my village

Diary of a Mom Facebook status, Saturday at 2:33 pm

for the first time in (literally) as long as i can remember, i am about to get in the car with three girlfriends, take a road trip to go visit eight other girlfriends and – get this .. i’m SLEEPING OVER! am i feeling guilty as heck leaving the kiddos for the night? yup. am i gonna let that stop me from finally doing something for no one but me? nope. deep breath – here goes nothin.

I kissed my sweet Katie good-bye. A case of the weepies was to be expected, and as if on cue, the waterworks came. I knew it wouldn’t be easy to leave my big girl, but so too, I knew that it shouldn’t be so hard. She’s ten. We’re talking less that twenty-four hours. And SHE would be gone for four of them – out at a birthday party. I knew I could talk to her on the phone – hear all the details of the party.

She’d be fine.

I went downstairs to steal a hug from Miss Brooke.

“Baby,” I said, trying to steal her attention from Blue’s Clues – a futile task by any measure, “I have to go now.”

She rocked absent-mindedly in her hammock swing, eyes still glued to the screen. Her eyes didn’t move, but a little arm shot out of the swing and landed around my neck. I begged a kiss and got one, but her eyes were still on Blue.

“I love you, little Boo,” I said softly. “I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon, OK?”

She rocked. And watched. She put her hand over my mouth when Steve asked a question. And then she nearly killed me.

She said, “But I don’t want you to go.”

Katie has been begging me not to leave the house since she was old enough to say my name. She has been scheming about how we could raise enough money to pay the bills without Mama having to work (emptying her piggy bank and bringing me $2.63 with which to pay the mortgage was the all time best, followed closely by the lemonade stand plan) – or barring either of those working out, scheming to change our economy to a barter system so that we would no longer need money at all. We’ve talked through the reasons that Mama has had to leave the house for one reason or another for YEARS. I expect it. It still hurts like hell, but I am prepared for it.

Brooke has simply watched me go. Or not watched me, as the case has been. While I cried on my way out countless doors, she sat seemingly undeterred and unfazed by my departure. For a time, she began to register my leaving by saying, “You are going now” but for all indications it was an objective statement of fact rather than of her feelings about the fact itself. “You are going, I am staying, so be it.”

It has only been in the past few weeks that something has changed. She has told me on three different occasions that she did not want me to go. And I nearly crumbled. This would be one of those times.

The ‘But I don’t want you to go” nearly did me in.

I didn’t want to go either. I knew I did – I really, really did – but I didn’t. For heaven sake, my baby said she WANTED me. The girl who for years would not flinch when I walked in or out of a door TOLD ME THAT SHE WANTED ME TO STAY.

I wrapped my arms around her and squeezed. Her little cheek settled in just under my neck.

I had to find my resolve. This was important – for both of us.

I dug in and told her that I would be back the following afternoon. I told her I’d be home in time for lunch. I told her again and again how much I loved her – how much I would miss her. I told her that it was important to Mama to see my friends. I told her that I was excited that she was going to have some special time with her Daddy.

I kissed her again and squeezed her one last time.

She turned back to Blue.

And I went.

I went because I deserved to go. I went because we ALL deserve to go. I went because I have a husband with whom I don’t have to think twice about going. I went because nothing will REALLY fall apart in twenty-four hours no matter how pivotal to our family’s existence I (or they) may think I am.

I went because I needed to set an example for my girls. I went because if and when they become Mamas they will need to know that it’s not just OK, but it’s VITAL to do some things that serve no one but themselves. I went because they will have to understand that in order to continue to take care of others, they must first tend to themselves. I went because they will deserve to know that THEY are worth the same care and effort that they dole out so freely to those around them.

And so I went.

I wish I could write it all. I wish I could share every precious moment, from the first hugs to the last. From the roasted marshmallows around the campfire to the self-deprecating laughter that pulled me in like a delicious undertow. From the war stories to the PTO stories to the how one of us was deflowered stories.

I laughed. I laughed so hard my cheeks hurt. I laughed so hard I found myself sitting on my friend’s kitchen floor. I laughed so hard that I remembered who I am.

I looked around at this amazing group of women. Autism Mamas every one. Not a soul who I had known before this journey began, and now a group closer than family. They are my sisters. There’s no missing the bond we share.

We are different. We come from dramatically varied walks of life. I dare say our paths might not have crossed in any other way. Yet the feeling that we were MEANT to be friends is undeniable. These women heal me. Their very presence in my life is a salve.

We don’t always agree, but we always respect each other’s points of view. And we respect and cherish EACH OTHER.

We name our insecurities and laugh openly at our quirks. Cats don’t have dogs, my friends, this is a quirky group.

