I have no problem tapping into my melancholy or anger, but joy can be startling. Sometimes when I am going about my business, deep in my cellular memory of persecution, pain and a certain amount of drudgery, these moments of joy are such a break from the routine that it takes a moment to realize this feeling is new, but it is good new. I'm reminded of a quote from that cinematic masterpiece, Con-Air, spoken by the sage also known as "The Mangler:"
Now he's so angry moments of levity actually cause him pain; gives him headaches. Happiness, for that gentleman, hurts.
Olive has always had a direct line between her emotions and her digestive tract. Nervous? Puke. Just a little anxious? Diarrhea. We are recovering from a brief spell of the latter. I was so relieved when it eased up that I didn't notice in the meantime, Olive had made a small jump in her level of understanding and expression.
She now reliably touches the corner of her mouth to say "yes." When I tuck her in at night, I ask her if she wants to hear Meat Song, a little ditty I wrote just for her. Sometimes she points to the corner of her mouth but when she is really tired, she presents her cheek for a kiss. It could just mean, "I don't want the song tonight so I am presenting my cheek because kisses come next in the nightly sequence." But I prefer to interpret her gesture as, "I don't feel like the song tonight, but I still love you and the song." Is my little Olive, a deep-sea swimmer in the ocean of autism, using diplomacy?
Olive has always liked music and has made it clear when she enjoys a song on the car radio, but we now have a ritual I call "Good song high-five." If one of her favorites comes on, like Timber, I will reach behind me and her hand is already there, extended to give me a small tap. Today when we arrived home from school, the song I Will Wait had just come on. Normally I would have changed stations because that song contains banjo music, but Olive was already reaching to the front seat to tap my hand. I cranked up the volume instead.
When we got to our house, Beata was already waiting. Olive got out of the car, but stood for a moment before greeting Beata. Beata said, "Come on, Olive!" and Olive reached out to high-five me again, making no movement toward Beata's car. I explained to Beata that Olive wanted to hear the song, and Beata said, "Olive, I put the song on in my car, too." Then and only then would Olive get in. She understands so much more now, and she can even negotiate.
There's lots of change afoot, and I have to remind myself change isn't always bad. Right now, Agatha is applying to study in Japan next semester. My mother has a pet peeve about when people use the word "need" in the place of "want" or even "really, really want." We need food, love and shelter. We want to watch Downton Abbbey. Yet even though I grew up deep in the world of grammar, I feel confident using the word "need" for Agatha's situation. Her private lessons have jumped from once a week for sixty minutes to three times a week for ninety minutes (her school does not offer Japanese), because she intends to take the Japanese AP exam. Agatha needs to go to Japan.
Track season has just begun and the omnipresent, often unsatisfying background task of Motivating Dana has become just a little bit easier. Anatole has become more serious about his cooking, and this passion must be recognized and encouraged.
I'm looking into a summer program for him -- for next summer -- at a cooking school. I picture him at Johnson & Wales, walking the very streets LB and I walked during that torturous semester at Brown, when we were "friends."
What will Daisy do this summer? Still an unknown. And Olive: her Tween Camp was a nice break for us, but last summer was hard on her. She liked the horses; she didn't like the horses. She liked swimming; she didn't like swimming.
And the dogs. Now that the Chicago house has sold and we don't have to be on the alert for a giant and costly repair, we can look into fencing in the back yard of this house for the dogs.
When I had toddlers, I thought life would be easier when they were older. But raising older children is like using the holes near the edges of the really big wheels that come with the Spirograph kit: precarious. Harder than it looks.