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Monday, January 8, 2018

The Long, Cold Days

Growing up in Maine, at a certain age, people seemed to have a brain subroutine that suddenly clicked into action.  When it did, they started going to Florida for the winter.  There are whole towns in Florida that are mostly populated by people from Maine.  I never really understood the urge.  I liked winter just fine.  But that subroutine must start at around age 51, because this year, it kicked in hard for me.

It's been unusually cold here.  Today is the first day above freezing since Christmas---a very long stretch for Boston.  Night after night has been below zero.  It's been windy a lot, and last Thursday we got a pretty good snowfall.  Janey went back to school after winter vacation last Wednesday, but then Thursday and Friday were snow days.  Today was a school day again, finally.

As you can guess, Janey has been having a hard time.  It's been hard for everyone, but I dare say even harder on her than most.  Janey doesn't ask a lot to be content, but she does want her days to contain certain elements---a car ride, a walk to the store, a bus ride to school in the morning on school days, predictable arrivals and departures of the people she cares about.  The cold and snow and vacation have thrown that all out the window, and it's tough.

Last Thursday night, as the storm still raged, Janey decided she needed a car ride.  She asked, over and over and over, politely and then more insistently.  In case we didn't get what she was saying, she asked other ways "Put on shoes?  Put on coat?  Music in the car?"  We tried very hard to explain that even if we had wanted to venture out in the heavy snow, our driveway was completely blocked off by the huge pile of snow the plow had left.  At one point I even took her outside after bundling her up hugely, and showed her the snow covered car.  It made no difference.  She pretty much cried herself to sleep.

On Friday, in the horribly bitter cold following the snow, Janey wanted to go to the "ice cream store", where she gets, despite the name, chips.  I tried to tell her temperatures were in the single digits, that the wind was whipping hard, that it would not be a fun walk.  I finally did give in and wrapped her up and we did the short walk---probably ill-advised, but she wore me down.

One of the toughest things has been the sudden unreliability of the school bus in the morning.  All year until now, the bus has been arriving very, very promptly at 6:15 am.  Early, but it works.  The afternoon bus is still exceptionally on time, and has a wonderful driver and aide, but the morning bus seems to have completely fallen apart.  The last 4 days there was actually school, it has just not shown up.  There is a radar app for seeing where it is, and one day, it just skipped Janey---went to all the other stops, but skipped her.  When I called the transportation number, they said the bus didn't have an aide, so it couldn't pick up Janey.  We drove her to school, found the bus, and saw the aide was on it, just fine.  Another day, the aide waited in his car by our house for the bus which again didn't show up.  He drove Tony and Janey to the school, which he probably isn't supposed to do, but we were glad he did.  Today, the bus seemed by the radar app to just completely skip all the stops except the ones right near the school.

I am not a confident driver, and driving to Janey's school is not an easy ride, especially when the streets are half filled with snow.  So Tony drove us (except the day the aide did) and he winds up going in late to work.  We have let the appropriate people know about the bus problems, but the truth is, at 6 in the morning, if the bus just doesn't come, there's not a lot that can be done that day about it. I wonder if the powers that be or the driver get how hard it is with a child like Janey.  She's outside, waiting for a bus that never comes, desperately wanting to do what she feels she is supposed to do, just get on that bus.  We wait and wait and wait, and maybe it comes or maybe it doesn't.  Luckily, Tony is still home at that hour, because keeping her from freaking out while waiting is a two person job.

I go into this in such detail because it illustrates how even fairly little things become big things when you have a child that simply doesn't understand changes in routine.  I feel like crying for Janey when I think about it.  I think the world is a very confusing place for her, and she holds onto the touchstones of the routine very closely.  She can be stoic about much of the whirling confusion, but by golly, she needs her car ride or bus ride or store walk.  It is beyond her to understand bad roads or aide requirements or buses running late that might skip kids to catch up or frigid temperatures keeping us from store walks.  Her sadness and confusion when things can't be as usual are very real and very strong feelings.

I hope it's an early spring.

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