I have been going to the same hairdresser since I was a teenager. During this time, she has worked in three salons, and I have followed her. We both went through the big hair phase together, and I came home from college periodically to have my hair permed into a glorious mane held in place by half a bottle of Aqua Net hairspray. Over the years she has listened to my stories of high school graduation, college, dropping out of college, going back to college, buying my first houses, marrying, having a baby, and dealing with Erik's diagnosis. She doesn't miss anything going on in my life, as she also cuts the hair of my best friend and my business partner. I feel strange when she asks me what I'm up to, because most of it now is related to my child. I often find myself answering questions about WS. While I would absolutely love to talk about something else for a change, I'm really excited about Erik and end up yammering for an hour about him. The salon experience isn't as relaxing as it used to be, but I still inevitably make her laugh until she snorts, and she always hugs me tightly on the way out. Today she told me I looked great (SKINNY, even!) and that it seemed to her that I have "figured everything out." Wow. I'm not sure about everything, but I suppose I have achieved a pretty good balance between my life as a mother and just being ME these days. That's a pretty big compliment. I walked out with a sassy new hairstyle and a giant smile on my face.
The school bus came to a stop in my driveway a little while after I made it home, and I climbed the chunky steps until I could see over the high backs of the chairs. Erik was strapped in, smiling and talking to himself. When Jeff, the bus driver, unlatched him, Erik headed to the back of the bus, almost rock-steady in his new orthotics, enjoying having the space all to himself, running his fingers over the floor to feel its grooves. Jeff asked if I was in a hurry, and I told him I wasn't. He instructed me to hang onto Erik and made his way down the steps outside to the wheelchair lift in the back of the bus. He opened the door and demonstrated how the metal platform, which seemed to have the consistency of a cheese grater, went from the bus to the ground. The mechanism was surprisingly quiet. After Erik struggled a bit with his anxiety, he let me hold him, and we crawled out onto the platform. I kneeled on the razor-sharp grate with Erik on my lap, and Jeff activated the machinery. We rode up and down at least twice as the wind and rain began whipping around us. We finally stepped off the bus and said our goodbyes. We waved and watched Jeff drive away.
Erik will be going to his aunt and uncle's house in Idaho for a portion of spring break starting next week. This is a big step for us all, but Brian and I decided that it would be good for all of us. It will be my second time away from Erik for a few days. We will meet Brian's brother halfway in the middle of BFE and make the drop. There is so little between our houses in our two respective states that the first time we made the drive, Erik looked across the dusty desert hills and said, "Ocean!"
I have always been big on the concept of "Team Erik." Erik has a team of friends and family that will be there for him no matter what, and his aunts, uncles, and cousins are a big part of that team. The bigger the team, the more relaxed I am, and I consider myself very lucky to be able to place my trust in such a dear group of friends and family that love Erik as if he were their own son.