Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Picures and Stories

Jake, on the boat to Fire Island
There are pictures and there are stories.

A picture is a frozen moment in time. How things looked for a fraction of a second, over there, from here. And the story that goes with the picture, well, a story is another thing altogether.

There is the story under the story. Beyond the story. On the other side of the story. There is what went on before, what happened next.

I took this picture last week, when I took a day off from dealing with the dismantling of my mother's life and apartment, the dispossessing her of her things, to spend a day at the beach with my sons.

This move couldn't possibly have come at a worse time: the dog days of summer when the kids have no school, no camp and no friends around to entertain them; when everyone who is capable of it has gotten out of dodge. But here I was, trapped, sitting in an apartment in the City, sifting through every last bit of my parents' life together, downsizing my mother into a few boxes.

But that's neither here nor there, one bit of the backstory of this photo, which has so many backstories, so many threads all woven together to create this one image.

The moment is this: I'm on the boat to Fire Island with my two sons, a friend, and her twin boys, who are friends of Ethan's and have gone to camp with him this summer.

Day-tripping, we have taken the subway to the train to the taxi to the boat. But arrived with short moments to spare before it takes off, thus the desired "top deck" outdoor seats are all occupied and we are relegated to the likewise nearly full benches below decks.

Jake's got the window seat and he's loving it. I take this photo. Instagram it, and send it out over Twitter and Facebook.

Friends chime in: "Have a lovely day at the beach!"

That was my intention, a laid-back day of sand and sun and ocean and beach town. A one day mini-vacation in the midst of so much that is sad drudgery and emotional quicksand in my life right now. And the boys were to have "Fun Mommy" back for a day.

But that's not how the gods of autism saw it.

Because about ten minutes after this photo was taken?

Jacob stuck his head just a little further out the window... and the sharp wind blew his hat sheer off his head, tumbling it in the air, plummeting into the ocean below and increasingly far behind us.

And Jacob? He howled. He screamed. He beat the bench with his fists. He threw himself down on the floor of the boat and carried on an autistic meltdown to beat all autistic meltdowns. On a packed boat.

His grandfather was a Cantor. That must be where he got the lungs.

"My hat! I want my orange hat! I want my hat back!"

I heard this, well, I can't say "non-stop," because he did, eventually, stop for short whiles before working up to full steam again, but I heard this near continuously for the next six hours. And then regularly, with slightly longer breaks, for the next six after that. (And I am still hearing the occasional "What happened to my hat?" today, five days on.)

The full-bore screaming tamped down after the first hour or so, but the sporadic sobbing continued for the rest of the day. Along with demands that we go GET. MY. HAT. BACK!

Jake doesn't melt down often, but when he does, it's a wonder to behold.

I was really not fond of the stares. But didn't have the time or energy to focus on strangers. My boy was in distress, miserable and out of control. And I had to protect him. And help him (as best I could, but good lord my best was not good enough). And oh my god yes I have another kid, too, and thank god my friend just whisked him away with her two sons, and we met up with them an hour or so later when the worst of the storm had passed.

No mini-vacation. No fun mommy.

Just barely-holding-her-shit-together-mommy, once again.

And so it goes.

But the picture is lovely.

And all that it suggests.

The day that might have been.

But that would be a different story.

Just Write
I am linking this up with my friend Heather's Just Write


  1. Replies
    1. Oh, not "lie" exactly, but let's say presents just one angle of the truth.

  2. I'd give almost anything to be able to say that I don't relate to this. But I do. All too well. I have many pictures like this.

    Beautiful post, Varda.

    1. Thank you. And sorry that you can relate. The public melt-downs are just so painful for all involved.

  3. I feel so for you dealing with that level of meltdown no onlyin public but on what was supposed to be a relaxing, fun day. I also am trying to find the right words to express how beautiful your writing is, even when what you're writing about is something painful. This gave me goosebumps.

    1. Thanks, my friend. You know how much I love your writing, too.

  4. *sigh*

    I wish it had gone the other way...


    1. Thank you. Yeah, I did a lot of sighing that day myself.

  5. Beautifully written. And I understand. Oh, do I understand. I was just thinking on this yesterday, too. I was going through old photos and realizing that the story they told for me - one through the lens of autism - is different from what a person would take from a single one of those snapshots. It was a little bittersweet, reliving those memories.

  6. I've worked with children with autism, but don't have any children myself. So I won't say that I understand - because I think that you have to have been in that sort of situation to truly understand how it feels.

    But I do know good writing when I see it, and this is *very* well-written. I will be back to read more of your writing.

  7. So sorry to read this, must have been really hard for you all. This us the first time I've read your blog, found you on Mummy's Little Monkey Blog Hop.

  8. I gasped as soon as I realised what was about to happen. I so get the despair and the upset that must have caused, and really feel for you. Hope you can try the day again sometime and have a better one, although I know that may not be possible :( but something else better might happen. Over from the Friday blog hop!


I am so sorry to have to turn word verification back on, but the spam-bots have found me - yikes!