*

When the room gets to be too much for me, I walk outside. I stand beneath a light and watch the trees blowing in the wind. I listen to the party inside and smile as I happily eat my dinner alone. Anywhere else, I’d have needed an excuse. I’d be pretending to make a phone call or grabbing something I didn’t actually need from the car. I might be pretending to use the ladies room.

A friend walks out and asks what I’m looking at. “The tree,” I tell her. “I thought it looked pretty in the light.” She asks if I want to sit. I admit that I’m pretty darn happy right where I am. The room was more than I could handle so I’m taking a break. She smiles and we hang out for a few minutes in front of the tree.

No pretense. No socially acceptable answers. No judgement. Just honesty.

When I got home yesterday, I wrote the following on Diary’s Facebook page:

Outside my (blood) family, I know no greater gift than the delicious freedom inherent in true friendship. To unabashedly be nothing but who we are – warts and all – in the company of others who are doing the same is something far too rare in this world. To my mama-sister-friends, THANK YOU.

And I wrote this to my friends:

“She is a friend of mind. She gather me, man. The pieces I am, she gather them and give them back to me in all the right order. It’s good, you know, when you got a woman who is a friend of your mind.”

- a favorite quote by Toni Morrison, given to me years ago by my sister-friend Jeneil.

To each and every one of you reading this, may you be a Mama or a Dad, an adult on the spectrum, a sibling thereof or a dear soul who for whatever reason found this place and stayed, I wish you a village.

I wish you a place where you can fly your freak flag high and proud and know that you are loved. There is no greater gift and I could not be any more grateful to have that place in my life. It was hard-won, but it proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that it can be done.

i love you too, scrappy doo

you know why?

cause when God had this mad crazy idea to challenge us with these extraspecial kids

He said to himself (or herself)

i’ll give her a friend

a really good friend

who will GET it like no one’s business

but first

i’ll put them on opposite ends of the country

yeah

that’ll be fun

then i’ll watch them find each other

you know what, God?

DONE

look what else we can do

~ Drama Mama in one of the hundreds of e-mails that fly back and forth between us – filling my heart, holding me up and sustaining me day after day

*

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32 thoughts on “my village

  1. I am green with envy! And I so love that everyone here in our village, GETS IT! There are no platitudes. Just simple honesty. As always, I am grateful to have a small piece of your village every day online. I also think we need a graphic artist to design our Freak Flag!

  2. LOVE my village. Love every single one of them. Wish I didn’t have to move away from them! xoxo Jess. You were the spark that brought us all together. I count myself lucky everyday. every.single.day.

  3. Hi Jess,

    I’m a quiet observer here. I read diary every day and it gives me strength and comfort to know I am not alone on this journey. When I read this morning’s post – the part about you getting away for a night – I almost got up and cheered. I am so happy you took some time for yourself! Much deserved!

    I was reminded of a moment in my own life when I was on a flight, about to take off. I had been going through a particularly hard time with my boy who was four at the time (with a pdd diagnosis. He is ten now and we have since discovered he is more of an asperger’s kid w adhd).

    The stewardess stood in front of our aisle and we were asked to give her our undivided attention, as on all flights. But for some reason on this day I was really paying attention I guess because when she got to the part about the oxygen masks falling from the ceiling, she said:

    “Please secure your own mask before securing anyone else’s.”

    And I heard those words loud and clear! In the midst of dire circumstances, you must first make sure YOU can breathe and are well, or you won’t be able to help your children.

    And those words became a sort of mantra in my life. Almost like life instructions. And I believe in them. These short breaks and nights away so you can steal moments to just be still and breathe at the foot of a tree, is like securing your own oxygen mask.

    Thank you, Jess for all you do and for sharing your real stories so that we can all feel that we are not alone.

  4. Everyone deserves to have a place where the good, bad and the ugly can come out and the others in the room just nod their heads and say “yes, I know.” You’ve created an amazing village in person and online where we can all do just that. Stimey is right. It’s magic. “Little darlin’, I feel that ice is slowly melting…”
    Love you to the moon and back.

  5. I love your ending email. Since I’m not sure about God anymore, I’ll just say a higher power put me and an unknown together, both of us had triplets 2 weeks apart from each other. This when they were 6 months old. We both got the diagnosis about 6 months apart too. While they are still only 30 miles away, sometimes it feels like a plane trip when I need her…. but when I need her, she’s there. A truer friendship I couldn’t find!

    We are both lucky!! ;)

  6. Gosh yes, to all of it! The tree, the laughter to tears, the we deserve the time, and the they deserve the time. When it comes together like a jig-saw puzzle with the pieces spread miles apart, it becomes a beautiful picture of who we are!

