I know the world can turn in different ways
Most of the time, we’re simply hanging on
And under the signs of how we all behave
We might find the place that we belong
We’re gearing up for a trip back to the States, and it doesn’t feel right.
What a strange thing for me to think, let alone say, when this date on the calendar might as well have been a life raft in a stormy sea as we were preparing to move. The bright sure spot in an ocean of coming uncertainty. And so soon! And so soon. I anticipate the negative, as I always am adept at doing, and its possibility hangs over my head, drenches me in anxiety, keeps me awake.
Not to be negative.
There are, of course, all the benefits of this trip–time with family and friends chief among them–but they’re wrapped in the difficulties that come along with it: nearly forty hours on planes with small children (TWO OF WHOM ARE OURS), jet lag and sleep deprivation, The Kid’s yearly MRI under sedation the morning after the evening we land. These are certainties. Then there are the shadows that lurk around them: setbacks in adjustment, confusion over home, a prolonged feeling of displacement, of not feeling fully at home in either place. The shadows get me the most, because this is where so much of my personality lies and is at home itself: not in the sunny patches of easy social interaction and making-the-best-of-it self-help theology, but in the dark spots where grace always shows up but where I get the time wrong and arrive early, waiting for it.
And there’s the added complication: we’re making a home here.
Oh my God, what a few months it’s been. What a couple of weeks it’s been: Little Brother spouting out waterfalls of words, narrating life for us, padding into our room every morning in his footie pyjamas and giggling, jumping up and down as though he can’t believe this wonderful life into which he’s been dropped. Talking of changing nappies and cuppa tea and performances of ABC songs for everyone who will listen, making himself known to parents and schoolchildren and daycare staff and coffee shop owners and endearing himself to them all. And TK? Well, let me breathe a second.
Last week, one of the other mums asked me about the scar on his neck. He’s just gotten a haircut and the barber went a little shorter than I prefer, which of course turned out to be a gift, because now that scar is showing, and it is a gateway to our story–another point of entry for people to love him. The little redhead who is like The Niece, Australia Edition, she came up and mentioned it and showed me her own scar from a fall several years back. And it hit me: scars reveal sameness.
Last Friday we traveled en masse with the rest of TK’s class to a house across the street from the school, and as per usual, I arrived to the dark spot of my mind early: TK ventured inside to explore as per his usual, and my anxiety followed me inside after him, likely overflowing onto him, damn that shit, and I led him back outside over his protests as I worried for the millionth time about how he would “go” as they say here–how he would interact, if he would. And within seconds, the dark was flooded with light and his classmate had come outside with heaps of cars from his room: “Here, James. I brought you cars.” And I nearly cried with relief. As if that wasn’t enough–as if grace hadn’t made itself known with that fireworks display–the mum of the house appeared by my side with a bottle of champagne and passed me a glass, and we proceeded to stay thirty minutes longer than the allotted party time. LB playing inside with cars and kids and occasionally breaking into a dance as per his usual; TK moving from his cars to–are you there, Stephanie? It’s me, GOD–the trampoline with half his class, as is per not his usual. And I stood, glass in hand and various women beside me, engaging in conversation and hearing about how well James reads and how much the kids love him. And in this social setting, I glowed. So not per usual.
Then on Sunday, we went to a cookout at the house of an acquaintance and found ourselves surrounded by three other stories on the spectrum, like-mindedness and battle wounds on full display, and just like that we knew and were known. We ended the day on the beach with them all, wine in hands and children playing in various states of challenge and gift around us, as a cruise ship floated by, the sun set to golden glory, the waves lapped at our feet, and the gifts were almost too much.
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me,” one mum said of her son’s diagnosis, and proceeded to tell me about the people it had brought into their life, the priorities it had reshaped, the adjustments it had allotted. There are moments when I could say something similar and moments when such a thought makes me run in the opposite direction and I know it’s okay if I live most days somewhere in between, the shadow and the light dancing around each other to create the most beautiful sunsets.
But there are days…there are days when the light undeniably blasts through and I have to throw my hands up in surrender to the greatness of it all that I never could have imagined.
TK running around church and the town centre, approaching strangers with a grin that invites them toward him, leading LB into his path so that they are the most miraculous pair, forcing our lives beyond their small margins and into the orbit of others. His confidence is growing and palpable: he is reading, and adding, and greeting, and growing, and oh how he is talking, and all of it glows in endless invitation, dropping us into a life full of wonder. He is comfortable here. And it shows.
And so we will head to one home, and then back to another, two autumns in less than a year with a summer and spring sprinkled in, and what is that if not a gift? Among the difficulties and the scars, so many gifts. Yesterday I drove TK home from the therapy centre, and he told me about a booboo to his finger–a battle wound. I mentioned healing, and threw in Jesus for good measure because we’re working on getting him up to Santa status at least, and he queried from the backseat: “What’s Jesus doing right now?”
“The dishes, probably,” I almost said, but decided to wait until he gets sarcasm a bit more, and finally settled on, “He’s taking care of you and loving you.” TK thought for a minute, then pointed at me. “That’s him!” he declared, grinning. “Mummy, you’re turning into Jesus!” And in a moment of pure joyful shock that never would have happened were it not for the way his beautiful brain works, I let the gift open right there in my lap: a grace that allows my son to see past the flaws and the anxiety and the mess and right into what grace and Easter and redemption and love are doing: changing my heart and me into more. Showing up with champagne and cars and unspeakable beauty.
Now, God help us on that flight.