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Thursday, January 26, 2012

When I Grow Up I Want To Be Normal

My earliest recollection of what I want to be when I grow up is from second grade. Miss Hersh, who was very young and we all thought she was so pretty, had us write a story about what we wanted to be when we grow up. I wrote that I wanted to teach the deaf. I have no idea where that came from at the tender age of seven. Since then I changed my goal time after time. At one point I wanted to be Mary Richards, played by Mary Tyler Moore. She lived in a cool apartment, had a cool job at a radio station, and come to think of it she looked a bit like Miss Hersh. Some of my other goals were court reporter, artist, writer, secretary, baker, restaurant manager, wife, and mother. I’ve done four of those, and have one as a hobby (you’re reading the result of it right now!). What I’ve come to realize is that my ultimate goal has always been to be normal.

I guess I never felt normal. We lived in a tiny house in which besides my mother I was the only female among three brothers and a father. Then there’s the whole leap year birthday thing. I only ever knew two other people with that birthday, a boy named Dennis and a girl named Cindy who were both in my grade. Following two brass playing older brothers, I was expected to play brass also so I played the French horn, but my friends all played flutes or clarinets. None of that made me feel normal. I never took swim lessons, but all my friends did and I still don’t know how to swim. Don’t get me wrong, I had a happy childhood and young adulthood so I’m not complaining.

Fast forward to Hillary’s diagnosis when she was 4 months old. In the ensuing years I felt even less normal than ever before. It was as if someone had stripped me of my clothes, painted me fluorescent orange, put me on roller skates and pushed me into the middle of the rink. I knew nobody who had to deal with the issues I was dealing with, even when we went to parent support groups. Having the kid with the most disabilities and challenges is a lonely place to be. When other parents were lamenting the extended time before their child moved from crawling to walking, I was hoping that one day mine would hold her head up without support. What I began to understand, however, was that feelings are the same no matter what the challenge is. That is how I connected with other parents of children with special needs.

Now I understand that being normal isn’t what you do or what your circumstances are. Being normal is facing struggles, over coming obstacles, laughing, crying, talking, praying, yelling, whispering and having feelings. Normal is frustration, elation, and neutrality. So apparently I’ve finally grown up. I am unique, but I am normal.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Well, here we are nearly a month past Christmas and my tree is still up! We were so busy during the weeks between December 17th and January 1st, that I decided we’d leave it up until the following weekend. But we just seem to be always running here or there, and it was all I could do to keep up with regular chores, so there was no energy left for undecorating even when the time was available. That’s the good thing about an artificial tree, no hurry to take it down! Hillary enjoys looking at it, and it IS a pretty sight especially at night when the lights are low.

It was while enjoying the soft glow last evening that I realized that my house is decorated for many occasions all at the same time. There are the small flags in the potted plants in the window as well as a sailboat that Hillary made during the summer one year at school. There are the beautiful wind chimes, which were a Christmas gift this year from my dear husband, as well as the small one he brought home for me from a trip to Texas & Mexico years ago. We have the spider, of course, as described in an earlier post, I’ve already put the heart door decoration up for Valentine’s Day, and the wooden tulips Hillary made in shop a few years back sit behind the water pump lamp. On the wall above the couch hangs the Thanksgiving themed broom that we liked so much we didn’t take it down. An assortment of crocheted and woven blankets and throws adorn the back of the couch, tossed there carelessly before heading off to bed last night and they mingle with the throw pillows. Sounds cozy, doesn’t it?

We’re expecting a snowstorm tomorrow, so that will be a good time to take down the tree and room decorations. Maybe some hot chocolate and the last couple pieces of fruitcake that I know are in the back of the fridge will make the task go much quicker. Then we can each pick up our favorite blanket and enjoy the snow.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad

Mary had a little lamb, its fleece was black as ink.

It chewed the paper off the wall and spit it in the sink!”

“Mary had a bicycle and it’s a well known rumor
She ran into a barbed wire fence and tore her new silk bloomer!”

These are two of the rhymes my father used to recite to me, along with the following:

“There was an old woman and what do you think? She lived all her life on vittles and drink. On vittles and drink she lived all her life long. Vittles and drink kept her healthy and strong.”

Many people remember words of wisdom given to them by their fathers, but I remember silly rhymes. Dad was a soft-spoken man of dry wit and wry observations about life and people around him. There is much I don’t know about my father, and since he’s been gone for many years, I’ll never find out. Of all the things I might want to say to him or ask him if I could, there is one burning question I’d love to have answered. I’d like to know the story behind a certain picture that my youngest brother found among some old slides when we cleaned out my parents’ house. It’s my father, a young man, standing in front of a wall-papered wall that none of us recognize. He has his pipe sticking out one corner of his mouth, a serious expression on his face, and a lampshade on his head. There are no other pictures with that wall-paper in them. I assume he was at a party, but as far as I know he was not a drinking man, I never saw him drink anything besides coffee, juice, soda or iced tea, and the occasional milk shake. Where was that, and what was the occasion? I guess we’ll never know. At any rate, Dad was a man who loved to laugh, and he passed that on to me along with the love of silly rhymes, a dry wit and the ability to make wry observations about life. Thanks Dad!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Time Passing

For my first post of 2012, I went back to a journal from 1980 and pulled out a poem which I feel reflects the season.  I hope you enjoy it!


As present flows
Into future and past
I often wonder just
How much of this will last
For me to hold onto.
Memories last, yet fade away
Into the setting sun
That is yesterday.
The waters of time, rapidly running,
Cascading through our lives
Erode away the details; smoothing
The roughness of Pain's edges
And brightness of color
Leaving washed out paleness
To be uncovered by another.

I find this still relevant, although in a different way from 32 years ago.  I'm still the same person inside, many likes and dislikes remain unchanged in spite of how my life did. I still love pizza, and reading.  Still the scent of jasmine tea and how the smell of the library pleases and comforts me.  I still don't enjoy being too hot in the summer or sleeping with the room too warm in the winter.  Autumn is still my favorite season in spite (or perhaps because) of its melancholy feel.  Obviously I still enjoy writing about my life, my moods, my thoughts. 

My parents have passed, I've married, had children, and had a few different jobs since that poem was written.  I've met people I never imagined, done things I never expected to do when my young self imagined what the future would hold.

The year that just passed was eventful, sad, joyful, and frustrating.  I expect the year ahead to hold the same, but hopefully the joyful will dominate--at least in my memory when it's time to look back once more 12 months from now.

Happy New Year!