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.
Julia had a very bad day at her program on Friday—perseverating on her body that she finds many, many faults with, making lots of self-harming statements, banging her head against the wall, putting hands on a staff member. After an initial melt down with lots of shouting, it took 40 minutes for her to gain some calm which is far longer than usual. She took a walk with staff which seemed to restore equilibrium, but once back at the program’s building, she slipped back into melt down.
And I did the unthinkable. I was not available and could not be immediately reached.
I am not feeling badly or guilty about this absence, but the fact remains, her team tried to call and text me and I was not available—available to talk to them, available to talk to Julia, available to come and get her. And my unavailability made everything worse. And she does not have the tools she needs to self-regulate, to regulate with the help of people who know her well. There are times when she can not regulate without my direct intervention.
Morning. Almost two hours after Julia leaves and I am getting down to the writing that I wanted to do since I opened my eyes. This morning the round of tasks, not overwhelming by any means, has induced anxiety, enough to notice. And I wonder if my anxiety can be compared to the way that Julia feels whenever she is asked to do more than two things when she is intent on something else. It appears that she cannot hold all of that—two asks and her desires—in her head and get to what she wants to do.
Alarm goes off at 7:15 and Julia does come into my bedroom to wake me up shortly afterwards. A great start to the day. I have a burning desire to start writing, immediately—something which definitely does not happen every morning. I can’t do that but I consider that there will be only a short hold on the writing.
Last Wednesday, the 9th of June, Julia finished high school. It was a great day. Julia was excited. It didn’t rain. The day was so hot that I pitied those poor graduates sitting in the middle of the football field with black robes on. I pitied their teachers and administrators more because their black robes were made of heavier material. Spectators were also melting in the 90+ degree weather but. we all survived, a bit damp and frazzled but very happy.
A few days before graduation, the principal emailed that the graduation was going to happen on Wednesday no matter what the weather was. Some showers were predicted at the time. He wrote that if there was rain, the ceremony would hold off until the shower passed, but the class of 2021 would graduate on Wednesday.
Now, I may be remembering his email worded a bit stronger than bit actually was. In my imagination, he was putting his foot down, wresting control of just this one day from the vagaries of the past year, the past 15 months. The principal is calm and appears laid back and incredibly capable, so, I could be merely projecting my need to gain some control over life and completely wrong about his needs.
It was winter and we weren’t going anywhere much that wasn’t absolutely necessary when we found Julia’s prom dress. The Lord & Taylor’s in a nearby mall was closing. We were cutting through that store from our parking space to the Apple store because my laptop was ready to die. My laptop is necessary. Rushing through the store, a short dress with a sequined bodice caught Julia’s eye and she pointed it out as we passed. I agreed it was pretty and then proceeded at due speed to the Apple store.
On the way back to our parking space darting through L&T again, I noticed the dress and this time I asked Julia if she wanted to look at it for prom. At that point we had no idea if and when a prom would happen. I thought in that instant that buying a prom dress would be absolutely aspirational. She still liked the dress and was eager to try it on. It fit and looked very cute (it was also marked down to a very appealing price). It was a promise dress, a hope dress. I couldn’t promise that there would be a prom, we could hope for a prom. And I promised myself that I would find some event sooner or later for which pink sequin would be appropriate.
It has hung on the back of her bedroom door since then. Now and again, I thought it was haunting me. Us. But now, it is just a prom dress.
Last year everything shut down, quickly in a single week. It was a dizzying time of cancellations and closings. During the last two weeks, we are in the middle of openings. I remind myself repeatedly not to forget—not forget how closed we were and how hard that was, not forget how slowly we opened and what an unusual challenge re-opening has presented to us.
I appreciate that Massachusetts is opening slowly with much deliberations. Probably not perfectly, but what has been perfect about this time? The mask mandate expires on the weekend and I am grateful that Governor Baker announced the end of the mandate two weeks before it was to happen. Although very happy to imagine being maskless, I find I have reservations about completely abandoning our facial protections. Is it really that I cannot trust two shots and two weeks? Or is it that I cannot trust that those who will walk around maskless on Saturday are vaccinated? As of today 50% of Massachusetts are fully vaccinated; 69% have had at least one dose. The percentages are higher in Newton. During the weeks between announcement and maskless days, it has been comforting to be in stores and garden centers and see everyone masked. A year of protecting myself, protecting Julia, has left its mark.
Julia put on a red plaid skirt, a green plaid shirt and a tiny white shrug today, together with some anime character knee socks and her white sneakers. The sneakers a concession because she has track after school. When I saw the clothes heaped in a pile on the bathroom floor, ready for after shower dressing, I made my sour lemon face which Julia did not see—those clothes do not go together. And admittedly, if I tried to put them together . . . but then again, I would have never attempted to put two plaids together let alone a dark red and a light green. Julia put them on and they looked okay, interesting even, somehow not outlandish at all.
Julia has her own style. Always. And she is on her own learning curve. I have said these things, thought these things for a long time. The mantra has seeped into my soul and I am beginning to believe it.
Julia will be walking in the high school commencement ceremony in a few weeks. She will not get a regular diploma—something that was hard to give up on when she was in 9th grade and something that I am so grateful that I did not hold onto. I think she might have been coaxed and prodded through the requirements and MCATS at Newton North, but not during these crazy two years, not during her rough transition from Madison in the months before shut down.
“March went out like a lion Awakin’ up the water in the bay . . . “ ~Carousel, Rodgers and Hammerstein, “June is Busting Out All Over”
Funny, I remember this line and sing it in my head as “March came in like a lion” every year this time of year. So, according to my lyrics, March came in as described. We have had warm hatless days and the snow is disappearing—we are not in Wisconsin anymore! When there is sunshine, the sky is a shade deeper than pale blue and we are searching for the first signs of spring breaking through the earth. I have to go on neighborhood walks to find those signs of spring instead of my own garden. Still missing my own little plot. I need to ask my landlords if I can use their side garden for vegetables and a few annuals again. I have another month or so to ask.
The lay of the land, so to speak, has been more interesting in the last few weeks than in many months, although there have been bumps.
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.
Some days are a writing prompt waiting for me. Notions and ideas come from everywhere inside and out and I get lost in the riches of too much. Other days, I get nothing. And then there are days, when a host of mundane tasks call out to be done immediately, and I am sure I should sit and tap on the keyboard. When the chore is getting Julia to school or a scheduled zoom for either of us, I give in, do it, but then there are days like today.
Showered, breakfasted, clothes from last night’s late wash in the dryer. Kitchen should get cleaned up to bake Julia’s birthday cake, a run to get the saki to accompany the take out ramen she wants for dinner, a vacuum of the living room that smells like smoke because the wind came down the chimney last night and the supervising that will get Julia’s art homework started. None of it taking too long but I know those kinds of tasks——They eat up your my soul. They take longer than I suppose and tiny add-on tasks pop up along the way. I’ll steam along until either it is time to pick up the supper take out or I need a nap.