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.
Our final morning here, we drive the 10 mile Ocean Drive and look for a beach to visit for a few minutes before driving home. We get to see another side of Newport. Big and small, mostly modern beach homes with wonderful views. It is quiet here—and I have no idea if it is the middle of the week quiet or just the nature of this side of the town. No restaurants, no where to tour. If I was to live here, this is where I would find home. This area is still not far from where the cottages are and we pass a few former carriage houses and footprints of old green houses.The surf is very small here but it is the ocean sounds in miniature. The beach is a rocky and coated with a layer of dried sea weed but there is some sand in which Julia can play. How many times, we have travelled to lovely beaches without sand toys! Forgotten at home, or impossible to carry. This time, she has her pails and shovels and there is little to use them on. No matter, she is happy wading in the surf, picking up and discarding rocks and letting hand fulls of dry sand pour through her fingers.
When ever I am at a beach, I wish hard to live by water. Listening to the smallest of waves brings me home, home to a place I have never been.
The pace of life is picking up and has been for a while although I admit to becoming aware of it long after other people who are more of the busy world. I know many people who have already gone to far away places, stayed for a month and come back with healthy looking skin and bright eyes.
This coming Sunday, I am scheduled to teach pysanky writing at my church and a friend wanting to sign up noted that there are two others events going on—a zoom Moth Story hour and an in-person music rehearsal. Wasn’t it just last week when every gathering happened in front of a computer monitor? How glorious that there are now conflicts. How glorious that travel time is now part of many plans!
But I live a small life.
On Sunday, on our way into church—we arrive an hour before services begin to go to choir practice—Julia and I noticed perfect small yellow narcissus blooming in corners around the back of the building. Without a spring garden of my own, I notice and cherish those brave little yellow blooms. I know that even though the day may be warm and sunny, there are cold days ahead. Silently, I wish the brave blooms are sheltered enough to survive another freeze.
And I wondered, had I seen blooms in this place before? I might have just before we were locked down two years ago, but what I remember from that time is only the spring flowers we saw on our Covid daily walks. I think it is probable that these little narcissus bloomed in 2020 after no one was walking into the church building and last year it was the same. I think to thank them for their perseverance and persistence, their willingness to be so beautiful even when no one was looking.
Whenever I have the time to write, I swear I have nothing to write about. It is when I have a dozen other things, when I have to ignore something very important that inspiration hits. I am also pretty good at working up to a deadline, missing it by a day or so, and laboring as if all hell will break loose if I don’t do as I promised. This seems to me an undesirable lack of moderation, of discipline, of getting into that Buddha inspired journey of the middle way.
But this was not what I sat down to write about.
Quick summary: We are in an okay place.
Julia had the week off—never sure if it is late winter break or first spring break. My plans for the week were to do what needed to be done and meet with those needing meetings especially therapies at the beginning of the week and then go somewhere—we settled on Salem where Julia has her eye on a few punk/goth stores—for Friday and Saturday. And if we were having a good time, staying until Sunday.
This was not the post I intended to write this morning. No, what follows is what I expected to write. It is this morning’s latest catastrophe that I did not expect. Julia turned 21 this weekend and I guess I should have written and posted with pictures before this morning because . . . well, because stuff happens and in this house, it happens like a hurricane or a tsunami.
We had a long, quiet weekend—celebrating with a big shopping at H Mart, an Asian supermarket, where Julia picked out old favorite noodle packs, candies and cookies. We found frozen pork buns and the best frozen dumplings we’ve ever had. She ventured into a jar of kimchi, found BTS merch and of course, we got some mochi. It was a black sesame mochi ball that held the lit candle that was ceremoniously carried into Cheshire’s dining room after we had feasted on Korean take out. We sang, Julia blew the candle out. I wished that we could have some sort of a normal birthday celebration at some future time, at the same time grateful for the generous scraps of what we have.
“For the sake of old times!” As close as I can get to a translation that makes sense to me of the words “auld lang syne.”
“Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon”
A slight variation of the Robert Berns words, but the words that sang out to me this morning. Yes, I admit to wanting to not cast too many glances back. It has been a hard year. It has been a brutal almost two years, and all my heart wants to do is to turn and face the winds of the new, hoping and praying that the new will be much, much more pleasant than the old. As a friend wrote as a wish to another friend, a wish for a more cooperative new year.
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.
This was the assignment that Julia “could not do.” It is not an incredible piece of work but we had to have a conversation about how long it took to go from Thursday’s bad mood to Friday’s fetching materials to applying paint and ink to today’s making the actual piece. I wish she had a teacher who would really critique and offer some direction to her. And then, have her use the medium on some of her favorite anime characters.
Morning before 8.I’ve gotten up, dressed, set up breakfast, taken out garbage cans, said hello to the guy across the street who is returning from food shopping—Ah, the wonder of senior hours.I wish I had opened a window last night to wake up to the birds.There is a lot of bird song this morning; the street, this tiny enclave, is quiet.Julia is still asleep—classes begin at 10, so no need to rush her up.I have my fresh, hot coffee and I put myself on the front porch to tap on this machine of see what comes to life.
It has been another challenging week although the challenges have been different.Julia did most of her school work, with even a bit of help from me; however, we’ve had trouble getting her linked into the zoom calls.I’ve asked the school IT for help—re-boot and reinstall—and then no way to connect.I was enormously frustrated yesterday.No way to get in, no way to get immediate help for class after class.Reboot and reinstall.I am almost sure it is my fault.I am probably doing some part of the set up wrong which makes me feel quite inadequate especially when I manage to sit Julia in front of her chrome book for class after class and she is utterly frustrated when it fails to connect. I wonder why I am not willing to just give her a pass, give us both a pass, duck out of school and go for a walk. Continue reading →