Susan's Blog

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Susan In Wonderland

I should be working on my book but I can’t right now. I have Town Meeting tonight and dinner to make and everyone’s around, so blogging is the thing. And of course I should probably write about yesterday, but as often happens when things are very big, I just can’t. I have to go sideways into it. Oblique = less threatening

So first I will tell you about this little funny sweet thing Ned found yesterday. It is images from the Disney movie Alice in Wonderland (or Allison Wonderland, as some in my little family say). These images are set to music that is really chopped up bits of dialog and sounds from the movie! Very weird. Gives me the same strange, flinchy feeling as the movie itself.

When Natty watched it, he was mesmerized. Allison is one of his favorite movies, though as I said I think it is too weird and it gives me an icky feeling everytime, a kind of cringing dread mixed with Pepto-Abismol pink saccharine boredom. But Nat watched this little vid and he had the strangest little smile on his face — kind of Cheshire-like.

So, yesterday. The thing that sticks in my head is when we brought Nat in, at the end. We did this because he is 18 and we have not completed the guardianship yet, so I thought we ought to bring him into the process somewhat. So he came in, after a lot of the difficult details of his upcoming education plan were ironed out (goals like improving his ability to perform household tasks; beginning work at a Papa Gino’s (!); conversing about what he has read; use of a debit card and cell phone). I felt so proud of all of the plans we were making. It sounded to me like a very full life, one that would interest, prepare, and delight him.

Nat came in and everyone sighed in happiness, because he is just so sweet and beautiful. He is very well loved there, I am always so impressed and moved by that. He sat down and our liaison summarized the meeting for him, and asked if felt it was okay that Ned and I made the choices for him about his school work for the coming year. He said, “Yes.” We asked a couple more times, to be sure he had processed the question, and then he signed his own IEP! “N-A-T, Nat,” he said. “B-A-T-C-H-E-L-D-E-R, Batchelder.” And it was done. I felt a bit odd, like I had fallen down a rabbit hole myself, but also hugely relieved to have it be over, and so smooth.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

If Only Everything Were This Easy

Is it any wonder that I love him?

Being Okay

It is time.
–Rafiqi, from The Lion King

Nat’s IEP this morning. Oh, God. The goals this time are to be not only what he does during the school day, but what he does in the Residences. I am also bringing a document regarding the guardianship. It is the formal disclosure to Nat about what is going on. In essence, a neutral person must read to him the plan for our guardianship. I think his teacher could do this, being a dear and sensitive person. “A lot going on!” as my mother would say.

I am afraid I am going to be very emotional, either during or after this meeting. I have so many feelings about it: eagerness to formulate really good goals; nervousness about the un-anticipated, the surprises; relief to get this discussion going; and of course, such bittersweet pangs. But I also feel like I’ll be okay.

While I was riding my favorite bike ride on Sunday, the song Melissa came onto my shuffle (I ride with one ear bud in and sing while I ride). Melissa, by the Allmans — that powerful brotherly duo before the peach truck ended Dwayne’s life — is the song that I most connect to Nat. It is the song that was on my Labor Tape, which Laura and I made together as part of my birth plan for Baby #1. Of course we never used the Labor Tape, but I played it a lot in my car while waiting for that baby of mine to arrive. I didn’t know I was having a boy, even though he had shown himself to me in a dream. I was always reluctant to read the signs, way back then, to trust my intuition. Anyway, I thought that if it was a girl, I would name her Melissa. I was so eager to have this baby, and I would express this impatience to my Grandma, who would always say, “In a gutte shu (?) (It will happen when the time is right).”

The beautiful opening strummed chords of Melissa came on, and I did not push the button to skip it, as I often do these days when I want to stay pumped. Instead I plunged into the treacle; I got sucked into the sweetness of sadness indulged and wallowed while the endorphins and adrenaline worked against this and kept me going. I listened to the words and let all those powerful feelings descend. “Crossroads — will you ever let him go?” And it came to me that we really do have to let our children go, as people are always telling me. It’s like we are given these beautiful souls to take care of for a brief time (that seems endless when they’re young) and we nourish them and learn from them, and they from us, and then they go on their way.

