First, let me explain the title. Isla loves a variety of music and she always has a set of several songs that are her favorite. It’s really more than “favorite”. She grows attached. She requests several times each day to hear songs that speak to her on this mystery level I might never know. One of her most favorite songs is “I Will Buy You A New Life” by Everclear. She clearly has impeccable taste.
I chose that song title to represent the #1 on my list of 5 Things I Think About On Autism Acceptance Day in the year 2017. My number one thought was “Where will we be one year from now?” I think about this every new year, but this year is different. I hope we will have a new life.
I hope we are living in Ohio. Not somewhere amazing. A place that fits us. Small, safe, with everything close by. In a state that offers her a scholarship and expanded medical coverage. Her dad recently gave his permission for me to cross state lines, based on the health and educational benefit to her. So this is an exciting time.
In one year I hope that she is finishing up her first year at a private school for children with ASD and other related developmental delays. A lovely, small school that I have been following for three years on social media. A school with small classroom sizes. A school that integrates speech, behavioral, and occupational therapy into their curriculum. A school that teaches taekwondo in their after school program. A school that offers art and music therapy, which happen to be two things she is the most interested in. Two things that she is the most talented in. A school that employs staff who will understand her challenges and have experience with her particular disability. I will worry less that one day I will get a phone call from her school because my daughter is being restrained or arrested by ill equipped, underprepared, unfit police officers because she had a meltdown. I won’t worry so much that she might be falling through the cracks.
Still I am scared. Admitting my ideas to her dad was hard. I was afraid of his reaction because I thought his reaction would be the worst. It turned out to be the easiest. I am afraid of telling her teacher. Her wonderful teacher who has been teaching her since she was four years old. The teacher who has helped carry her through these years. Those first years, which were unfamiliar, foreign, and unpredictable for me. She has been an unfailing guide. A wonderful guide for my daughter. I don’t want Isla to ever forget her. But it hasn’t been just her teacher. It was her first preschool teacher too. The whole school. They represent a time in my life where I needed people the most. When I had to leave my screaming and crying three-year-old child at a school she did not know and with people she did not know. When autism was officially new to us. When our daughter couldn’t speak. When they used to tell me she sat alone in a corner a lot. When I was first a single mom, alone with a child who had special needs and my utilities were being turned off. How can it not be my safe place?
I don’t want her to forget her best friend Maggie, who has Down Syndrome. She was her first friend ever. The little girl who is in photos with my daughter during her first year of preschool at three years of age. The little girl who laughs at all of her jokes. The little girl who hugged her goodbye at her first recital ever.
So hard to get used to leaving things behind. The general area where I grew up and where she grew up. Or where I know where everything is. My best friends live around the corner. My brothers best friends live across the street. My mother works just up the highway. The pizza place where my parents had their first date and where I take my daughter once a month is less than a quarter-mile away. Just up the highway by the Honda shop is an apartment building where my aunt used to live. And I remember my older brother and I stole my moms car while we visited once. We drove it down the street. Once when we were really really poor, I remember my brother stole a bag of chocolate from the gas station just up the street from me where I get my coffee every day now. When I was just 12 or 13 I think. We drove a really bad car and we had to quickly kick start it to get away! I remember festivals in the parking lot where the post office is now. I pass the first apartment I ever lived in with her dad every day on my way to work.
I am scared but I am doing this no matter what. I am not going that far away. I will be okay. It isn’t having to move that scares me, really. It’s just the unknown of all of it. It’s wondering what her reaction is going to be. It’s watching her go through it. Because I know it will be hard and I hope in the future she either doesn’t remember or forgives me and realizes that I did it because it was the best thing for her.
Tonight I bought her a new book bag. Because she needs it for a new school. As soon as I know where I’m moving, I am going to talk to her about her new life.
I hope she loves it at least as much as the book bag.