“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I wear two watches – one because it lights up and has an alarm and the other because it’s pretty – and check them both.
Got less than an hour to get the girls cleaned, clothed, fed and off to school. Got to board that express train to Boston.
Rhema immediately goes into, what we call, the “blind girl routine.” She puts her arm over her face and squeezes her eyes shut tight. She stumbles around crashing into things, refusing to open her eyes. Nevertheless…
clothes are donned,
curly heads are brushed,
bags are packed,
faces are wiped (only a ketchup smudge of Hope’s cheek remains),
socks, boots, coats, hats and mittens are put on.
Rush down the stairs and into the car because we’re running late.
Where’s Rhema? I rush back up.
She’s huddled in a corner at the top of the stairs, her eyes squeezed shut. Pants, boots and socks are off.
I re-dress her and lead her, un-seeing, down the stairs.
First stop, Hope’s school.
In the parking lot Rhema opens her eyes. S-N-O-W!!! Her favorite food. White snow, brown snow, yellow snow – it doesn’t matter – she loves it all. She is Ms. PacMan, the parking lot is her maze, she shovels fistfuls of snow into her mouth.
Inside Hope removes her coat while I get out her snack, her lunch, her folder and her item for Show and Share.
“Rhema, stop!” Hope giggles, trying to keep her balance. Rhema is munching the snow off the bottom of Hope’s boot. Someone walks past us, and a few pieces of snow are left behind on the carpeted hallway. Like a parched traveler in the desert, Rhema dives to the ground and eats the snow out of the carpet.
My quick conversation with Hope’s teacher gives Rhema the chance to throw off her coat and mittens and run to the art table. I bid Hope goodbye and turn to find Rhema wielding scissors and a glue stick.
“Time to go, babe,” I say cheerfully, gathering up her coat and mittens. Where in the world is that hat?
But she doesn’t want to go.
She hits the floor and covers her face. She kicks off her boots.
We struggle, my girl and I. I manage to get her clothes and shoes on. She doesn’t cry or make a sound. She just refuses to get up. She’s strong and bulky, and I cannot get her to stand.
I hear choo choos in my head. My train is going to leave me.
Then I remember a technique her teachers at Futures taught me called the Pre-school Sweep. Get her in a seated position. Stoop behind her with your knees pointed to the side (not into her back). Slide your arms under hers and wrap your hands over her wrists. Then lift.
She’s much bigger than a preschooler, but it works. We take a few steps, and she’s down again, eyes squeezed shut.
So it goes all the way out of the classroom, down the hallway, down the steps. I’m vaguely aware of people watching our strange waltz out the door.
It’s a quick drive over to her school. I blast this song, and think I still might get to work on time.
I jump out the car to unload her, and then I scream.
It’s the Snot Monster!!!!!!!
(Rhema is very good about using a tissue if you give her one within .000000001 seconds of sneezing. Any longer than that and she finds inventive ways of using the wad. This morning it’s good for hair gel on the front of her head.)
Choo choo. Chucka chucka choo choo.
I clean her up best I can with some old wipes before running into school.
Her teacher prompts Rhema to say bye to me. Every morning we do this, we wait her out.
Kneeling in front of her, I wave. “Bye Rhema!”
She squirms. She looks up at the ceiling, out the window, anywhere but me.
Time passes. The crickets chirp. The sun sets and rises again. The snow melts. The grass grows.
“Bye, bye, bye.”
I make the train, a frazzled mess, shocked that I made it. It’s 8 am.
I put the morning on rewind. I see Rhema face down in the hallway eating snow out of the carpet and can’t help but laugh. That girl. My girl. I see Hope, chattering non-stop through it all, steady as a rock, wise and strong beyond her years, and I wish I’d taken an extra second to hold her close and tell her how I love her and thank God for her. I hear Hope praying in the car and Rhema saying Bye, bye, bye. Already I miss them.
I am intensely joyful, weary, crazy, wistful, hopeful.
It’s just another ordinary autism day.