So I suddenly felt like, yes, it is okay to let Nat go. It is time. To let him move out, even though that is not necessarily his plan right now, and give him the opportunity to grow and learn among others. To live his own life apart from me. And then, to come back and visit and reconnect in new and unknown ways.

As I always tell Ben, when he is scared to try something new that I know will help him: It will be okay. This is what I knew, at last, as I pedaled home.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Everyone Here Is an Island

Oppressed by the wide open glorious day. I have no excuse to feel this way. Purely ornery. It is a lovely weekend, nothing needs to be done. Even my children are obliging by showing their best selves. Nat and I talked before he went to bed last night about the situation with lights, and how if he was calm and quiet this morning, we would make pancakes.

So he was. So we did. I ate none of them. I had eggs, Atkins style. Back on that for a little while to reduce the belly that even hours of bellydance and other ab work cannot seem to flatten. My trophy from successful childbirth? Great, but did I have to win the grand prize?

Sometimes I feel like my socioeconomic peers — all of whom seem to have wonderful plans for this Memorial Day weekend — are the people who do everything more beautifully than you, like the character in that Sylvia comic who ages terracotta pots with yogurt and monograms her children’s underwear. Most everyone around me seems to know how to drink beer and “hang out.” Ned and I don’t really “hang.” He doesn’t go out with The Guys; he never has. We both have a few very very close friends, but that’s it. There isn’t much hanging out to be done. We see our friends here and there, but it’s each other that we hang out with. And when one of us is glued to the laptop, then the other one has to fend for his/herself.

Yesterday I was so oppressed by the laughter of my happy neighborhood, floating over my way that I told Ned I wanted to move. He said, “Okay.” I went upstairs and lay down. Ned came up and softly rested his hand on my hip while I slept it off, like a bad drinking bout. He knew it was just something I was saying, because I didn’t know what to do with my feelings.

Today he said of one particular friendly-sounding get together down the street, “Let’s just walk over there,” and I said, “Okay.” And then we both looked at each other, a little wide-eyed. I truly understand my shy and perhaps anti-social or otherwise labeled children, because I am one of them. They came from us, after all. And here we are, at our dining room table, typing away while Nat marches all around the first floor, chatting himself up, and Ben plays the Wii; we are each our own island, for better or worse.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Full Day

Today began rough, just like yesterday. Nat is completely on edge again, unable to relax. He is very upset about a light that is on in the distance, at a neighbor’s house. They are probably out of town for the holiday weekend. I had to explain to him, after he bit his arm and lunged at me, that this is what happens on some weekends. People go away and they leave lights on.

Just as last summer, hearing the explanation after the initial outburst seemed to help. The rest of the day was better, with Nat going off with Gina (his other Northeastern buddy) down to Weymouth where the mini-golf lady treated him to a free game and free ice cream! Another fan for Nat! We also adore Gina. Ned said, “If only we could get her here at 5:30 a.m. when Nat is stomping around and screaming about the lights outside.” Or a be-be gun to shoot out the lights.

I went to Mahoneys with my friend while Nat was out. I bought two clematis vines to put in the sunniest spot in the front garden. It all looks heart-swellingly beautiful and smells like chocolate and blossoms because of the cocoa-hulls mulch. Got really tired and ate some chocolate (the power of suggestion).

Nat came back in a great mood and settled in for the rest of the afternoon here. We had fresh corn and sausage and salad, and ate a lot.

My mind turned to dancing as it often does after dinner. I realized that in exactly one week I will be having my Petite Jamilla workshop, at long last. This will be a six-hour workshop, half of which will be on double-veil and spinning. The other half is with Bellydance Superstar Kami Liddel, who is more of a tribal bellydance girl. That will be okay, too. Tribal is a great way to gain control over your body, with all the snake-like and slow movements.

This is the workshop which ends with a Bellydancing with the Stars segment, where the girls who take the workshop can do a 3-minute routine for the Bellydance Superstars! I got the reminder email and it looks like I am second in the dance line-up (listed as “Lilia.”) I will be dancing to the Natacha Atlas version of “I Put a Spell on You,” of course. I practiced the piece for about 25 minutes today, with Nat watching about half of it, and with Ned filming me so I can critique my performance. I’m pretty happy with it, but I’ll spare you. I have been sufficiently chastened about blogging since reading the NYT mag today.

