I am a single parent with a teenager on the autism spectrum and travel is one of my passions. Travel is a wonderful, educational experience for typical children, and my hunch that Julia would learn and grow with travel experiences was rewarded last summer in Italy. So, I am on a mission to teach Julia about the world—one trip at a time!
“[W]henever well-laid plans are unlaid in an instant . . .”
Melissa Kirsch wrote in the NYTimes two days ago in How We’re Holding It Together: “These lines keep coming back to me — when a long-anticipated trip is shelved indefinitely, when my family decides to postpone gathering for the holidays — whenever well-laid plans are unlaid in an instant”
By the time I read her lines, our holiday plans had already been upended. Julia and I went up to Conway, New Hampshire, as planned, to spend time in the enchanting land of snow with the good company of Justin’s family; however, absent from the gathering were Cheshire and Justin due to positive Covid tests.
Justin who has worked from home for years (and not just since the 2020 shut down), travelled for work for the first time in two years two weeks ago and came home with a bad cold. A take home Covid test the day before we were all to leave for NH was positive and Cheshire followed two days later but only after a P.C.R. test, her rapid test was negative.
I keep my journaling in files month-by-month. It is not as satisfying as the various soft covered writing books that I wrote in and then lined up on book shelves but far more practical and convenient. I still carry a small paper journal but it is for quick jottings that, if I am still interested in hours later, I transcribe to this screen. Where I was once meticulous to finish each journal before moving on to a new one, I am likewise meticulous about keep each month’s scribblings in its own computer file. And so, it is odd for me to still be writing in the August 2021 file on September 3. I know the intent yesterday was consolidate what I had written during our days in Maine and to publish something with the Maine photos, but I could not concentrate on a vacation summary. Descriptions of charming towns and water and sky slipping away into explanations, systems of ideas explaining our present reality. Trying to make sense of my own present “where.”
Friday was the last day of Camp Echo Bridge. Julia has only been at this city day camp for two weeks and I think it has been the best part of her summer. It is an genuinely inclusive experience for her. A very healthy mix of typical and kids with disabilities in the younger groups. Julia’s group—the tigers, clearly a name that was made up by some of the boys—was young people 14+ with disabilities; however, it is a smallish camp and the entire camp does some things together. The staff is careful and caring but most of all enthusiastic.
One glitch: One swim day Julia got bored sitting in the grass reading—she didn’t want to go into the water—and she decided to walk from the lake to the school where the camp meets. She didn’t tell anyone she was doing it and when counselors realized she wasn’t there, I hear there was 10 minutes of panic. I can count on one hand, this time included, the times Julia has wandered off from anything. Staff handled it all well and low keyed. Julia apologized and they asked her not to do it again. I think she was also scared when she didn’t really know how to get back to the school.
On Friday, in the sweltering humid, sunny heat, there was a camp show. Each group did something like a skit (or told jokes) and danced to a pop song. No pressure to perform. Julia was willing to be “on stage” with her group but not willing to stand to dance. And so, she sat while others danced. Later, when the whole camp was “on stage”—two poles with a sheet stretched between them on part of the paved school yard—she did dance. And she loved it.
It is telling that after two years I only noticed on Friday morning at 4:30 a.m. that my street has no street lights. We are catching a 6 a.m. plane Boston to Philly and then a later plane to Dayton, Ohio. It was China Sisters Reunion weekend. A Facebook post announced that this is the 16th reunion if our trip to China is included.
Ah, a trip to China. I am still marveling that Julia and I have not gotten on a plane for more than 2 years. How is that so?
And yet, we were picked up and dropped off at Logan and entered into the swarm of early morning travelers. The check in lines and kiosks buzzed with people. People everywhere! Carrying and pulling, asking questions and commenting excitedly, making people noises that made something of a soundtrack as we made our way to the departure gate. I remember but I am hearing it all for the first time. Like riding a bicycle, we quickly adapted to the old routines—printing boarding passes, finding security, getting into the TSA line, showing identification and pulling down each of our masks for a moment to make sure that the picture on the ID matched the person carrying the ticket. Julia asked if she had to take off her shoes and we both forgot to take our phones out of jacket pockets.
