So here I am with a glass of red wine and my thoughts.
This week has been fairly calm, but looking ahead on the calendar, I see next week will be much different. Sunday Kathy and I are doing the local 5K breast cancer walk/run. Having successfully worked out for weeks now, my calves, thighs, and portions of my arms are beginning to bulge to proportions never seen on a human female before. I foolishly thought that perhaps I would become a slightly more slim version of my former self. Instead, I find I am only adding on to my already Amazonian stature, enlarging like a steroid-shooting member of the Super Friends. However, I digress. After the race, we plan on joining Kathy's family at a nearby lake for some rest and relaxation with the boys before a week that contains one salon appointment to rid myself of my split ends, an appointment in which we must hold our screaming child down to have his teeth lacquered, one session of pool therapy, our first transition meeting with a rather intimidating panel of professionals, and our neighbor's graduation party, which, while in the midst of some sort of fleeting manic, euphoric state, I agreed to help set up. In addition, I have to cram work in there somewhere.
Admittedly, however, the big day is Tuesday, which is Erik's end-of-the-year party for his early intervention program (EIP). This isn't our actual end yet, as Erik attends four more weeks of summer program. Then it's officially over for good, as Erik will turn 3 this fall and transition into "normal" preschool. In short, this means no more EIP.
I confess that I find myself more than a little sad about this. After all, EIP is where we began our journey, and I will never forget meeting the first members of "Team Erik." Frankly, I had no desire initially to meet any of them and bristled at the whole experience, thinking it was all temporary and that Erik would soon prove everybody wrong, including his pediatrician, but as I surrendered to the horrible permanency of our situation, I have grown to appreciate all of them and even feel love for some of them. I will soon no longer be required to pass by the little evaluation room on the way to Erik's classroom each week and feel my heart break a little bit every time. I have only been inside that room once on just one very horrible day. I can't stomach the sight of it with its child-sized wooden kitchenette and brightly-colored educational toys. Its cheery contents mask the absolute gut-wrenching heartbreak that is experienced inside. In rooms like these I now never fail to notice the very subtle but ominous presence of a single box of tissues ready to absorb grief. I see the table where Brian and I sat that very first day and the two-way mirror through which we were observed. Most weeks I pass by this room without turning my head, but when I accept an occasional self-imposed dare to glance that direction, my stomach lurches on my way by. Sometimes there are parents and a child casually playing on the floor inside, but mostly the place is deserted and quiet. I resist an occasional urge to stop and stare. It's crazy, but I am certain there is a piece of me still trapped in that room. I recognize it as ghostly vapor in my peripheral vision as I pass, but it vanishes when I turn to look at it. It is no longer mine. It is forever lost to me, doomed to haunt the place forever. Perhaps one day another mother will feel it pass by in the middle of shaking her head at the forms piling up in front of her like a paper snowdrift. Perhaps she will wonder at the sudden goosebumps on her skin and turn her head to smile at her child sitting on the floor staring blankly ahead for reasons about to be discovered as she begins a nightmare of her very own.
I now have four weeks of parent group remaining in the room just down the hall. In this particular room, we are on our second coffeemaker, and the chairs are almost always full. I have watched mothers and fathers come and go, most of whose names never sank into me somehow, and I sometimes briefly wonder what happened to them. As for me, I will soon be a memory here and will leave my wooden rocking chair for another mother with a newly jumbled heart to occupy. This fall when I enter the front door, I will turn to walk down a new, unexplored hallway to Erik's preschool classroom, but I will undoubtedly glance through this familiar doorway on my way by, too, remembering the first day I my feet took me into this room instead of straight out the front door to my car. I will always remember this room, but I will no longer be a member inside. The metal door will be closed tightly, and through the safety glass window I will glimpse another pale face silently floating over a cup of lukewarm coffee. Our eyes will meet, and I will turn to continue my way down the hallway into a brightly lit classroom filled with construction paper turkeys, long tables, and tiny chairs instead of therapeutic swings and exercise balls.
I will graduate right along with Erik this year.