One day mom snaps. She refuses to cook and clean, the laundry piles up, and she smashes the kitchen window with the old fry pan.
The family huddles, wondering if she has gone mad. What could have made Mom so upset? They scratch their hands and confer in subdued whispers, but they can think of no legitimate reason.
For a few days, they make nice. Their voices are hushed and respectful. They pick their dirty laundry up off the floor. They make their own supper, and they wash the dishes. They give Mom her space.
And still, Mom fumes. She doesn't step in to wash the carefully piled dirty clothes. She doesn't put away the clean dishes lingering in the rack. She doesn't even replace the empty toilet paper roll.
If anything, she seems to be smoldering. She doesn't speak. Her eyes are dark and tinged with red. She sits at the table for hours, smoking, and blowing clouds of smoke at invisible demons.
The family grows impatient with Mom's little outburst. They complain loudly that there's no more food in the kitchen. They stomp their feet when they walk by her sitting at the table. They bring in fast food for dinner and leave the wrappers strewn about the house.
They rail at Mom's failure to appreciate their largess. They tell themselves that they have bent over backwards to make her happy. They can't understand why she won't just get over it. They turn up the TV to drown out the clamor of Mom's silence.
They go about their business as best they can. They pride themselves on the way that they are coping under the stressful circumstances. They turn up the sound on the TV. They don't even notice when the smoldering remains of Mom slip out the back door.
It's better this way, they decide. No more time wasted trying to placate such a complicated person with all of her rules about getting enough sleep, doing your best, and wearing clean underwear. Her expectations are unreasonable, and the family knows they can manage better without her dull routines.
The family is awakened by the smell of smoke, and they rush to the windows to see the backyard is in flames. They call 911, and then they huddle in the street to watch the fire consume the porch swing where Grandma rocked the babies, the sandbox where the kids played when they were younger and the trellis where Mom's favorite roses grew.
They consider turning on the garden hose, to dampen the fire while waiting on the fire truck to come, but they decide against it. Best leave it to the professionals, they think. No one mentions her name, but each of them silently contemplates whether Mom is responsible for this blaze. They look at each other and shake their heads sadly as they realize they have each come to the same conclusion.
We will move away, they decide. Surely, there are other backyards and other Moms, if only we look long and hard enough. It will be easier than cleaning up the mess here, and it will be much simpler than figuring what went wrong with Mom. Let's not inconvenience ourselves any more than we must, they say. We can start fresh. We can begin again. We will find another Mom.