Bigger than a Breadbox

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My mom grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It’s located in the Laurel Highlands of western PA, 60 miles east of Pittsburgh, and was a bustling city in the mid-20th century when the Bethlehem Steel mill provided lots of jobs and kept the local economy humming.

My mom lived in Johnstown her whole life, graduating from Ferndale High School and then Conemaugh Valley Memorial Hospital’s School of Nursing. She worked for a short time in town, and then decided, as young women tend to do, that she needed a new adventure. So she moved to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

It would be hard to overstate the differences between Continue reading

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Unexpected Flight

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The drive to my kids’ middle school can be absolutely magical. The road hugs the side of a meandering creek, and depending on the time of year, we see some spectacular wildlife. In spring and summer, we’ve looked down the creek to see five startlingly white Snowy Egrets gathered to fish. We see Great Blue Herons camouflaged in the shallows hunting their breakfast. Perhaps most striking to me are the plain old mallard ducks, still floating in the icy waters all winter long. I see them as I drive by, in my layers of clothes, still shivering though my seat heater is blazing, and I marvel at their ability to float all winter with a soggy bottom.

Right now, late fall, is miraculous for the variety of birds we see as they pass through on their way south. I can’t name any of them, but I enjoy their variety nonetheless. Large geese walking the bank. Tiny black and white bodies bobbing on the water’s surface in impressive numbers.

Last week, I was driving to the school at what was, for me, an unusual time. It was late morning, and I was returning my son, Richie, to classes after Continue reading

Dinner with Beyoncé

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Not long ago, Richie and I were in a waiting room together for an hour and a half. He was (semi-)watching the movie Brave on his tablet, and I was reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs. Or I was trying to. Because when Richie has a long stretch of quiet to think, the thoughts that come into his head are varied and humorous and telling. And luckily for me, he seldom sensors them before sharing. Continue reading

What I Love About You

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My Dear Son,
The weeks of summer are flying by, and you continue to change and grow at a staggering pace. In an effort to remember some of your/our finer moments, I started a list…

What I love: That you have finally gathered the bravery to swat flies yourself. I know their buzzing both irritates and terrifies you; you seem to hear it at a volume far beyond what the rest of us do. And yet, you face your fear and attempt to get rid of them under your own power.

What I don’t love: That the glass slider in our kitchen is covered with so many splotches of blood, guts, and broken wings that I’ve begun referring to it as “Death’s Door.” (Note to self: introduce Windex.)

What I love: How much you enjoyed Continue reading

The Detention Anticipation

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My son, Richie, starts middle school in the fall. It’s a big transition for any kid, and even bigger for those on the spectrum. An unfamiliar building, an all-new routine, and unknown challenges invoke the anxiety that often goes hand-in-hand with Autism.

To help the kids with their transition, our elementary school takes all the 5th graders on an outing to the middle school. They get to tour the building, check out a locker, and get a little inside scoop from the 8th graders who volunteer to lead the tours. I’m willing to bet that the leader of Richie’s group was a boy because he told them all about detention. Richie has spoken of little else since.

“If I get detention will they yell at me?”

“If I get detention and miss the bus, will you pick me up?”

“If I get detention will that be on my report card?”

This morning at breakfast, he asked if he would get detention for having Autism.

I wanted to say, “Of course not!” but instead I asked, “What do you mean?”

“If I’m not focused and I’m thinking about something else, what if they give me detention?”

“Oh, Honey,” I assured him, “they don’t give detention for not paying attention. Listen, Richie, you are a rule follower. I don’t think you’ll EVER get detention.”

“Really?”

“Really. You get detention for fighting, for being bad, for screaming at someone.”

“Oh, okay. But what about bad table manners in the cafeteria?”