I figure that I’ll be able to get through this recital (my first) because it will be after a long workshop and that builds camaraderie. Plus I’ll have some wine.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Men About Town

For the last few months, usually on Saturdays, Nat has been going out with his Northeastern buddy Julie, and with his friend Scott, and Scott’s buddy Christine. Their travels usually include eating somewhere like California Pizza Kitchen, or Chinese food.

It is a delightful foursome. Julie and Christine enjoy each other’s company, as they oversee Scott and Nat’s interactions with the world at large (usually downtown Boston). Nat and Scott are very comfortable with each other. They have known one another since they were eleven, having first met at the Special Olympics gymnastics team, both of their first SO experience. They have always gone to different schools, but they have similar interests: sports, bowling alleys, hanging out with lovely young women, and fine dining. Oh, and apparently, massage chairs.

Nat Told Me

It was after 9:30 p.m. I was finished dancing and about to shower, when I realized that Nat was pacing a lot downstairs. This is often his reminder of some aspect of the nighttime ritual that has not yet occurred. I rushed over to the little kitchen, which houses all the food and storage stuff for the kitchen. I pulled down the pillbox, assuming this was next.

There were no Thursday night pills. Pill-cutting is an arduous weekly task around here, and because of all the little pills and the differences in dosages and times of day, it is easy to forget a time slot. I assumed I had forgotten Thursday night, and I muttered this with Nat looking, interested, over my shoulder, while delving into the Friday night pills to pilfer from there. I poured the orange and white tidbits into my hand, but Nat did not get his glass of water.

“You already had your pills!” he shouted.
“What? Oh,” I said, and poured the pills back into Friday, yelling, “Hey, Ned! You already gave him the pills, and didn’t say anything!! I almost gave him another bunch!!” What, was he so involved with his computer? I was poised and ready for a little fight over this.
“But Nat told you,” Ned said calmly.
Nat told me. I was shaking as I considered this, three little words that change everything.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

It’s Not What You’re Eating…

I felt a blog post rumbling around inside me like gas. I am achey and bloated and avoiding. There are so many things I don’t want to face. So I’m eating and eating and trying to stay full, but the thing is, there is a big fat juicy elephant in this dining room. Nat is moving out on July 28.

Big exhalation of air. My fat full belly pushes against my belt buckle, my shoulders hunch and my hands are splayed like giant crabs across my keyboard. Crumbs everywhere, boys scattered all over the house. I want to sleep to get away from my head.

I have been forcing myself to do things with Nat, to keep going, to keep interacting, but I just feel as if I’m behind a wall. Every now and then I just stop him during his insanely quick pacing, and I give him a soft kiss. I stare into those endless Natty eyes and I just keep wanting to cry, cry, cry. How sorry I am that I could not do this myself, that I could not teach him everything he needs to know to get along out there. That stupid world. How I hate it. How I hate my inability to ease his disability.

I don’t want to deal with this. I focus on his IEP goals, spelling out specifically to his teachers what he can work on in the residences. I fill his weekends with social group and trips with his Northeastern U. buddies, chores, and walks with Ned.

But I am not looking at him as much because I feel guilty. He doesn’t know yet. I don’t know how we are going to tell him. We are going to discuss this issue at the IEP meeting next week. We’ll have ideas then. Until then I feel heavy with my gorging and my secrets.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Lines, Figs and Donut Holes

Tuesdays are full and crazy, but I luvs them. Tuesdays are when I have my Baby Bellies, and when I have to make the school newsletter, Lincoln Lines. It is a lot of working getting through both, and there are times when I have wanted to quit, but I am proud of myself for hanging in there.

Today was a good day, albeit busy. In the morning I got an email from a dad at the school who is also a good friend of ours, and he had at item for the newsletter about the Pumpkinfest Golf Tournament. Pumpkinfest is our school’s biggest fundraiser, and it is crazy busy and successful. There is, among many things, a silent auction, and the tournament was one of the prizes to bid on. I was psyched when I got the email about it because now I had my lead story. I told Ned and he said, “You are such a huge dork.”

