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Posts Tagged ‘memory’

At dinner last night, Blitzen was telling us about a new game she made up with 2 of her more imaginative friends.  She was the mom, a mermaid mom, of course, and her kids were werewolves.  

Andrew interrupts, “Um, wait, you are a mermaid but your kids are werewolves?”

Blitzen looks at Andrew like this is obvious, “Yeah, because their dad was a werewolf.”

Andrew continues, “Who played the dad the werewolf?”

Blitzen again looks at Andrew like he is a little bit dense, “Nobody.  Who knows where the dad werewolf is, and who cares?!? Anyway... so my werewolf daughters have to save me before I die,” she explains.

Then I interject,” You have so much imagination, Blitzen. I wonder if I had that much imagination in 4th grade.”  I cast around in my brain – what did you play at recess in 4th grade?  And then it hits me, I hung out with my good friend Jennie O and we played, you are not going to believe this, Seawees.  Anybody else remember seawees?  Jennie O and I smuggled them to school in our pockets (nobody had backpacks then) — they were petite mermaids with fabulously colored hair and we made up these really elaborate seawee scenarios under the lone tree (scrub bush really) in our hot, hot, dry, dry Arizona playground. 

So clearly the whole mermaid thing got transferred to Blitzen by osmosis.

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I am in Istanbul – I’ve been before.  I was rereading something that I wrote after my first trip several years ago.  An excerpt reminded me of our journey with Blitzen:

After a morning in the bizarre, turning down an unknown alley marked exit in english and turkish, a cardboard sign points the way out of the grand shopping plaza.  Hmm, am I walking through someone’s yard? Probably. Men are working (the sound of a saw and hammers somewhere) as I walk up a decrepit staircase, another sign, another set of stairs, this is the way… I think. Finally,  I can see where to go.

You have a good sense of direction, my companion says.

Well, really?  I don’t know about that. I don’t do well with maps – I reply.

A map is a different thing, she says.

No map for fosterparenthood, that is for certain.  We just keep looking for signs, hoping the staircase won’t crumble.  Somehow, miraculously, we always find the way.

 

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Blitzen had quite a list of things to accomplish this summer and we did it all.

Coney Island

Disneyland

Host cousin H in NYC for week

Fly to Arizona with cousin H all by themselves (this was edited – Blitzen and cousin H flew a day to AZ a day before us with my mother who sat in the row behind the two very independent 10 year olds and pretended not to know them)

Visit in Az and swim, swim, swim

Go to gymnastics camp

Take surf lessons

Start a family seashell collection

Swim in a lake

Ride in a convertible

The last 2 items just got in under the wire.  We rented a convertible for the last weekend of summer, took the scenic route up to Mohonk Mountain where we spent hours diving into the lake as well as hanging out in row boats, playing shuffleboard, eating fancy meals and dancing our hearts out to a live band.

It was action packed, I tell. What a great summer!

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Blitzen has some short-term memory issues. And she is 10. Consequently, she misplaces and forgets things – a lot. Last night, she was sure that her favorite necklace was in her bed but it wasn’t. Now don’t get me started on why perhaps your bed is not a safe place to store your favorite necklace.

She cried and cried, so distraught. She wanted to look for her necklace. But we held firm and said no. It was bed time, I was sure that we would find the necklace in the morning (and we did). It was heartbreaking, though, to hear Blitzen sobbing, “Why am I always losing stuff?”. She gets so frustrated. And I can relate to the feeling, there is nothing more infuriating than that memory, hovering just outside of reach, somewhere in your brain but you just can’t get it. I think Blitzen spends a lot of the day, wrestling with that feeling – what is that kid’s name, again? what is this word that I am reading? where did I put that? what did I eat for lunch?

And it makes parenting more challenging, in serious ways and in just annoying, routine ways. I sent the following text to the babysitter today:

C – B has left several items at school that need to be gathered and returned home: 2 pairs of sneakers, 2 lunch boxes, 1 iPod and several pairs of socks. Could you assist with this after school? I would be thrilled if we could locate even 1/2 of said items. Thanks

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About the 3rd grade play. It is Friday, Blitzen has a ton of lines which she has not quite memorized, she has been crying at play practice and her family may (or may not – who the hell knows?!?) be coming to school to watch.

What if she forgets her lines? What if her bio-family is unkind or crazy or doesn’t show up?

Really, it is much pressure for a 42 year old. I mean 10 year old — I keep reminding myself that this is not about me…..

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I was reading to Blitzen a few nights ago, a new book that we were really enjoying, called To Catch a Mermaid.  She was very engaged as she almost always is at storytime.  And suddenly, she started sobbing – real, sad tears.  When I asked her why she was, quite suddenly, so very upset, she replied, “I want the characters in books to be real but they are only imaginary.”

Ah, yes, I understand.  I’ve felt this way  many a time.  I have often self-medicated through literature – completely lost myself at sad or trying times in books. Since bedtime is one of Blitzen’s more difficult times of day in terms of anxiety and fear, it is no wonder that she longs for storytime to go on and on, diving so deeply into the books, giving over her imagination and attention completely to the characters.

 

 

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Andrew and I were asked to speak to a group of new recruits at our agency this weekend .  You know, break in the fresh foster parent meat.  We joined the group at the end of their last MAPP training class to share a little bit of our story, discuss some of the challenges (especially the unexpected ones!) of foster parenting and to give the group some insight into therapeutic foster care which is pretty foreign to most folks.

