The Memory of an Elephant

My son hovers over me every time I open another box of lighting fixtures or cabinet handles for our new home.

Not because he’s curious about what’s been delivered.

He’s waiting to grab the scissors as soon as I’m done with them, to put them back in the drawer where they belong. 

Change is in the air, and he’s not liking it.

***

As I pack up in prep for our move in just a few short weeks, I start with the items that are less visible, in closets, cabinets and drawers. And only when my son is not home or not in the room.

I remember to tape the boxes closed quickly.

Otherwise, he’ll unpack behind me to restore our coffee mugs and books to their correct places.

We’ve moved (many times) before. He knows what we’re doing.

But his default preference is to keep things exactly as they are.

Change is hard.

***

I suppose it’s fitting that by the end of this year’s autism awareness month, we’ll be moving into a new house that we’re building because of autism.

Autism makes it both necessary and challenging to move.

We are lucky to be able to create this home for our family, a house designed to allow us to live together with a little more breathing space. 

Of course, as with any big change, we’ve created more stress for ourselves in the short-term, with the hope that the effort will be worth it in the long-term.

Change is hard.

But, change is good.

***

While packing the other day, I found a small bin of baby toys and other mementos tucked away at the top of my son’s closet.

In this collection are three identical blue elephants. Their bellies still rattle and their plush bodies are only a little faded. Their poor trunks show signs of wear from a teething baby.

There are three of these guys because there was a time my son couldn’t bear to be without this little periwinkle pachyderm, even through a wash cycle.

Even before I knew what autism was,

I knew change was hard.

***

Our son likes things around him to be orderly and expected, due in part, I think, to his limited ability to ask questions or explain his needs.

In our new place, our son’s attached apartment is styled differently from the main house, from floors to cabinets and colors, to distinguish his house from ours. We hope this will allow the idea of “his space/his rules” and, in turn, reinforce the corresponding “my space/my rules” in other parts of the house.

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An aspirational floor plan: He can learn how to prepare food in his own kitchen. In the short-term, this will mostly involve me working out the logistics of which sink will store the dirty dishes.

Ideally, we were hoping to get his apartment set up “just right” before the move, because routines and the placement of items will quickly become solidified.

It’s one of the reasons the kid has a new couch on the way, while our family living room might feature folding chairs for awhile.

But, in reality, time and money constraints mean that there will still be a lot changes coming after move-in day. Dealing with change is just another “life skill” that he will continue to learn in our new home.

Change is hard.

And change is good, too.

***

The next few weeks will be a bit tense. We are stressed about getting everything done in time and the kid is stressed about the boxes piling up and the appearance of more and more empty shelves.

Like my son, I’m eager to hurry up and get our stuff back in order and get back to a regular routine, with some revisions.

Envisioning a sparklingly clean slate where everything has its proper place in our new home, I’ve been purging as I’m packing, donating or tossing stuff that we no longer use or need.

And, I know in this age of trendy de-cluttering, these little blue floppy-eared guys with their worn trunks—the ones I’ve been lugging around through all our moves, going on 20 years—should really go in the “toss” pile.

But I think I’ll hang on to them a little longer.

Because, while change can definitely be good,

Change is hard.

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♥♥♥

 

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Time (and Quarters) Well Spent

A beach trip really does a body good. Last weekend, I went on a three-night trip to Puerto Peñasco, Mexico (aka Rocky Point), the closest beach to Phoenix—Nine moms chilling out in a beautiful condo in a high rise on the Gulf of California. The weather was gorgeous and the company of women I was with was wonderful. 

I was initially nervous to go, although I couldn’t really pinpoint why. Even though it’s rare for me to leave my family for one night (let alone three), I knew my “boys” would survive just fine. My uncertainty was mostly because I didn’t know my fellow travelers all that well. A few I hadn’t met until we piled into 2 cars for the 4-hour drive. We all have special needs kids and we’ve been in the same circles in our local area for years—schools, therapists, social groups, doctors—but I’d never spent any extended time with these ladies. Read More

The Role of a Lifetime

In anticipation of our move in the coming year, I’ve been sifting through old papers in my home office, trying to purge before the packing begins.

The move is not just a transition for my son, allowing him to have more of his own space while still being fully supported by us. It’s also a transition for me. I’m preparing for this interesting shift in my “job description.” I’m still parenting this kid, but he’s an adult now, and that changes things. 

While cleaning out my office, I’ve stumbled across an intriguing parallel from one of my “past lives” that has given me a helpful way to think about this next phase of my parenting life. Read More

Decisions, Decisions

The walls are going up on our new home. It’s starting to become real now, even though we still have many months to go. Decisions have to be made.

I’ve never been good at making decisions. Especially making choices about things that we will live with for a very long time.

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I know it’s probably weird that I often dread making decisions about my new house. Most people would probably enjoy the process of designing their living spaces from scratch if they got the chance. But for someone who doesn’t always know what she likes, and admittedly overthinks every choice, building a new house can be torture. There are decisions to be made in every single corner. Fixtures. Flooring. Cabinets. Knobs and drawer pulls. Countertops. Sinks. Appliances. Lighting. Paint colors. Window and door styles. Baseboard size. The texture of the walls. It’s insane. We’re not even to furniture and decoration yet. How is this fun for anyone??

Of course, I’m really, really grateful to have the opportunity to create this space for our son and for us, we are so lucky to be able to do this. It is exciting. But when my husband comes home and confesses he made a decision with the crew in the field without consulting me, I’m so happy. He gets me. Read More