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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Friday, March 10, 2006

 

Bikini in my Baggage

I am frantic, so why the hell am I sitting here and blogging today? In a few minutes I will return upstairs in the midst of sweaters and toys that will fly around the room as I pack for Vail. I will confirm the many reservations I have made to accommodate Adam and our family.

Blogging is a nice escape from the inevitable hectic journey ahead. I have closed my door and am drinking a nice LARGE cup of coffee. I really hate packing. I hate unpacking even more. I hate planning how many pairs of socks and underwear I will need. I labour over which outfit I need for the evening – what if I don’t feel like wearing the one I chose come Tuesday night? How I yearn for those days when I could just pack a little bikini and head onto the plane – without making any plans. Okay, fine. I’ve never walked on a plane with just a bikini in my bag, but oh how I long to. Imagine if I can just walk into the middle of some strange place and let experience become me -- to let it unravel me, shape me, and become part of my memory forever. I came close many times. Living in Europe, when I had little money, it seemed I could breath in everything more fully, walk for hours, meet new people, taste the food sold on the street – flavours, locations, the people who with whom I ate -- still a colourful memory today.

I took reprieve in cathedrals on cold walking days, reading the story of stained glass windows, meditating and keeping warm amidst the low rumble and shuffle of visitors. I ate bratwurst with sauerkraut in the Markt between classes, watching German folk buy their fruits and vegetables at a price that choked me back then. I’ve walked the cobblestones of Strasbourg, close to where I studied and the fanciful boulevards of Paris from the outside looking in. I loitered along the solitary paths of the Black Forest Mountains after a snowfall, nary a cow or person in sight the higher up I went. I’ve traversed to carpet vendors in Turkey, and sipped Turkish coffee in stalls on hot summer days, stopping to listen to Muslim chanting over speakerphones, golden turrets above my head. I’ve visited David in Florence, and walked in the footpaths of great men. I’ve waltzed to grand Vienna and visited the singing hills of Salzburg, feeling Mozart not too far behind. I’ve entered the universities, the music schools to hear other student’s aspirations climbing do re me in cavernous halls, history listening. I remember the full taste of Schaumwein (Strawberry Wine), a three Deutsche Mark luxury to the pops and cracks of New Year’s Eve in Freiburg and recall the vision of gypsy huts behind treeless and grassless apartment buildings in the Slovak Republic, the decorative embroidery of table clothes and doilies trying to brighten the history of their Marxist oppressors. I’ve hitched rides to see jungles and monkeys on remote parts of islands – visited only by die-hard surfers searching for bigger waves. I’ve soaked in sunshine with the smell of warm beer and roasting chickens on the west side of the Atlantic, where African winds blew gentle kisses across my cheek.

I long to see the colourful markets of India punctuating the duller shades of a spent land. I hear the voices of Ethiopia call me to see with my own eyes, the suffering. I wait to visit Israel this May, to take a dip into Middle Eastern sand. Without walks, without journeys, without time, without freedom, we cannot discover. I’ve been on the outside looking in, and now with age and a little more money, been on the inside looking out. It is these poorer times that remain the most endearing and memorable, as well as the times when spontaneity had little use for money. The rich man’s vacation is sometimes very poor by comparison.

The family vacation: Hmm...structured, another home-away-from-home. Yes, Adam will indeed benefit from a new experience, and yes, he will likely enjoy all this novelty, and yes, it will be a lot easier to have everything around me, easily accessible. Daycares, swimming pools, shops, movie theatres. The first-world has become a series of Disney locations – one-size-fits-all, with the conveniences of home.

There is something to be said, and welcomed in convenience, in being prepared. I will think about transitioning Adam onto the plane, making books for him to visualize the experience. I have yet to pack the DVD’s the books, the food, the toys, the crayons, the hats, mitts, ski pants…and of course there are my books and computer because I don’t ski anymore (knee injury). I’ll work out, go cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. One does need a lot of STUFF for a March Break ski trip.

Adam will wear skis for the first time on Monday. I’ve enrolled him in the Adaptive Ski Program. In the afternoon, we will mush with the dogs on our first dogsledding escapade. Of course, I do not know, nor can really predict how Adam will take to all of this. I suspect he will cry when ski boots are placed upon his feet – he won’t understand why they will move, or barely, like lead. He will hate wearing the helmet and will scream (he hates putting anything on his head or near is ears). I will hold it on and say “you have to wear this,” sweetly, lovingly, as I break out in a sweat, hoping for him to calm himself. I will watch him crying, becoming scarred going down the hill, the lovely people helping him – they will be dear, I suspect. Adam will get the hang of it, he will enjoy the movement, the feeling of gravity moving down the hill. The movements will be repeated and he will become a little more at ease every time.

To further prepare, I will take him to the ski shop tomorrow. We’ll try on boots, look at skis and then talk about it some more at home with pictures. While this may make the equipment look a little familiar, it will be the experience that will make the lasting impressions.

I remember my first trip away from home with my parents. I was as old as Adam is now. It was to Ottawa. The trip was made by car, and to me it felt like a very significant journey, with stops and a night over in Kingston. When we reached our destination, we visited the Parliament Buildings. I still have a picture of myself, standing against my father at the Eternal Flame, in my little green dress with a newly bought pair of sunglasses to match and fancy white shoes. I marveled at those sunglasses, those rose-coloured lenses, and consider the memories that Adam will cherish forever from this trip, suitcases, DVD, Pringles and all. I will be looking through Adam’s lense and savour the unexpected joys of being his mom. I may still bring the bikini (there is a swimming pool), even if it comes with the rest of the baggage.

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