I bumped into an old friend at the Autism Speaks event on Saturday night. She asked how the girls were doing. I told her about Katie getting ready to transition to middle school (Good Lord, when did that happen?) and heading off to sleep away camp for the first time this summer. But then I was stuck. I had no idea what to say about Brooke.
“She’s doing wonderfully!” would be crap. The med change disaster is still dragging on. Her anxiety is – in some situations – at all time highs. We can’t cook anything on the stove in our house when she’s home. Dinners are baked, boiled (as water makes steam, not smoke) or grilled – as in outside in the middle of winter in New England. Good times.
Yet, “She’s having a rough time,” leaves out all of the good stuff. And there’s been lots of good stuff. The quantum leaps forward in communication, emotional identification, connection. What about those? What about all the questions she’s been asking at the dinner table or the actual conversational volleys she’s been attempting with her sister? What about the pretend play with her beloved American Girl dolls?
And so I answered, “Spiky.”
It was a funny word, but it felt like the only one that was real.
“The lows are tough,” I said, “but the highs are pretty incredible.”
Yesterday morning, a little girl who was in Brooke’s class last year – not this year, last year – came to find her. She had something she wanted to give her.
I melted when I saw it. There are kids out there who are seeing my girl. Who are truly getting how utterly fabulous she is. Who are going out of their way to tell her that.
After dinner (hamburgers cooked outside on the barbecue), we went through her envelope of Valentines. Third grade is the last year in which the kids all bring them for the whole class, so I knew the envelope would be full, and it was.
We looked together through the cards and set aside the little trinkets that came with many of them. Soon we had piles of Valentine pencils and temporary heart tattoos. Brooke read the names on the cards and even added an enthusiastic, “I love it!” after opening a couple that struck her fancy.
One of the last ones she opened didn’t hold a pencil or a tattoo. In fact, it contained nothing store-bought at all. It was handmade – drawn in careful crayon on simple white paper. And what it delivered was far better than any trinket.
If I thought the teddy bear had done me in, I had no idea what was coming next.
(Ed note: I hope you’ll forgive my extremely clumsy photo editing. I had to take out real names but had no idea how to put pseudonyms back in and my IT guy is fast asleep.)
Yup, the answer I’ve got is spiky. The lows are low, but I’ll be damned if the highs ain’t pretty amazing.