The day before we turned our house keys over to the new owners, Mike discovered a place we’d completely missed packing: the trophy case.
We’d somewhat ironically filled it with our childhood awards, my Math Olympiad certificates and felt junior high “letters” for marching band sitting alongside Mike’s Eagle Scout photo. It was a prideful shrine to our combined childhood dorkiness and over the years we’d added to the collection with sports medals (ahem, “participation trophies”) and various certificates.
As a sucker for pageantry, I’ve always loved everything about awards. And so, at the end of each school year from 7th to 9th grade, I eagerly awaited the lucky winners to be announced for life’s most enduring honor: the yearbook Hall of Fame.
In 9th grade, I thought I’d reached the pinnacle of junior high success when I was told that my classmates had voted me for an award.
I excitedly wondered which category I’d won. Happiest? Friendliest? Best dressed? In what would be a most bittersweet moment, it was announced:
It shouldn’t have been a complete surprise: I was a little weird when I was 13. I’d recently realized, “You know what’s hard? Trying to fit in!”. So instead I went the other direction, wearing shirts covered in graffiti print, skirts with colorful tights, and pairing it all with combat boots, like an acid trip Daria.
As an all-knowing adult, I can now reframe “Most Unique” to mean “Most Creative” or “Least Likely to Give a !@#$”, both enviable qualities. But it was pretty clearly a “you dress weird” award, which just cannot be positively reframed in 9th grade.
By the time I arrived at high school the next year, I’d chucked my knee-high Doc Martens, grown out my hair, and made a moderately successful attempt at fitting in with a scaled-down style.
Here’s what I learned: it’s WAY harder to “act normal”. ‘Normal’ has a built-in comparison, to which you will almost always lose. It comes with an assumption about how things are SUPPOSED to be.
Despite my attempts at not comparing, I’ve spent 2.5 years feeling like nothing we do is normal. Luella’s development is slooooow and so the gap is ever widening between her and other kids. Her differentness has at times felt isolating, overwhelming, and just HARD.
But rather suddenly, our life feels…well, a lot less unique.
It’s not that we’re “acting normal” (I mean, clearly), it’s just that I can no longer envision–or want to envision–things being different from how they are right now. It’s so normal, sometimes I even think it’s BORING, a delightful thought that would have been inconceivable even a year ago.
And that’s all making it much, much easier.
There are probably a few contributors: the passage of time, stable health, and a growing group of friends whose kids have disabilities.
But I suspect that our move to downtown Bellingham has been the most influential factor. While it’s not exactly an urban capital (we still have to plug our meters with spare change, LIKE ANIMALS) people with disabilities are a much more visible part of this community. Luella is not out of place here, she’s readily reflected in the people we live among.
It’s been the rare day that we haven’t seen or talked to someone in a wheelchair, a notable fact as we wait for Luella’s first wheelchair to arrive. While I don’t know what Luella understands–or will understand–I do know that surrounding her with a community where she better fits in benefits ALL of us.
In the end, we packed the contents of our trophy case and set out just a few awards at our new place, none of which are from the yearbook Hall of Fame.
I might have been Most Unique twenty(ish) years ago, but it’s pretty obvious that Luella has succeeded me in that category. After all, she’s clearly different and courageous: a style icon in her own right, she’s been boldly sporting a wildly colorful knit sweater with aqua socks all week.
Health Update: Cause and effect is still our primary developmental focus. We’re building choice into her routine by showing her two things and giving her the one she looks at first. This includes picking out her clothes, which has led to some truly unique fashion. While she may not be making an intentional choice yet, the activity helps her to understand cause and effect, a VERY important building block for communication.
We’ve submitted a request for Luella’s first wheelchair, which we’re VERY excited about. Watch for Luella rolling in her sweet new red ride sometime in the next month or so.
In less pleasant news, she had her first dentist appointment and subsequently her first cavity filling. Despite the fact that she hates things in her mouth, she was a champion.
We’re in the process of doing all her eligibility assessments to begin developmental preschool through the Bellingham School District in the Fall! We’ve met with every school-based specialist imaginable and the whole process has been unpredictably stress-free. YES.