We left on Friday, early in the day. There was the threat of rain but there was also Longwood Gardens, one of my favorite places in the entire world, a bit more than an hour north. On the way home. Almost. It never rained but it was cloudy and clammy. Julia complained, but I was not to be dissuaded from indulging in the garden. We did some walking, less than I would have liked, more than Julia wanted. Compromise! Beds of color do not impress her, but the water fountain with musical accompaniment was pretty thrilling. Best of all was when I found the plant that is her favorite. I almost didn’t find it. It was in the very last exhibit, behind the green house, in a corner of the water lily ponds. Mimosa pudica, also called the sensitive plant. The tiny ground hugging plant with leaves that fold at the slightest touch is of never ending fascination to Julia. And she was thrilled we found it.
Emergence. I’m reading Rev. Kimberlee Tomczak Carlson’s blog post on the topic. As well as her wise words, there is a quote from Ursula Goodenough, scientist and religious naturalist:
“[T]ales of natural emergence [are] far more magical than traditional miracles. Emergence is inherent in everything that is alive, allowing our yearning for supernatural miracles to be subsumed by our joy in the countless miracles that surround us.”
To both of them, I respond: I didn’t know that emergence could be such a thing. As attached as I am to the metaphor of chrysalis with all its possibilities of gooeyness and dissolving, I have given very little thought to emergence. Yes, I know there is, or hopefully will be, a butterfly at the end of metamorphosis but Carlson shines light on the miracle of emergence, the process of claiming change. She says:
[W]e forget how miraculous we are. The sheer improbability of our existence escapes us, and we need butterfly garden-shaped reminders. Thank goodness there are small miracles surrounding us.”
It is spring, and then it’s not, and then it is, and we get to open the windows for one day.
Last Saturday was that day. I almost wished I could have spent it in my little garden plot. —Yes, indeed, I can once again plant tomatoes and basil, a pumpkin, some chard and salad greens. I did nothing to enhance the soil last year but as this is my second year, I am thinking. But last Saturday was for walking and walk we did in The Gardens at Elm Bank in Wellesley.
Elm Bank was a private residence built in the 17th century. At the turn of the 20th Century, the owner engaged architects to build a neo-Georgian manor house and hired the Olmsted Brothers to design and improve the gardens. After various owners and various uses, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and it is now owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In April of 1996, after a public process that included thoughtful consideration of all aspects of the sited leased Massachusetts Horticultural Society. The old manor house is in need of deep restoration but the garden beds are laid out and ready to be worked on for spring. We enjoyed the bulb flowers and the flowering trees, and I enjoyed just being in a working garden on the verge of a season.
Lake house.Day 3, if you count Saturday when we packed up the car, unpacked, sorted and generally unwound. This morning, Julia and I took our rented double kayak out for an early morning paddle.We were out for a bit less than an hour.I was somewhat apprehensive about finding the house on the way back.Tonight or tomorrow, longer.
Most of the household is hiking this morning, a few went food shopping, Julia is doing zoom school and I have a few minutes on the porch alone to tap on this machine.The porch faces the lake and if I move the drying beach towels, the view if lovely.The sound of water is lovely. I type in 25 minute intervals with 10-15 minute breaks to tell Julia to get outside during her breaks and to sign in for her next class.Her video is not working today.I have followed all the instructions given by support last week.Video is intermittent and re-booting and/or getting closer to the router works once or twice but with no regularity.Julia is getting used to the intermittence. When I return to my typing, I move chairs, trying to stay shaded.Continue reading →
We are home from a holiday few days in New Hampshire. Julia and I stayed at the Henry Whipple House in Bristol, visited with friends at a nearby lake house during the days, boated and swam and hiked and ate summer foods and played many games of skipbo. We wore our masks at our inn and walking in the little town center and tried to stay socially distant from everyone not in our immediate party. Sometimes that felt awkward and uncomfortable but I was grateful that most people we met were observing the same rules. I so enjoyed being spoiled a little bit—having someone else cook breakfast and make my morning coffee felt like a spectacular extravagance.
Labor Day Weekend and we were out and about playing tourists for the last few days before school. There is a good deal of anxiety but keeping busy helps. Besides touring, we hang Julia’s anime posters and did some decorating in her bedroom. Fingers crossed for Tuesday morning.
A visit to Old Sturbridge Village about 45 minutes south of us. We happened to arrive on Free Friday which made the visit all the more sweet. Visiting 1830 and talking to various craftsmen was the highlight of the day. It was a simpler time of live but even a casual visit showed how few opportunities for women there were. The Seneca Falls Convention was still 18 years away. Continue reading →