my new year


Frank Bowlings’ Julia at the MFA

This is a time of deep diving into chaos and it is not over yet.  

We are leaving the blue victorian house that has held us safe and warm since we left Madison three and a half years ago.  It has never been the perfect space but it has served us well through lock down and Covid, through the rough months without services for Julia and through her toughest transitions—the last of which was a bit more than a week ago when she turned 22 and aged out of school-based services.  

The end of her transition services program, Community Connections or “CC”, was marked by a pizza party with most of the students and faculty and staff of CC.  When her Inclusion Facilitator and I first talked about her party, we thought that something small with a few students would fit her best.  Something like going out to get nails done, Asian noodles and a bubble tea with a few people.  But Julia knew what she wanted and she wanted a big party with cake she made herself.  She invited me and VNM but when we joined the party and I asked if we could sit with her, she preferred sitting with the teachers and aides who have been part of this experience.  It was great to see her chatting and holding court. It was great to see her happy.

She misses everyone at CC and especially those staff members who she spent time with.  I think she is texting with at least one of them and she wants to go back to visit. Connection has always been so important to Julia and it was good to see that she had made some in this program after those last years of high school which were so isolating and difficult.

Last Monday, on her birthday and MLK Jr. Day, she went to Elliot House for the first time.  This is her first adult program, not quite a day program, it allows for a bit more autonomy and some self-determination.  The clients are not obligated to be there everyday or even every hour of days when they are there.  It is a clubhouse model and there seems to be an emphasis of taking care of the facility and individual learning.  At present, I don’t think that Julia is doing much more than hanging out in one chair or another, watching and doing a bit of talking to people and trolling the internet.  She told me she explored the building a bit late last week and, although she wants to work in the kitchen—the clients cook lunch for each other every day—she refuses to wear a hairnet which is a requirement for the work.  We’ll work on that in a bit.

Julia went to Elliot House every day last week—I only expected her to go two or three days.  This morning is was up and out.  Very willing.

I don’t think our moving has anything to do with her daily attendance; however, when she is home, I’ve been asking her to pack and move boxes.  For the most part, she has been helpful.  And she can carry as heavy a box as I can which has been greatly appreciated.

We are moving a mile and a half away because our present landlords wants to sell the blue victorian.  They lived on the second floor when we moved in but retreated to their summer house in New Hampshire when we went on lock down for Covid.  They never really returned and I think it took the awhile for them to really understand that there was no need to keep a house in Newton.  As they stayed away for a longer and longer time, I knew they would eventually sell.  They offered that I might buy my flat and for a wild moment I considered it although the main reason to buy would have been to avoid moving. The space is not great—too small a bathroom that is near impossible to change and a dining room that has served almost every use except for dining.  I loved the victorian molding and arches and built-ins but it is an old house that needs work to get it back to real glory.  Too much work for not enough pay off.  

As I packed books and took down pictures—oh, the art on the walls were the toughest to take down and wrap—I mourned the loss of all that is beautiful here.  As soon as there were no pictures, the home quickly became just another house.  

The new house, first floor of another two-family, needed work before it was rentable and the landlord let Julia and I pick colors for the walls—teal for Julia’s room, dark blue for mine, and the rest of the house painted the same green that was on my Madison walls.  I wondered about doing the green again—grey is so much more fashionable—but as soon as I walked into the painted house, I felt calm and taken care of.  Amazing what color can do.  

I’ve been pack and with the help of VNM have moved books and kitchen stuff and closet stuff and virtually anything not incredibly heavy.  Before the packing, I culled again—shocked at the amount of stuff I was willing to let go, stuff that in truth I really didn’t need to bring here from Madison.  But stuff I could not part with during that last move, three short years ago.  There is still stuff that I am bringing that I should let go of but I hold on. The why of holding on, even when the rational mind disagrees, eludes me.  It is not time yet. Is it that simple?

The movers come on Thursday and I will be happy to have all my too-much-stuff under one roof again. Then the unpacking starts and I know it will still be a good long time before pictures find their walls and this new house is a home.

During this move month, my time has been completely taken over by the physical work of moving.  Any left over brain power has been concerned with Julia’s transition, and so, I have not spent time alone and writing since the beginning of the year.  For a week or two, I did not mind.  It was almost liberating.  After almost a month, I feel my finger cramp at the keyboard and my imagination dry up as soon as I type a single word.  I know all I need is the everydayness of the exercise to get to myself again.  Always the coming back to, the return.  Recherchez. Like meditation when the mind slips away into story, bringing it back to the breath. In this case, I need to bring the mind back to the story, to the narrative, to where I can truly be myself again.

Happy birthday to me.

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