  7. amazing and so beautiful. I’m glad you went. Glad you found solace in your sister friends. I hope to find the same some day. and that is amazing about Brooke. Seems like she is having some major quantum leaps happening lately. xo

  8. This was so wonderful. I am so grateful for the “village” of autism mamas I have found online. I’m still working on finding those “real life” relationships, but when I visit your blog and others I laugh, I cry, I learn, I celebrate with you, and I remember that I am not alone.

  9. I cried reading this post today because even though I know in my heart I deserve times like this I have not been able to let go enough to truly enjoy them. I have vowed though that I will keep trying but really does stink when your mostly nonverbal one is banging on the window crying because you are leaving her even if for just a short time.

  10. My own status last night was about the restorative power of a ‘girls’ trip. With my daughter cheering “girl time”, we left the boys at home and had an amazing time at the lake. Yesterday morning with coffee in hand I just sat in the fog and stared at the water and restored my soul. It must be done. And guess what…they boys survived, they even had fun, imagine that. If you can’t do an overnight, go veg. in the park for an hour during school. A baby step still starts the journey.

  11. wonderful! i have discovered how much I need the ‘tribe’ myself recently and have been doing everything I can to build one; local support groups, autism moms nights out, blogging, volunteering. If it’s there I’ll do it because that ‘tribe’ can be such a life blood when you need it.

  12. LOVE This!!! Love that I found my way to your blog over a year ago, and that even without having ever met….you are a part of my village, and I am learning to reach out more, to step out of that front door, to understand that when one of the fellow Momma’s of differently abled children asks me how I am doing, that it’s ok to fall apart, that I don’t have to smile and nod and put on a brave face and say “I am fine”. My village is growing, slowly, cautiously…I have been hurt, and I am scared, but I am learning. Thank you Jess, Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  13. You have always been able to take the everyday things of life and see the real value in them. You tap the core feelings of all of us and you hold them up for us to see touch and mostly, feel. I’m glad for all the reasons you state that you went and glad that your girls (both of them) don’t want you to go. I’m your dad and I never wanted you to grow up and go either, but we are all better for having you in our lives.
    You are such a special gem.
    Love you,
    Dad

  14. I am forwarding this to my very dear friends who have been in the trenches with me for 20 yrs. We are the “lucky ones.”
    Once again, Jess, you have said it all so well.

  15. beautiful! I love it and am sending to my D’MAC sister friends, b/c I realize I am the luckiest person in the world to have them all in my life, but sometimes forget to tell them with all the chaos. Thank you for this.

  16. Pingback: It Takes a Village « Footprints in Time

  17. Thank you Jess… you are inspiring me to go looking for my own Village. I know it won’t happen overnight, but in these early days when I’m feeling lost, you are giving me the comfort of knowing that there are special people in my future, I just haven’t met them yet.

  18. Thanks for this post. It validates what I’ve known all along, even though I sometimes don’t go out. I get a night out every Tuesday night, that is a given…. except for the past few months because DH has night classes on that night this semester. As a matter of fact, he’s got night classes 3 nights a week and I’m really missing it, but because I’ve had that night out for the past seven years, I’m not really starving for it or having a meltdown… yet. DH has been great for practically pushing me out of the house because he knows I need it. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we are no good to anyone… and we want to be the best moms possible, don’t we?

    Thank you for this blog. I enjoy reading it.

  19. What a great post. Thank you. Thank you for including everyone in the village. I am not a Mama, a Dad, a sibling or a family member…I am a teacher. A teacher with no specific “special ed” training…just a teacher that has found a deep love and respect first, for students on the spectrum and their families. I have been blessed to be able to teach privately now and dream of opening my own school (when I win the lottery…I wish I had the funds without that being necessary).

    I only “found you” a couple of weeks ago…but I am SO glad that I did. I read your posts and the replies from your other friend/readers/sisters and truly wish in my heart that I could scoop up each one of your kids and thus family and somehow make my dream work…and show you that what you dream for your children IS possible. I have seen it happen time and time again with the students that I have been fortunate enough to work with.

    I would love to share with you a specific post from my own blog if you are interested…but I didn’t want to bore you with putting it here in the replies. If you are interested in seeing it, just e-mail me at: mswendell2007@gmail.com
    I will be more than happy to pass it on to anyone interested. It is simply the story of my journey with one of my students, written shortly after he graduated high school. Our journey is not yet finished…I hope it never is.

    Thank you again for what you share…it helps me help those I see on a daily basis…giving me yet another perspective into the lives of families with the INCREDIBLE children.

  20. Pingback: It takes a village « Adoption Choices: Building families since 1982

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