So far I’ve written many, many words for 8 days straight for NaNaWriMo. I would not vouch for the quality of most of them, but this is about getting words on the page and not fine literature or even hack pulp. This month of writing is more about putting something of mine on the front burner which I have not done for a long while. Arguably, a good deal of the last year, moving and settling into Newton, has been about me, but Julia is usually in the front burner pot.
For this month, I’m intending to add 50,000 words to a very old project that already has almost that number of words devoted to it. It is an ambitious idea but it is a good time to try to do it. Even after 4 months, I don’t have many connections here. Community building is slow but sure, and I have time and energy to take on a solitary project. I have two kinds of online support and I can go to the occasional write-in at my local library. I spent October preparing an outline, reestablishing my meditation practice which has been slipping, applying myself at the gym and cooking large amounts of freezable foods. I was going strong until last week.
Then the last week of October a cold attacked with vengeance and everything I had been doing for 3 weeks collapsed in on itself. I was miserable and not just physically. Oh, the gods laughed and I took it personally for a day or two. By Wednesday, I got serious about healing—sleep and water, no gym or writing. Friday, I started feeling better and by last Sunday, I found some energy again. I’ve hit my daily work quota for an entire week with only one crisis of confidence and I’m kinda’ proud of myself.
Acclimation: One of my Madison penpals reminded me that I’ve been in MA for 4 months. I had to count on my fingers to make sure she was correct. I am . . . okay, I can’t think of a single word to describe how this process is going. I lived in this part of Massachusetts when I was very young. I moved up to Cambridge to live with David and we were around the area for two years. When I moved this time, I did not recognize anything. I found myself not really looking for old landmarks, but as I move around the area, I have bumped into memories and have begun to remember what this place is like—how people drive, how storekeepers are friendly and how strangers communicate. The deli guy at the supermarket offers me a piece of cheese every time I order a half pound just like the deli guy that my mother ordered cold cuts and cheese offered. I don’t always take it but I find it utterly charming.
Oh my, did I just describe a free piece of cheese from the deli man as charming?
I feel like I am slipping into an east coast persona—perhaps it is just the shedding some of my midwesternness. For so long, both in Indy and then in Madison, I’d describe myself as a displaced New Yorker. Colleagues and friends were generous (most of the time) with my inability to conform to social norms. That is, until I began to find my midwestern bearings. Now, I do the opposite. People ask where I’ve come from and inevitably when I answer, someone in a group will chime in that they come from somewhere west of Pennsylvania and we do a bit of midwest bonding.
Another admission, I have been known to make fun of the great midwest social event—potluck dinners! Last laugh time—I was almost giddy when our new Unitarian Church announced a newcomers potluck dinner. I’ve rsvp-ed quickly to make sure I was included and have been looking for some perfect recipe.
In the past, I was a defensive New Yorker. Like I had left my real home and was an unwilling imposter in the midwest. So much of that has been left behind without my notice—of course, I did dropped a lot of stuff off at St. Vinnie’s during this last year. Could my pretensions have snuck into one of those bags?
I do not truly belong to the east coast of my youth, the midwest of my middle years or this new east coast of the present. I am not and never will be the person who never left their home town. I have spent a lot of time, years in fact, thinking about, wondering about, and searching for some perfect place to call home. I’ve stopped doing that! I miss my Madison community enough to burst into tears many days. It is an enormous privilege to have lived and loved there and I am grateful to have such ties; however, my place of home is not simply a place. Locations of beauty and intensity will always attract me. And I will always look for inclusive and loving communities. Anywhere like that can be home. I feel rather like Dorothy’s friends who should have thought this answer from their missing brains or felt the answer from their missing hearts.
These days, I recognize a few more streets, I don’t use my GPS for Julia’s school, the library, a few markets, the dry cleaner and church. I haven’t made a wrong turn (with the GPS) to get to Cheshire’s house the last three times we’ve gone there. There are a few people at church and at Julia’s school whom I regularly greet. I count myself lucky to have connected with some cousins (actually David’s cousins, but whose counting) and Justin’s (Cheshire’s boyfriend) parents. And of course, there is the phone and facebook and texting and letters. I am surviving well.
Julia is having a challenging time—two weeks ago was a tough one. Some awful behavior at school and at home–threats of self-harm and lots of anger. It can be attributed to the transition, to feeling alone, to not having established therapists and supports that she had in Madison, to not having places where she is accepted just the way she is. Newton North is so much better for her than West ever was but those kids she knew since Franklin School are not there, the Newton church is friendly but not FUS and the people at church or at school or in the neighborhood who engaged her in conversation, who praised her drawing, who encouraged her to cheer or sing or be with them are not in place yet. What’s more there is not yet a team of respite providers who hang out with Julia, do some homework, encourage her to draw or watch a movie with them AND without me don’t yet exist which means that except for occasionally being left alone in the house for short times and being at school, Julia has been exclusively with me.
I also am struggling with Julia’s future. So many friends with typical kids are planning lives. I love, truly love, to hear about those kids’ adventures and exploits, achievements and explorations, but when listening there is also a track that plays in my head that is mired in fear. It comes down to the simple face that autism and cognitive disability suck! Last Tuesday, there was a meeting about the extensive evaluations that her school has done. To sit for an hour and hear all of your child’s weaknesses, dis-abilities, and inabilities is crushing. No one was negative—at these meetings, everyone always tries to stress strengths and skills—but the simple facts brought me pretty low.
We are on a lot of waiting lists at present and I hope that by the time we are here a year, we have therapies set up and some transition trajectory in place. It is a long slog, however, and I could use some respite.
I’ve started thinking about holiday cards and scrolled through my photos for the year. It is amazing how much of the year has been taken up with this transition. Pictures of the old house, when it was my house and after we staged it, of Madison, of our last outings in Wisconsin and some of the touristy places we’ve visited in and around Boston contrast with my usual shots featuring more exotic locations, garden shots and well understood school activities. So many endings, so many beginnings. Slightly wistful this morning taking it all in. We have made it to the other side of the relocation tunnel, I see the light, some of it at least and stand ready for what comes.