girl teen: “Google it.”
boy teen: “My teacher says Yahoo is better.”
girl teen: “It’s 2011. Use Google.”
girl teen: “Google it.”
I changed my mind. It started when Sarah drove to Nashville with a friend for portfolio day. She came home with an enthusiasm and excitement about college which forced me to accept that she is ready. A realization that I had been ignoring despite the quiet cheering for Sarah from the allies she doesn’t know she has on Twitter. Sarah has a dream and it is my job to let her reach for it. She’s my baby, but this is her life.
In January, I am sending my 17-year-old daughter to college in Manhattan. I know more about the environment on Mars than I know about New York. She is going to a city that is a location for television and movies. New York is where celebrities live. It’s not a real place. I feel like I am catapulting my child into a foreign land without so much as a medpac or cricket bat.
It’s not just the unknown that frightens me. Sarah has never experienced a real winter. She doesn’t have the clothing for New York weather. How will she learn to live on her own when she doesn’t have the skills to function in a city? A really big, crowded city of people who don’t all have a family or friend connection is something she can’t possibly understand. A starving college student isn’t funny when it’s your own child and she is 720 miles from home.
This is what Sarah wants. Sarah has never been anything but wonderful. She is an amazing daughter and sister. She is a good student and talented artist. Sarah suffered in silence during the difficult times that Autism controlled our lives. She works hard to contribute to our home and harder to do her best at school. It is not unusual for Sarah to study until midnight and paint until sunrise. She does it all herself. Even in elementary school, she refused help with projects and insisted upon doing it herself. She has earned the school of her dreams.
There will be no ceremony, party or pageantry to symbolize the enormity of what is happening. Sarah is leaving home. When she falls, she will get up and keep moving forward. We are her past and her future is elsewhere. If we’re very lucky, she will come home for holidays, but she will only be visiting us. Sarah has a dream college and an infatuation with a city, but she is stubbornly determined to work hard and be her own person. She isn’t waiting for her dream to happen, she’s making reality her dream. She is already planning on a series of apprenticeships to find where she fits. I’m a weeping mess, but Sarah is going to be fine.
Hooray! Sarah is going to college. Wah! Sarah is going to college. I’m happy. I’m sad. I’m excited. I’m terrified. My heart is ripped into pieces, but I’m stashing a few of those bits in Sarah’s coat pockets. No matter where she goes, I’ll be there too. If the zombies get too close, she can toss my heart to distract them while she gets away safely.
4:00 pm – Sarah enters the house, vomits and goes to bed. Her temperature is 101.
“I stayed up too late last night. I’ll be fine after a quick nap. I have to go to a football game tomorrow night.”
10:00 pm – After a six hour nap, Sarah’s temperature is 102.
“I think I just ate too much Halloween candy this week. I’ll be fine for the football game.”
I told Sarah that I have never heard of anyone running a fever from eating too much candy. Doug and I took turns trying to explain that she needs to be fever free for 24 hours before she is going anywhere.
“I won’t breathe on anyone at the game. It’ll be okay.”
While putting clean clothes away in the girls’ room, I found a pile of garbage shoved in the corner of the closet. I threw it away. A few days later, I found a pile of empty mac ‘n cheese boxes under Sarah’s desk. I piled them all on top of her bed, which is my code for “clean up this mess before you go to bed.” The next day, the mac ‘n cheese boxes were neatly stacked ON the desk and they had been joined by several cereal and pop-tart boxes, with pictures cut out from them. A quick search of the desk contents revealed that trash was being incorporated into Sarah’s art projects. I shrugged it off as a phase and decided to ignore the pile of food packaging.
Several weeks later, Sarah now has piles of trash in her closet, under her desk, on her desk and in her window sill. Large brown cardboard boxes have been broken down and stacked under her bed. Every few days, I remind Doug that Sarah needs an art area downstairs. Even better, he needs to build an old shed in the backyard for Sarah to use as an art studio. Anyplace that is not her bedroom. Sarah doesn’t understand why the piles of trash in her bedroom are a problem. “It’s just paper.” The problem, besides the fact that she digs in trash cans to collect this stuff, is that I think she’s trying to transform her bedroom into Mrs. Galetovich’s classroom. Tomorrow night, is Open House at the high school. I am going to try and snap a picture of the G’s classroom. The picture won’t do the room justice. It is a 365 degree, full sensory experience. Even with a small 2-D picture, I think you’ll understand why I have trouble imagining that room in my house.
I wonder how Sarah will describe her art supplies on her college roommate application.
The first time Sarah ate a meal BEFORE her date, I shrugged it off as teenage weirdness. Since then, I’ve noticed it is routine behavior for her to eat food before or after, but never while actually out on a date. I imagine her telling the waiter, “I’m not really hungry. I’ll just have a Dr.Pepper.” Her motivation might be a noble attempt not to spend money. It’s more likely that this is about food issues. Maybe she thinks it is gluttonous to eat a plate full of food. Perhaps she is self conscious about how she looks when chewing food. Could it be that she wants her date to think she never eats? Whatever the reason, this is one of those “choose your battles” scenarios. Risk making things worse by saying something or wait to see if this is a harmless phase? As long as she is eating, she isn’t doing physical harm, so I’m going to let this one slide. For now. I seriously have to ask if anyone has ever been fooled into thinking that their date never eats?
Sarah is in Michigan this week and getting ready for a day at Cedar Point. This is the first time she has phoned me since she left.
Sarah: “Guess what Mom?”
Me: “What Sarah?”
Sarah: “Michael Jackson just died.”
Me: “Yes he did. Farrah Fawcett died this morning.”
Last week, I sat down to clean and re-pack the crate of emergency “supplies” that live in the van. Sarah wandered by as I emptied some nearly full coloring books and a box of crayons. “Can I have those crayons?” I said yes even though I was surprised that it was Sarah instead of Amy requesting the crayons. Sarah spends most of her free time with a paint brush in her hand, while Amy prefers crayons. Five minutes later, *one of the smoke alarms starting buzzing. Sarah was in her bedroom painting a canvas with melted crayons. I wonder how many times she would have to set off the smoke alarm to encourage Doug to build that screened back porch I’ve been requesting for nearly a decade? I don’t need a screened porch for ME. I need a porch for Sarah to use as an art studio. We also need more crayons.
*When you have five children and a husband who juggles fire, you have multiple smoke alarms. Since only one buzzed, it’s time to change some batteries.
Me: “Sarah, how many pages have you gotten done in your summer sketchbook so far?”
Sarah: “I did a lot of other art stuff today.”
Me: “Such as?”
Sarah: “I decorated my sketch board.”
Me: “How was the last full day of school? Anything interesting happen today?”
Sarah: “Fine. Nothing. Can I go out tonight?”
Noah: “Well, we played kickball outside during band. Ian punched Justin in the face and everybody was talking about it cause Ian’s a really nice kid. In health we played four square in the gym. We ate lunch in language class instead of the commons. Somebody pulled the fire alarm, but there wasn’t a fire. We did tessellations in math. I heard that some kids made the water fountain flood one of the hallways. I cleaned my locker out and backpacks aren’t allowed tomorrow.”
Amy: “I cleaned out my desk today.”
Isn’t there some urban legend that girls talk more than boys?