We talked a lot, we always do, about many things.   But I didn’t really talk about something that has been, particularly at this moment in our journey, very difficult for me – the ‘starting in the middle’-ness of fostering.  I feel as though I have picked up a great novel, perhaps War and Peace, only to begin reading on page 347  of 1498 (or whatever it is).

I have been dumped into the drama  well past the starting point.  In addition to the sense of disorientation that comes from knowing that there is a whole lot that I do not know and may well never know, there is a sense of helplessness that comes from knowing that because I missed the beginning, I am going to be clueless, and make a whole lot of stupid assumptions and corresponding missteps from now until this fine story ends.  Of course,  I understand that all parents make mistakes – that is just a human thing to do.

But it feels different.  The fear of these future errors,  looming somewhere in the distance, coupled with my very complicated feelings about Blitzen’s family of origin, have created a great and genuine sadness in me. To have been there at the beginning, not only to know, to learn, and to understand but also to have witnessed the many early, wonderful moments of Blitzen-ness, what a magnificent gift that would have been.  But alas, I am here on page 399, slowly working my way through, trying to pick up on the context clues and figure it out as I go along.

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Every once in a while, Andrew and I will do some small thing, some little action or movement, and Blitzen freaks the heck out.  This happened last night – I could tell that she was really afraid.  I pressed her, just a little, and asked her if she was remembering something upsetting.  She put her head down on the kitchen table and mumbled yes.  I asked her if she wanted to tell me about it and she got a little defensive and said, ‘No, it is my personal business.’  Indeed, it is.  So I told her that she didn’t have to share the memory or feeling with me but that sometimes when you let these things out, you start to feel better.  She shook her head. I said that it was ok, we didn’t have to talk about it more until she was ready  and I reminded her that she shouldn’t be afraid of talking to us and there was nothing that she could ever tell Andrew or me that would make us love her less.  At which point she burst into tears and ran to hide in my bed under the covers.

Yeah, I suspect that whatever that memory or emotion is, it is kinda big and pretty sucky.

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Christmas has been making Blitzen crazy.  I know all kids get a little nuts around Christmas but I think children in care feel everything so much more intensely around the holidays.   And for Blitzen, the anticipation of having a happy, friend and foster family-filled, gift-getting holiday is really just too much.

Last year, we were about 6 weeks into the foster parenting gig when Christmas rolled around and Blitzen was such an emotional minefield, that either she didn’t really notice the holiday or maybe we were just in too much of a bewildered, embattled haze to notice her noticing.  At the time, all the drama didn’t feel like it was about Christmas.  She made a list but was rather nonchalant about it.  And she had nothing (no clothes, no toys, no nothing) so our families and friends were even more generous than usual — so generous that we put some of the many, many presents away and pulled them out, randomly, as a surprise for months following the big day.  For Andrew and I, it was an overwhelming show of support and it meant so much to us.  Blitzen enjoyed her gifts but it just didn’t register which was ok — there were so many other things that we were all focused on at that time.

This year, she can’t deal — really cannot stand the waiting and, here is really the thing, the ‘not-knowing’.  I think that sums up so many of Blitzen’s triggers, ‘not-knowing’.  I might be projecting but I think she is hoping, thinking, wishing, that it will all be really wonderful, just like she dreams, but what if it is not.  Which is why she is DEMANDING constantly DEMANDING to know what we’ve gotten for her.  She cannot let it go — she pokes, badgers, prods, cajoles, cries, whines, yells and gets mad. “Why won’t you tell me?” she wails.  “Because you don’t love me, you are selfish and only thinking about yourself, as usual.”

So, I think we decided, tonight, to just tell her when she asks.  No more fighting.  At this point in her life, Blitzen simply cannot wait for the marshmallow.  We’re not giving her the gifts in advance – they are all in different states since we are traveling this holiday season — but we’re giving up on the surprise.  I think if we make good on Christmas, like we have kept every other promise and deal that we ever made with her (we have a freakish track record here – something will come along and mess it up soon but we’ve been able to do everything that we’ve said that we  would do so far) that Blitzen will begin realize that some good things can come out of ‘not-knowing’.

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As I mentioned yesterday, Blitzen really struggles with firsts.  Unless it is something that is delightful and small.  If it happens organically, she is always so excited to try something new.  Like lobster.  Recently, I met Andrew and Blitzen at a chinese restaurant where they were feasting with a friend of Blitzen’s before we all headed to a movie.  Imagine my surprise when I encountered the two 9 year old girls chowing down on lobster.  There was a big tank in the front of the restaurant and apparently Blitzen had been totally fascinated.  Her friend (this is the upper westside of NYC we’re talking about here) informed her that lobster was delicious AND fun to eat.  Blitzen just had to try it.  And she loved it, of course.  The taste, the presentation, the big old mess of scooping meat out of claws.  A grand time was had by all.

And as we work our way through the holiday season, I am focusing more and more on our firsts and thinking about our seconds.  Blitzen loves our tree and delightfully unwrapped and examined all of the ornaments this past weekend.  She remembered many of them from last year, was still enthralled by the stories.  I had separated her ornaments into their own box so she was delighted to open the container with ones that she had gotten from friends and family the year before – her very own ornaments filled with memories from last year.

Moments like these make me aware of being thankful that we are getting an opportunity to have seconds with Blitzen.  I put those ornaments of hers in a separate box because I didn’t think she would still be with us in a year when I packed those away last winter.  And as joyful (most of the time) that it is still have Blitzen in our home, it is a painful thing for me to think about the degree of uncertainty that this child has to live with every single day.  I know that she thinks every first is probably a last which is part of the reason everything is so big, so important, so precious and therefore so so so difficult.

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