I sat in my home all summer beneath a too bright sun, and saw only black clouds. I hovered beside a window I just wanted to cover as my son played behind me. I stood guard. I was terrified. I was feral.
This summer we talked about what happened to my son to death, and when it finally died, it stayed. Right there beside me, what was left of that afternoon kept me company, withering and crumbling, but there all the same.
I was a ghost others spoke at. They railed for my son, and it soothed, but there he was behind me playing, and I was breaking, and I was standing at the mouth of our cave making promises to the wind I could not feel past my closed windows.
There were choices and decisions on the other side of our walls, and I could not make them. I could only stand beside this dying thing. I could only watch over my son and daughter, glancing back at the sound of their laughter.
June became July. And then August.
I watched others prepare their kids for the big, emotional step that was kindergarten. They bought supplies and school clothes and it was a celebration. I opened my mouth but everything that came were words about terrible teachers and violence and why, how, and no. My son's name became a reminder of everything that could go wrong. Everything that did go wrong.
When my son was placed in a new school with an autism program I went and I met his teacher. We spoke and we shared and she showed me this classroom and how all of these pieces were made for kids like mine. We spoke about the TEACCH method and PECS and the magic and struggles of life on the spectrum. I saw my son's name on a basket that was just for him, and there it was again on a desk that was just for him. Phoenix.
The baby who grew in my belly. The boy with the boisterous laugh but shy smile. The boy who grew so fast but still cuddled up close at night. The boy who didn't speak until he was almost four years-old. And yes, the boy who was hurt by his teacher.
So badly I wanted to keep and I wanted to hide, but it was him that came to me with sweet smiles watching the school bus. Listening out for other children. He yearned to move past me, to open the curtains and let the light back inside. My son is love and energy and he has wings that were dying to spread. He studied this new classroom, and he studied this new teacher and he gave her a shy smile and peaked past her to the computers and he knew this was now school. He held my hand on the way out and back home there was no more room for dead, withered things. There was dust to clean and supplies to buy.
There was breathing.
My son has autism. My son was hurt by his teacher. My son is teaching me to be brave, and he is teaching me to laugh as we chase the world down. As we take and give and share and run until we lose our breath.
And because of him, I went back inside and I opened the windows to let in some light.
We're holding onto these scars, and we've learned and we will continue to roar and rage. But we're also moving forward and not hovering or hiding. We're batting away the black clouds and growing and learning new things as we declare our place amongst you. This is what it means to go to school in a neurotypical world. To swim upstream. This baby duck of mine is facing the mainstream like the breath-stealing bird that he is. The Phoenix.
His name is Phoenix and he is the boy soaring past me.