Fifteen Beginnings of an Essay I Will Never Write

Harris Sockel
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readJan 29, 2014



My mom used to take me to her psychiatrist appointments. I’d bring Pogs. I was nine. She’d leave me in the waiting room by a wooden bench and a table covered in back issues of The New Yorker. I was always alone in the waiting room. Sometimes I’d lie on the bench. Sometimes I’d lie under the bench. Sometimes I’d lie half on the bench and half off. Sometimes I’d cover half the fifty-square-foot waiting room in cardboard circles.


I’ve read a lot of articles about this, probably fifty over the past month. I’ve learned that depressed mothers are less responsive to their infant’s signals. “Their facial expressions and displays of emotion [are] more muted or flat, and their voices [are] monotone.” Depressed parents “can alter their children’s patterns of genetic activity,” too. Twenty-three percent of people have “Major Depressive Disorder” or “Major Depression,” as WebMD calls it. It’s increasing with every generation. One in nine Americans over age twelve currently takes antidepressants.


She talked about running away a lot. Whenever my dad or I would joke about the application of nutmeg on a helping of sweet potatoes, she would say, all of a sudden, “I’m running away.” She would shake her head. And then she would elaborate: “I’m going to pack my things.” But she wouldn’t go anywhere. She would just stand there, bottom lip vibrating, holding one of those large sharp spoons made to cut casseroles. And we’d sit there, laughing, while her face got red and she turned around and started to wash the spoon.


Dear Mom,


Do you remember when I dialed 911? When you lie awake at night, flipping through your memories, how do you rationalize my dialing 911? I mean, it was kind of funny, right? I think you laughed about it — I think we both laughed about it a few weeks ago! It was June, and I was in ninth grade, and you were throwing yourself a pity party in the kitchen, and I was trying to tell you that no, people DO care about you, and no, I WOULD miss you if you ran away, and then you said “that’s it” and opened the knife drawer and picked up a carving knife, so. What else was I supposed to do? In Kindergarten we practiced dialing 911. It was…