As I start writing this, Spring 2014 is 43 days, 2 hours, and a little over 26 minutes away. If I could put skates on her, I would…and if, while wearing those skates, I could push her down the hill so she could swoosh over here even faster…you get the picture. Our calendar looks like a Snow Day version of Edmond Dantès’ wall at the Chateau D’If; yes, we are ticking off the days and wondering why Winter 2014 has decided to be so persistent.
Yesterday, I’m sure you’ve concluded from all this, was another snow day. It didn’t SNOW, but there was plenty of snow still on the ground. J and I trekked to the mailbox and back twice, and didn’t enjoy the experience once we’d passed the point where our driveway ends/begins. Paul Simon might have been walking on New York City snow when he came up with “slip slidin’ away.” At one point our steps were so small that it looked like we were having a grand old time tiptoeing our way to our destination. That we did this in the morning and then again in the afternoon is proof of…something, but I’ve yet to figure out if that something is 1) stupidity, 2) foolishness, 3) lack of wisdom, 4) a sense of humor, or 5) an inclination to mild masochism. The only time we found mail was in the morning; the afternoon trip was wasted. And, having sat there since the day before, the letters were so cold that I had to immediately fold them into my jacket pocket so I didn’t have to carry them in my bare hand. (Yes, that point is in favor of reasons number 1, 2, 3 and 5.)
You know that winter has gone on (for what seems like) too long when you have your seed catalogs flagged with little post-it notes (color-coded,) and the list for SPRING CLEANING! is attached to the catalogs. You’d think that, having lived here for not-yet seven months, spring cleaning wouldn’t require bold and italicized capital letters followed by an exclamation point, but I feel like all this being-cooped-up-indoors makes it important to open windows (the only two the whole house has,) sliding glass doors (three of them,) and every single door to let the air come in from the NW and out the SE…or vice versa. I am walking around reciting Neruda under my breath, and not the happy, sensual stuff that makes you want to watch Il Postino with a bottle of wine, three boxes of Kleenex and every single bit of sad trivia you remember about how Massimo Troisi didn’t live to see this masterpiece he so wanted to film. No, I’m walking around reciting the Neruda of strife and loneliness, which -yes- is still some of the most life-affirming poetry you’ll ever experience, but I’m doing it in slippers, pajamas, and sipping hot tea.
On Monday night J sensed that we’d be getting a call from Kierkegaard. Here we were, insisting that there would be school on Tuesday, and J kept coming upstairs to ask for his IT’S A SNOW DAY! PECS card. When the phone rang, I simply grabbed some chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds and went to tell J. He gave me a look that clearly indicated I was fool to think he didn’t KNOW this already. We passed the day rather pleasantly; our focus is on getting him to recognize the numbers and the words for them, and he finds this entertaining. I am more and more convinced that he can read better than we’ve been able to assess, but I can’t quite figure out how to get him to do it outside of the exercises we’re doing. When I read to him, he can complete sentences, but I know that is as much memorization as inference from what he sees in the illustrations. We work our way slowly through exercises, and I leave plenty of room for J to respond spontaneously. I’ve noticed that he does look for the “pattern” to match what he’s seeing on the screen of his iPad, and that he knows the letters as we read and sign them, but I don’t know how deftly he reaches the point of recognition. We know, because we’ve seen it at work, that J has a mind palace, a method of loci, a mnemonic catalog allows him to connect things; he doesn’t use it like Sherlock Holmes does (I’ve yet to see either Jeremy Brett or Benedict Cumberbatch reacting to the notion of a dog with the alacrity that J applies to this particular exercise,) but it’s there. The mechanics of reading, of course, are there, but I don’t know how much of the comprehension we are tapping into here. I refuse to give up, however, and -knowing the way I am when I’m bound and determined to achieve something- I will find some way to push forward on J’s reading skills.
Mind you: this is not about him analyzing Tolstoy or writing a dissertation on the novels of Steinbeck. This is about the simplest tasks…putting his thoughts out there when he needs to, rudimentary as it might be. Now that I’ve got his attention (and I KNOW I do because I see it in the way he goes from screen to paper to flashcard to sign to my lips to screen to his hand to pencil,) I need to use it wisely.
My take on all this is that if I can persuade J to steam cauliflower, puree it and throw it into a meal he’s going to eat (without any pretense at disguising that the weird smell we all sniff at is coming from our shoes or wet socks,) anything else I try to accomplish with him is possible. The degree to which it’s possible is what we have yet to determine. He recognizes pictures and matches them to words, but now I want to see if I can catch the word in a sea of others and get him to identify it…match it to the mental picture.
Forty-three days, and a little over ten minutes until Spring 2014 arrives…and I obviously have something lined up for every single day, and some of it might be improbable.