It has been some time since I have written with the presence of chickens in my life; it has been some time since I have really written. It is not for the words failing to be there, however a lack of time. Life has a way of catching up and taking hold. Maybe it is the change of the season, maybe it is the change of moving in with him, maybe it is the kids growing up, and maybe it is me growing up too. Time and change is the one thing that is consistent no matter what happens in our lives though. So with the addition of chickens once again into my life, our lives now, I find myself slowing and taking a look around at what is important- the balance.
This past holiday week has been one of a serious change; I did not cook for my family. I went to Michael’s parents and took my youngest daughter Irene who is seventeen in tow with us. My older children survived and did let me know it will not be tolerated again next year. They had to endure a side of the family they have not before, my daughter in-laws. No one was on time, the food was two hours late, there were no left-overs to be delved out into the various store-bought to go containers for everyone to take home never returning and the deserts were so different. Mom where were you? At least they knew where I was. I am not lost in my addiction and for that we are thankful. I digress.
The Thanksgiving feast with his parents was a bit different too. The food, the company, the conversation, the kids table. I have not had a kids table since I was a kid myself. I have always had the longest Charlie Brown table ever strewn together pushing back the television and coffee table to make way from one end of the kitchen to the other end of the living room. Those who came were always welcomed, even the family I never invited that found their way to the table from my mother’s invite. Irene sat with me and the adults. I am not sure if she wanted to sit with them, the answer was no thank you when they offered- she was fine. She is always “fine.” The “them” was the kids and Irene may have been the youngest of them all still in high school. The just graduated and off to college kids who were all very chatty with smiles and talk of the latest adventures from college to work, along with several of the very older kids with scandalous adventures of their own. I am sure the conversation was fun and exciting, it sounded that way from where I sat at least and at one point I even longed for the kids table.
Irene sat alone on the couch prior to dinner with her headphones, laptop, phone and her game just in case one died and she had no choice but to use the other. Now at the first mention I would be attending dinner with his family mine said what about Irene, I knew she would survive. No matter if she were with me or them she would be ok and the truth is with less younger toddlers running rampant around the house I knew the better option for her was with me. Why? Autism.
That one word seems to sum up so much of our lives, of hers. Of course for the added bonus we get Depression, ADHD and Anxiety because why not. Someone has to do it right? Not everyone understands this and that’s quite alright. Usually most grasp the subtle nuances Irene delivers, some do not. The way she does not look you in the eye, she does not even look your way while you may be talking to her or vice versa. There are still those that just don’t get it and “it” is the idea that she can just go jump into a conversation and start asking questions. That is not Irene. That more than likely will never be Irene either. The subject at the adult table had led to this and Michael’s brother in law insisting Irene go talk to his children at the kids table immediately because they knew everything she needed to know about math and college. Now this may be true. Once again this is not something that would be happening. Instead Michael’s sister jumped into the conversation saving Irene from embarrassment, not that anyone was aware that was happening. I was.
I had noticed Irene excused herself to the restroom. Her escape. Her refuge away from people, from loud people from nosy people from pushy people from people. Not that the adults were any of that, however I am aware of how my daughter perceives the world; how she perceives me. Her refuge. A quiet place; and this place in this house was the bathroom that I would have to check on her momentarily as to not draw attention to her disappearance. When she reappeared her face was bleeding on her forehead below the hairline and on her nose. Irene had taken away her thoughts and embarrassment by picking at herself and I am thankful it did not go too far this time. That she had the ability to stop and return to the table. I think the only person to notice other than myself was Michael’s sister Leslie; she never said a word but I could tell with a look she was aware.
College. Now all of this conversation started because my Irene is on her way, it is that time. It is the time that all parents work for, they hope for; that their child who is so brilliant and bright, so successful, so young with the whole world at their fingertips can go away to any college in the country and have any future they want and work for. In fact all day today we have spent with college applications, taking brief diversions for Christmas tree decorations and pizza not to mention a few tears with the pressure she must have been feeling to be the perfect child with the perfect grades to get into college for her pushy mother. I left her alone to answer a question and oh my goodness if I told you what she wrote I could be arrested. Her mind all I can say has no limitations, no understanding of what she says and how she says and writes it can affect her life- she has no filter. Irene with all the academic brilliance she has holds no understanding of the real world and how it works or that what she writes could limit her entrance no matter how perfect her grades are.
Which brings me to the box folder. Throughout my navigating the world and advocating for my daughter with all her disabilities learning about resources and what I need to do to ensure she has all the opportunities anyone in this world has and that includes the best college experience at the best college she can get into and grasping the fact myself that no matter how brilliant my child is the reality lies in the actuality that I cannot send her across the country because I need to be able to get to her just in case. In case she needs me, in case she melts down- just in case. That’s it. I am quite aware of the facts and they are without a doubt no matter what; Irene will more than likely live with me for her entire life. She does not have the ability to navigate the world on her own. The world is too dangerous for her to understand and she needs protection. With all her academic achievements she does not understand the value of a dollar, how it is worked for and how it spends. How she can say no and yes that might even mean with her very own body- those are my fears for my seventeen year old child who I hope one day can go away to college to earn a degree and just experience that life. For even just a moment if that’s all she gets.
The box folder is the woman who works folding boxes. She has a master’s in English literature and she folds boxes for a living part-time with an organization that sends a shuttle bus for her that picks her up in front of her parents’ home and delivers her at the end of her day back to her parent’s home. Her sister told me her parents sent her to college to give her something to do for a few years and when she was done the fact remained that all she was capable of doing with her master’s degree was to fold boxes. I am sure she is the best box folder out there!
Am I pushing her? Irene. All I want for my child is happiness. That is all. She wants to go to college, she wants to live in a dorm, she want to do things away from her mother like other people do. I understand. I want to give her all those things too; most importantly I want her to be safe. It is my job as her parent to keep her safe. I get to do that today. What a gift that I get to be present for.
The Chicken Lady