Friday, February 24, 2012

The Color Purple


Sean to Sweet Girl:  "What's your favorite color?"
Sweet Girl:  "Um.....my favorite color is purple!"

One of my favorite books is Alice Walker's The Color Purple.  If you haven't read it, you really should.  It's beautifully written and will break your heart but then fill it back up with joy and make it stronger.  I've read it at least ten times, and it's one of very few books (excluding professional and books about autism) that I actually keep from move to move.  And of course it's a movie featuring a number of black actors including an Oprah Winfrey that we haven't seen quite like this in several years.  It follows the life and (many) struggles of Celie (who we meet when she's fourteen and pregnant - by her father, that should tell you a lot about this book right there) as she tries to find, not a good life but, a right life in the early 1900s.  The book gets its title from a conversation Celie has with her husband's mistress (no, I didn't make that up or say it wrong....it's a long story, you should read the book) Shug.  Shug says "I think it pisses God off when you walk by the color purple in a field and don't notice it."   She goes on to explain that it's not God's vanity but rather a thing yearning to be noticed.  Admired.  Loved.  I agree.  There are amazing things all around us if we just notice.  And maybe not admire and love but at least appreciate.


While Sean was deployed, I got caught up too much in the hardships - and when I say hardships, I fully understand that they really weren't that at all: we had shelter, nourishment, and family not to mention a million other blessings...but sometimes it can be tough even with all that - of parenting two small children, one with special needs and one too young to say for certain, and trying to navigate several big changes without Sean.  I walked by purple several times a day and didn't even notice.  And I know better; I live with purple.  During that time, Sweet Girl and Little Man both grew up in approximately 5,000 different ways and instead of noticing, admiring, and loving, I kept putting one foot in front of the other.  I'm sorry for that and I can't change it, but I'm going to do better now.


Sweet Girl is the color purple.  She was put here on this Earth to be noticed.  And if you don't believe me, just wait til you're in earshot of her.  She is constant music no matter the situation.  She serenaded the Southwest airlines check-in line at the Orlando airport with selections from "Annie" for a half an hour.  A woman in line leaned over to tell me that Sweet Girl has a lovely voice and wasn't I glad she was a singer and not a screamer?  Yes, I am especially since that wasn't always the case.  So, there's the purple there: she's loud, but she's loud in a pretty way.  The irony of my girl being born to be noticed, is she gets pretty anxious when people notice her.  When that same nice woman leaned over to ask Sweet Girl her name, Sweet Girl quickly clammed up and avoided eye contact.  One of the reasons Sweet Girl doesn't really care for people noticing her, is the questions that come up.  Seemingly innocuous questions that people expect a four year-old (especially if said four year-old looks at least five or six years old) to be able to answer.  And there is no outward physical characteristic on display to warn others that this four year-old has a communication disorder.  In other words, Sweet Girl looks typical so others expect her to act typically.   They expect her to answer questions directly, and up until now that was more miss than hit. 


I don't know what has changed, maybe her OT and speech therapy have finally started to kick in to high gear.  Or maybe something in ABA caused her brain to start firing the right neurons to the right places...I don't know but lately she's been answering questions directly (see above).  You ask her a (reasonable question, I mean we haven't tackled the Supreme Court Justices or Relativity Theory yet) question and she will answer.  My parents stopped by the other night on their way home from vacation.  We were in a restaurant with a lot of stimuli; noise, people, background noise, and a different seating arrangement, which would normally have her stuck in a scripted loop (normally a song or repeating dialogue from a show she likes).  However, that night she sat next to Nana and when Nana asked her what she wanted to have for dinner, Sweet Girl said "I have rice."  This is not a tough question.  Any typical four year-old should be able to tell someone what they want for dinner, and for a long time Sweet Girl couldn't.  The purple here is that now she can.  Never mind it took her years and hours upon hours of therapy to do it, the point is - the purple is - she did it.  I noticed.  Admired.  Loved.  When the waiter brought her water, she looked at this total stranger, and said "Thank you!"  That's a lovely shade of purple as well.


Sweet Girl has also started using some spontaneous speech.  She's talking not to tell me what she needs or even wants, but how she feels.  Sean went on a short trip this past week, and when Sweet Girl was going to bed one night she told me "I'm sorry my Daddy has to go to work."  She misses her dad, realizes where he is, and told me about it.  Before there would have been unexplained tears, and before that there would have been no realization that Daddy wasn't there.  This morning on the way to school she tried to talk me into letting her stay home (side note:  I have no idea why she did this, she loves school and had a great day AND told me so, as did her teacher) by saying: "Um, Mommy? Maybe Miss S come to the house today."  It's not perfect.  Her language still needs work, and I could focus on the fact that she's about two years behind on this development.  I'd rather see the purple.  Who cares how long it took the plant to grow when it's bloom is this amazing?


She's become less wary of other children.  Our neighbors across the street have two boys who are older than Sweet Girl (around 8/9 years old) and have man crushes on Sean.  They ask me if Sean can come out to play.  And the other day, while we were playing outside, they rode their bikes over to our house and told Sweet Girl that they're friends with her dad.  It was rather amusing, but besides the point.  When they came over, she greeted them both and then dropped what she was doing to run to the garage put on her bicycle helmet and get her pink bike.  She saw what they were doing and tried to join in.  It didn't work that well, they have dirt bikes and she has training wheels.  They're older and have been riding bikes for a long time.  She's still working out some steering mechanics and looks awkward pedaling because she's actually too tall for the bike she has.  But focusing on that makes me miss the purple.  I noticed that she tried to make friends.  I admired.  Loved.  Appropriately, she was wearing her favorite color that day.  I wonder if I'll ever look at her and not see the color purple.  I hope not.