Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Notes from the Land of Cul-de-Sacs

Not long ago I read a story about a woman who was a teenager on 9/11, the day the planes hit the Twin Towers. Her dad worked in one of the towers and the entire family thought he was there that morning when in fact he had overslept. She talked about her relief, joy and guilt after learning he was alive, and reflecting on the years that followed she said something like, "It's not like we never fought again. As time went by I found that I still got mad at him sometimes over little things."

This comforts me. Her words soothe me because, although I am most definitely overwhelmed with gratitude at Ethan's progress and that he can talk and converse with me, and how I feel I can never take the little things for granted, there are times I just have had enough. I need a time out from the repetition, the interruptions, the obsessions. And while I am well aware and my heart hurts for those parents of children who are non-verbal, I think this is okay. I think it's all right to be human.

That being said, this is a sample conversation from a typical car ride, with me at the wheel and Anna and Ethan in the back seat:

Anna: So then my teacher told us to-
Ethan: Mom, what does that sign say?
Anna: -we had to do our writing journals-
Ethan: Mom, what does it SAY??
Me: Speed Limit 35, Ethan
Anna: so I wrote about butterflies and
Ethan: What does THAT sign say?
Anna: how pretty they are and then
Ethan: Mooom? Does it say "No outlet?"
Anna: MOM!! He keeps interrupting me!!
Me: Ethan, it says "Children Ahead."
Anna: So then I was writing-
Ethan: How do you spell "Children?"
Anna: MOOOM!!

I sometimes feel as if I am a two-headed creature, carrying on conversations out of both sides of my mouth.

When I'm alone with Ethan, on the way to and from school, right now it's all about the signs and cul-de-sacs.

We talk about the signs leading up to the school. "No parking!" Ethan announces. If a car is in the spot, he yells, "They broke the rules!" He laments the missing F on the "Fire Lane" sign. He wants to touch the signs. He wants me to read the "Turn Cell Phones Off" sign at the school's front entrance. Or spell it. Or both.

Going home, he looks judiciously for yellow "No outlet" signs posted on top of the green street signs. "There's one!" he yells with joy. "Can we go down there?"

I am (proud?) to say we have now explored nearly all of the dead ends on our side of town. We've driven down streets I never would have considered exploring. None of them are all that interesting, but that's beside the point. We've determined together that Ethan likes cul-de-sacs but not dead-ends (which he calls "scary"). And before you say "Cul-de-sacs ARE dead ends," please note that in our world, cul-de-sacs are fun merry-go-rounds we can turn around in, while dead ends just stop abruptly.

All of this cul-de-sac talk actually had me pondering why, in Massachusetts (where I grew up) the street signs read "Dead End," while in Connecticut they say "No Outlet," as if they are trying to sound more civilized and less blunt here. Yes, these are the things you think about when you are winding around a cul-de-sac while your child yells "Wheeeee!" I also remembered that I actually grew up on a dead end street. Not a cul-de-sac, mind you. This was working class Gilbertville, Mass. My dead end concluded at the trash cans for my grandmother's apartment building just up the street from our own.

See, I started writing this grumpily, but now I'm smiling. Perhaps it's because the kids are in bed and all street conversation has ceased for the night. Or maybe because hey, at least we're conversing about something. Ethan IS letting me into his world. If we could just crack it open a little wider, that'd be great. If we could do a little more relating and a little less spelling, that'd be nice, too. But then again, this IS how he is relating. So for now I'll go with the flow, and when I need to, the Excederin, at the end of an especially long day of sign identification, spelling bee training, and dead end exploring.


Rebecca said...

U rock! I get lost when my gal's motor mouth looses it's off button. So many questions and I'm so literal, uh. It's great to read and see how God graces you in motherhood!

Anonymous said...

hope never stops talking and i cannot imagine trying to keep up with two different conversations at once!
no outlets, huh? i learned something new tonight.=)