photo getty images
Manic depression pushed Ashley Prentice Norton to the brink of suicide. It took six months, her husband’s love, and 17 rounds of electroshock therapy to bring her back to her kids–alive.
It’s 8 a.m. on a Friday morning in early May. My 8-year-old daughter, Anderson, and I hold hands and walk up the three flights to her classroom. Normally, she leaves me standing outside in the crowd of parents, waiting for her to blow me a kiss. But today, I’m helping the girls make sandwiches for the local community food pantry. In her free hand, Anderson swings the supplies I bought the night before: a pound of smoked Virginia ham, a pound of Provolone, and three loaves of potato bread.
Almost all of the girls are already there, sitting in their mini-chairs with plastic gloves on. I know these girls. I was here in October to help them put on their costumes for the Halloween parade, have had them over for play dates, have listened to Anderson talk about them at the dinner table. I know they’re all going through a Harry Potter phase, racing to see who can finish the books first. They are adorable, familiar.
I turn and greet their teacher, and she returns my hello with an effusive hug. “Thanks for coming, Mrs. Norton. We’re so happy you’re here,” she says. It’s the enthusiastic welcome you’d expect after an absence far longer than the 18 hours it’s been since school pick-up–and I understand why. There was a time when I rarely made it to pick-up or drop-off, when I could barely slap together one sandwich, much less help with 40. I couldn’t retain the name of Anderson’s teacher. Honestly, I wasn’t even completely clear on where the school was.