Well, yes. But he doesn’t understand how much fun it is running a tiny media empire. I love amassing school news items from various sources: the main office, the front door notices, the school website, and parents and teachers sending me emails. Most everyone gets stuff to me by my Monday deadline, and by Tuesday afternoon, after the Baby Bellies, I can take an hour or two and lay it all out online. I come up with attention-grabbing headlines; I decide what is front page news and what is stuck in the back; I edit things so that they fit and are clear; and I get Ben to do art for a story or two. Sometimes I use Clip Art, but that stuff is so corny. Ben’s stuff is edgy and powerful, like this one he did for the golf tournament: [if no image, Blogger sucks]

I was in some kind of zone today, because it went well with the Baby Bellies. It has not gone that well much this session; there are 13 girls, plus occasional playdates come along, and I have had a hard time with all the chaos. I talked to a friend who runs an afterschool baking class like mine, and she said that the thing to do is hold them off on the snack as long as possible, and only expect to be able to teach them 30 minutes worth of stuff. The rest of the time is eating and running around.

But more than that stellar advice, there was also my expectations being too high. These are very little girls, for God’s sake. What was I thinking, that they had to learn so much bellydance? It hit me like a clap of thunder today: let them play with the veils, who cares? That’s pretty much all they like, anyway. And who can blame them? They are floating color! Candy on the breeze! Silken rainbows!

But I could not let go entirely. I still made them practice the “fold and hold” (making a pocket around themselves with their veils folded sideways and held in one hand) and camels (S-shaped body waves stepping forward). One of them insisted we call the camel move “Figs,” after her pet dog, whose belly apparently undulates in the same fashion. So then I said that we should do the camels — er, Figs — into the center of the circle when we do our recital piece, instead of the hip-lift-walk that becomes an utter mess when they try to do it.

This was easy to teach, too. You push your lower belly out, leaning back on your heels, then push your upper belly forward, followed by your chest, bringing your foot forward in a stepping motion, then pulling your shoulders back and lower belly forward again. That is how you get the “S” shape.

The girls were very good at the Figs, and the move looked much better in the piece, as I thought it would. I was so happy with their progress that I let them have their donut holes a little early and sat back while they chased each other, all wrapped up in my veils. Two of the youngest fell and got a little hurt, so I said we had to stop running with veils. I could tell that the oldest ones, whom I had kind of yelled at last week, were trying extra hard to listen to me, and I felt moved by their sweetness and it made me feel very loving towards them. And they responded by seeming happier in class than ever. One of them actually started going through my songs and picking out the ones she liked, and getting the others to just dance to them. I figured this was as good as anything else, just getting them interested in World Music, rather than shlocky pop. We only have two classes left, and as long as they practice their fold and hold and their Figs, we should be in good shape. Even with 8 donut holes per BB.

Old Friend

Old friends
Sat on the park bench like book ends.
–Simon and Garfunkel

Appearance is a funny and misleading thing. I visited an old college friend in New York this weekend, because I was giving a talk and I needed a place to stay. This is a guy who was actually so dear to us that he was one of the ushers in our wedding party. He was one of my favorite people in my dorm way back when. Ned’s too. He could imitate Mick Jagger and many others — and so could I — and that was something we used to do often into the late hours of the morning. For my birthday once he rented “Funny Girl,” my favorite movie, and gave a viewing for all of our friends in his dorm room, where he had a VCR (no one owned those back then!) and a large t.v. Another time, he got us all to watch “The Shining,” a movie that had scared the crap out of me the year before (freshman year), and he got me to appreciate it and even laugh at it. Ned and I had so many great times with him.

He and his partner own an apartment in the Dakota, and when he invited me to stay with them, I was very excited. I was also surprised by how intimidated I felt at first! Partly because I am not used to staying with friends without Ned, because it has been decades since I hung out with this friend for so long, but also because of his amazing digs and lifestyle. I am a creature of comfort, I love beautiful things, and I get kind of swept away by fame sometimes, I’ll admit it. And this place! The apartment itself, the square footage, is bigger than my house. Same era as my house, a time of heavy dark woodwork, large spaces, high ceilings, sumptuous fittings everywhere. A shower bigger than my entire bathroom at home. First apartment building on that part of Manhattan. John Lennon lived there. Yoko Ono still does. Central Park, literally across the street, is the view from most rooms.

I was full of excitement and a little dread over all the glamor, but I got back to my old feeling with him, however, within minutes. We walked a little in the park, and then had a fun dinner in Trump International Tower. It was a heady feeling being there, too, in this restaurant where celebrities dine, and where everyone knew my friend. But in the end it was just a good place to eat, very friendly and warm, not at all snobby. Later we walked home in the light rain. Tons of people going places, because it was Saturday night in New York.

I think one of the best moments was waking up, my heavily shuttered enormous window open slightly to the sounds of the rising city on a Sunday, the sun lighting up the trees below; each one seemed to be a different shade of green. I felt like Eloise. My friend was in the kitchen making a pot of coffee and emptying his dishwasher. Sitting with him and talking during my favorite time of day before doing one of my favorite things (give a talk) was just bliss. It is just so bittersweet to reunite with an old, old friend and see what is the same and what is different. I was so happy for him, to see him, to get to know his partner and see how well-matched they were, finishing each others’ sentences, laughing so much, having New York at their feet. But it was, in the end, the same old guy.

When I walked outside to catch a cab, there were tourists photographing the building. I was standing in the front gates with my sunglasses on waiting for the cab and some of the tourists were looking at me. I have to admit I felt kind of like a star at that moment, but little did they know — it was only me, on my way to Queens!

Monday, May 19, 2008

Head Over Hills and Far Away Love

Hey Neddy, you got the love I need
maybe more than enough
Oh darling, darling, darling
Walk a while with me
You got so much, so much…

Over the Hills and Far Away, Led Zep (and me)

That is what I ran to this morning. Thinking about Ned. So special. Golden, commanding, quiet, brilliant. Loyal, true, like a fairy tale prince. I was thinking, how is it that love lasts? Given all the mistakes and human ugliness? I hear so much about how it fades. You merely coexist. For the sake of continuity, for the sake of the kids. For something else. But I feel so, so, so grateful that for us it is not like that. Sometimes I cannot believe the blessings in my life.
(Knock wood).

It is my turn to help him. I want his birthday to be great, fun, exciting, peaceful, whatever he truly wants. I want his Father’s Day to be fantastic, because he is such an amazing father. But those events always coincide, and are also the same days as Nat’s State Games. How do I make each celebration really count for him? How can I make him as filled up with me as I am with him?

Friday, May 16, 2008


Beth, a writer-group friend for many years, sent me this terrific send-up/sum-up of what it’s like to be published…

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Path Not Yet Taken

I don’t know if it’s the terrible tragedy that occurred here, that I wrote about in my last post, or if it is Nat’s imminent move-out, but I feel like I was hit by a ton of bricks. I could not exercise, I could barely meet my good friend for a walk. It is a painfully beautiful day, but I spent about an hour crying. I was thinking about Nat. I am sorry to be so emo about it, but it is just huge to me. This is not about my having doubts. This is about the separation, pure and simple.

It has been a year of looking at little babies and swooning with motherlust. A year of joyful teaching of little girls and getting to know them, pouts and all. A year of watching my Max become a man, full of healthy skepticism, rebelliousness, and contempt for us, his parents. At the same time, he is still my Little, Little, with wide blue eyes and an all-knowing smile.

And I have experienced Benji becoming a more empathic, sweet and thoughtful person. He actually said to me today, “I am happy today.”

So even though I was burdened by my own depression, I could smile in sweet relief at those words, and at all the things going on in my life. I look at Natty, my Natty, my firstborn, and I want him back. I want those days when he was a baby, and I want to enjoy them this time. I want, I want, I want. But I can’t have. I have to work on pushing him out of the nest, I who once dreamt of constructing a nest of iron and ten-foot walls, with nothing but the softest pillows inside…

Okay, okay, I’m letting my ultra-sticky morose meanderings drip all over you all. Please forgive. This is how it’s going to be for awhile, while I step around yet another Big Thing in the path.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Horrible Crime

An Anonymous reader left a comment on a recent post about Brookline, tipping me off to a terrible crime that occurred just a few days ago in town: an autistic 12-year-old girl was apparently raped right in a nearby park by her van driver. You can read the horrible story here.

This man, who was arraigned today, also drove Nat a few years ago! I never thought anything negative about him. And of course he has yet to be proven guilty. That aside, this is every parent’s nightmare, particularly if you have a child who cannot readily communicate. What a horror.

I can only hope and pray that this family can heal, especially the little girl. God only knows what this is like for her.

Max’s Movie

Every now and then there will be a moment where Max still opens up and shares himself with us. I try so hard to give him his space to let him grow, and sometimes he gives me glimpses of the complex and thoughtful man he is becoming.

Max and his friend A worked for weeks on this claymation film for AP French, where they are studying French African and Middle Eastern countries, and learning about the Muslim influences there. They did a lot of research and were particularly moved by the abuse of women there. He was blown away by the repression in Afghanistan, the high percentage of arranged marriages and also the high number of women who die in childbirth. And I was blown away by Max’s talent and of course, so happy to see what’s going on in his life and mind.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Polluted Stream of Consciousness

I am working on Nat’s new IEP goals, taking the residential move into account (coming in July).

I can’t bear it!! Don’t tell me it is good for him. I feel like I’m abandoning him!

Don’t remind me of my other two sons. I feel like Sophie, in Sophie’s Choice. Any way I choose, I lose.

Everything I write down for the team to take into account, I feel a pang of , “Will they take good care of him? Will they know what he needs and wants? Will they make sure his bed is the way he likes it (sheets totally untucked, pillow mutchered). Or will they take advantage of him somehow? How will he address his private needs there safely and appropriately? Will they make him stop stimming? Will he like the kids he is in there with? Does he prefer “higher functioning” kids? How horrible is it, to wonder that?? I am horrible.

I feel like I should convert the basement into an apartment, find a great person to live there with him, let him transition slowly to living apart from us. Just like when he was little, I wanted to take him out of school and teach him myself. Keep him from the nasty world. Teach him everything in the safety and warmth of our home, until he was ready. Until I was ready. But Ned told me I was crazy, I couldn’t do it myself. I was too scattered, not a trained teacher. Just a loving mother.

And now, it’s the same. I worry that the rest of the world doesn’t understand him and love him like I do and he will be sad. I can’t stand the thought that he would be sad and no one would know, that they might just think it’s behavior or something to “reduce.”

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Gardener’s Eden

My trellises arrived just in time for Mother’s Day! Ned put them up on my neighbor’s garage wall to camouflage the ugly cinderblock. I love how it looks. I will probably train some kind of shade-loving vine to grow there, but it is so densely shaded, and the soil is so tightly packed and rocky that it will have to be a shallow-rooted vine, something that sends runners everywhere. Not sure which to choose because I need to be able to contain it and not have it consume the garage.

I spent all day picking out the rest of the plants and then digging holes. I must have been a gopher in a past life, because it gives me so much pleasure to do that. Cutting into thick soil is a bit like slicing a chocolate layer cake; and the sprinkling of cocoa shells I used as mulch got me thinking of chocolate, chocolate, chocolate! So we ate pancakes for dinner, to satisfy my sweet tooth.

Tabblo: Beautiful View
Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Card I Would Mail

I blew it this year in terms of buying Mother’s Day cards on time. But —

Oh, Mommy!! How I love you.

Because of that day you put me in a navy blue velvet party dress and brushed my hair into a bun and said we were going to Old McDonald’s Farm for the day.

For always being so happy to see me that you cry a little bit when we visit.

When you pronounced the air Out West to be so good you’d like to “bottle it.”

For driving all those times with Laura’s doll head hidden on your shoulder and not noticing it.

The way you love my kids.

Because you are so pretty, and always were, that I named my favorite doll after you.

Because you never wear any makeup, even at age 68!

For saying, “So, transfer!” when I was miserable at Trinity, my first college — and so I did. You made it seem possible.

Because of the intense, sensory-filled way that you nurture and nourish your loved ones: with food, music, stories, sweet-smelling hugs, laughter, and even anger that is brief and just.

Because you are the sweetest person I know.

I love you, Mom! Happy Mother’s Day!!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Enough, Already, With the Garden Experts!

