54. Home is Where Your Paperwork Is

“Home is Where Your Paperwork Is”

I am on a paper-purging spree. My husband has been scrounging up old cardboard boxes, and I’ve been filling them up as fast as he can find more. It’s kind of horrifying to see how many papers from 2010 and earlier are showing up.

But it makes sense. A was unwell for so long, and we ran out of steam as far as keeping up with boring chores. Then he grew bigger, naughtier, more ritualistic, and more anxious about objects being moved, and we never seem to have a moment to dump out unwanted stuff. So I guess our house reached this annoying state in pursuit of a good cause? That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 😉

In any case, I’ve suddenly found my decluttering groove, yay, and I’m not about to lose sight of the prize while this ruthless mood is upon me. Our house has been Too Much for us since we moved into it about ten years ago, and we sometimes get so tired of it that we are tempted to move someplace smaller. Then we think of living in a more confined space, with A policing us and keeping tabs on our bathroom use, and with no place to sit when he shoves us off couches–and we realize that there is some value in extraneous living space.

There are papers from B.A.–Before Autism–and they are shocking to look over in hindsight. It’s amazing that we used to have a different life; who can even fathom it now. All the papers I am filing now are related to IEPs, Children’s System of Care, therapies, specialized healthcare, and community resources for autism families.

I have a box for little sentimental things that A has brought home from school and camp. Who knows if he will ever know or care that these objects symbolize the past. I keep them because I don’t want to be a mom who differentiates between her child who knows and her child who perhaps never will demonstrate that he knows. And also because I can’t have nostalgic conversations with A, like I do with G. All the memories are in my own head, in photos, and in little finger paint projects. My favorites are the sensory stories told in colored pictures. His teachers are so brilliant at coming up with these–the autistic child’s impressions of fall and Thanksgiving, told through smells and colors; and pictorial representations of school trips, so that parents can climb inside these imaginative little heads, and ride along vicariously. I pore greedily over photos that get sent home too, because special ed is its own animal, and we cannot always participate in our child’s day without upsetting the apple cart.

Clearing out all this stuff is not something separate from our life as a special needs family. It feels like we are done with Phase One, and it’s time to put it behind us. If we never felt at ease in this house before, some part of it is because we were overwhelmed, and material living space seemed so trivial compared to the journey we were taking emotionally and philosophically. And now here we are, finally at that transition, when the physical and the intellectual realms are merging with some sense of ease again, and we are so grateful to be here–trucking on, enjoying our kids, and not so dependent on special needs professionals to tell us how to perceive our reality.

We’re claiming you, house. Thank you for sheltering us even when we didn’t have any Fs to give about you.


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