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.
My housing history after I met David was: two apartments in Cambridge, two in Summerville, two dorm years in Bronxville, New York, five apartments in NYC including one in the East Village and one in Park Slope, a town house and a house in Bloomington, Indiana, two houses in Indianapolis, one house is Madison, Wisconsin and now, one flat in Newton, MA.
I come from a family who generally planted themselves in one place and never moved—my parents lived in two houses in two north Jersey towns, David’s parents lived in one apartment and one house in the same Jersey town, my aunt moved to the second floor of her mother’s house when she married and stayed there until infirmity forced her to move to her children’s home late in life, my sister has lived in two homes in Jersey and one horse farm in Virginia. Had there been an available horse farm in Jersey, I imagine her never moving from there ever. And I imagine that Cheshire and Justin, who moved last year to a 300 year old house, are planted for a good long time, if not for the rest of their lives.
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.
The bus didn’t come for Julia yesterday and I drove her to school. When I came back into the house, I breathed in the aromas of our morning—coffee, sweet tea, bananas and chocolate chip waffles with maple syrup. Could I delineate each flavor note? Probably not but smelling one, I imagined all the others. The aroma was that of our mornings. And there was such a peace in that. Our home takes on that aroma most mornings, I suppose. It is warm and welcoming. It is a good home smell, the scent of security, from which to leave to begin a day. Such a relief. It did not have to be like that. Even now. And I appreciate the work that I’ve done to make it so. It has been a long haul.
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.
Whew! Yes, I’ve gotten this far. This far into this year and this far into life. But I’ve been wasting more than my usual share of days dithering. I wonder if I am alone in this? Courtney Martin, whose, newsletter I subscribe to, called this a “liminal pandemic moment.”
“We’re opening back up. We’re not opening back up. We want to open back up. We sort of actually don’t. We forgot how to socialize with a wide variety of people or in larger groups, so it all feels heightened—like waking up from a nap and being violently thrust into a brightly lit room of smiling, chatty people.”
Well, I am not intending to burst into any rooms of chatting people in actuality or even figuratively. Still, I feel the liminality of the moment. We are gathering tomorrow with our ‘pod’ from the last two years—Cheshire and Justin, his parents, Julia and I–which is quite comfortable. There remains, however, the rest of life–transitions, community, and what the future holds.