My kids play this game called “The Deep Pit of Darkness”
Gerry, my oldest, will lay down on the couch with Howie behind him. The object of the game is for Howie to push Gerry off of the couch onto the floor, or as they call it, the “deep pit of darkness”. Gerry created this game after I told him that it helped Howie to do certain exercises that involved pushing or heavy lifting. I was thinking more along the lines of, say, wheelbarrow walking or thumb wrestling. My boys interpreted it as “Let’s wrestle while Mom is trying to make dinner.”
The “deep pit of darkness” game keeps them occupied for about 15 minutes, until inevitably someone gets pushed or kicked somewhere that hurts.
I realized that I have been in my own deep pit of darkness lately. And it’s not a game.
We have had a lot of snow here in southern New England. A lot. I’ve lived in New England for most of my life so snow in winter isn’t usually this depressing. Hell, I’m the girl who used to wait by the bus stop in high school in February with no socks. The college student who walked in -20 degree weather to class with a wet head and no mittens. I’m no stranger to winter. I love living here and am very good at ignoring Facebook posts from friends telling me how nice it is where they live.
But this has been a particularly difficult winter in addition to the weather. December brought the one year anniversary of our autism diagnosis. Our annual IEP meeting. And while we have been able to celebrate our progress up to this point, there are still reminders every day how different our lives are now.
Add all that to the many snow days and holidays this month, and I felt trapped in my house with three young boys.
And yes, I said trapped. Because with 4 feet of snow outside, it felt like the door was closed shut. My claustrophobia kicked in. Like the walls were closing in on me.
I felt tired. Tired of reading every detail on this last IEP to make sure all the words are right. Tired of managing the chaos in that runs through this house and ignoring the clutter piled up around me. Tired of pretending to care what we eat for dinner. Tired of feeling like a bad parent because I want my kids to be at school and not home with me. Tired of sitting in front of Lewis trying to get him to repeat my words. Tired of not sleeping. Just tired of everything.
I spent much of the last snow day just staring out the window, ice cold coffee in hand. The boys were arguing if it was legal to have a jet pack to get out of the deep pit of darkness. As I watched the giant snowflakes endlessly fall from the sky, I too was hoping for some way to escape this pit. I closed my eyes and imagined Dorothy’s ruby slippers on my feet, and wondered what it would be like to just click my heels and be…
anywhere but here.
I went to bed that night with a headache. The snowy weather forecast for the next week weighed heavily on my mind.
The next day the sun was out, but my mood was still in the dark pit. It was affecting everyone in the house. My husband came in from walking the dog and said “That’s it. We’re going out.”
I had asked the boys several times if they wanted to go play in the snow. The answer was always no. But my husband didn’t ask. He told them. End of story.
My mood got darker and darker through the 20 minute adventure of getting dressed for outside. Five sets of coats, boots, mittens, hats and snowpants had to be uncrumpled from the bottom of the closet from our last journey out together. Once outside, the snow was so deep that with every step I had to pull Lewis back up again.
With every step, he laughed.
And soon, I was laughing too.
My husband got out our blue plastic sled and put Howie and Lewis in it. He pulled them around the track he made in the yard and they squealed with delight. Gerry and I ran around behind them, trying to push each other down into the deep snow. A game I was winning, until my husband came up and hip-checked me right into a snowbank.
There I was. Stuck in a deep pit of white.
And behind me? A melody of giggles and calls for “do it again!”
Snuggling in bed that night, I asked Howie what his favorite thing was that day (as I always do).
“I liked playing with you. I love you.”
I whispered back “I love you too.” And closed my eyes again.
I didn’t need the ruby slippers to remind me that there’s no place like home.
“Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
Someday I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me” – Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz