or depression, who feel guilty for not feeling happier about their baby. The moms who feel as though they are doing it...

Keep Reading

 5 Secrets to Connect with Your Kids


Proven techniques to build REAL connections