I am so thrilled with how the front yard garden is going. Yesterday I planted all the stuff I’d bought the day before at Mahoney’s, my favorite garden store and provided them with water using the best hose reel not just on the roots but also on their leaves. Mahoney’s in Brighton (a neighborhood of Boston) is for urban gardeners. It is almost a boutique, but it is just big enough that it has small yards of shrubs, another one for interesting planters, and another one for veggies and herbs, with a large barn full of indoor kind of stuff, as well as the main parking lot area of perennials, the garden’s royalty; and annuals, the garden’s ladies-in-waiting. Mahoney’s used to be located in Cambridge, in an amazing location right off of Memorial Drive, so easy for me to get to, and so full of beauty and potential projects that going there was an event in itself for me (until that blasted Harvard took over the spot because of that wonderful location!). The first trip of the year to Mahoney’s is still an outing worthy of blissful tears, as I enter the winding asphalt paths and duck underneath arbors planted cleverly and seductively with already-blooming clematis or akebia. It smells pink there, or fresh white, and it makes your heart skip a beat with anticipation of unfurling beauty and summer fun.

I feel like an Israeli Sabra, the way I turned the zorn of my sewage-pipe disaster desert into a blooming Land of Milk(weed) and Honey(suckle). I was fretting over the scree-strewn dust out front, and consulting with many different landscape architects, until suddenly one day this week I got tired of waiting. I got tired of $10,000 estimates just to do what I could do myself. After having been in trouble for so long, I’m glad to have visited, now my burden on my garden has disappeared. I was sick of “experts” telling me that my gorgeous old apple tree was half-dead (I prefer to think of it as half-alive) or that I get no sun there (I get two hours of sun, which shines right where Nat’s bus drops him off, so ha ha to you, Mr. Negative-Expert-I-Don’t-Think-So). Or that my current path is too narrow and that my climbing hydrangea should not have been planted on my arbor. Once again, as often seems to happen in my life, the Experts are wrong! Genug schoen with the experts! You can visit this post to know more about affordable tree removal services and make your garden look better.

I got out my spades and rake and gloves (the lavender cotton ones now full of holes) and started getting rid of all the ugliness. Nat helped me dig small trenches for the bulbs Mom gave me, and I took my time (a miracle for me) spacing and laying out where all the flowers were going to go. I carefully chose all the prettiest blooming shade flowers that look as much as possible like their more stunning cousins, the full-sun perennials: white coral bells, white columbine, white bleeding heart, white and pink astilbe, pink hydrangeas, and one dwarf split-leaf mounding Japanese maple to gently oversee the lot. These flowers will always (literally) be in the shadow of the more glorious sun perennials but I think they will do very well in this location and therefore we can overlook their lesser stature and forest-y look.

I made a path in the lilies of the valley, most of which actually came back, despite having been bulldozed this fall to make way for the new pipe. I cleaned leaves out of everything, even by hand, to bring out the full beauty of my little planties. I lay some large stones here and there to break up the lilies a little, too. And now I need to transplant some sedum from my wall, right onto the footpath to give it that winding stone path look, and I need to plant the rest of Mom’s bulbs. And I have decided that pink and white foxgloves will mark either end of the garden.

Ned and I chose some fantastic black wrought-iron gothic-window shaped trellises to cover my neighbor’s garage wall, and I will espalier some shade vines there to complete the area. And perhaps an obelisk with vines right on the empty spot where the pipe project was at its most intense. Unless that would be ongepatchket? Nah — in gardening, more is more. (Actually, in most things. Most of the time when people say “less is more,” they are trying to rationalize not spending money on something that probably needs it, like public education.)

When plumbers and experts give you lemons, plant lemon trees.


Nat will be featured on in an upcoming website dedicated to autism, created by their Medical Unit. The producers told me that they hope to cover a wide range of aspects of autism, including adults who have autism and can illustrate their concerns or interests. They are going to stay away from the causes and hopefully also the negative messages that go along with discussion of cures. The news team will be taking photos of Nat at home and at swim practice, and Ned and I will narrate an audio piece to go with it. (This is instead of using video, which is still not always the clearest medium for the Internet.)

Our participation in this new project came about because of my friend Kim Stagliano. who is a writer and the mother of three girls on the spectrum, and although we differ in some of our focuses when it comes to autism, we are bonded in our fierce commitment to our family life and appreciation of our young ‘uns in all their glory. Thank you, Kim!

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