the clouds that chase us

A pair of red noise-cancelling headphones roll around the floor of my car.  A pink and brown leopard print blanket and brilliant blue blanket are folded in the seat next to my daughter.  Tucked into the side of car door cubby is small journal and two markers: a hot pink Sharpie and purple Crayola marker.  The small backpack on the floor of the car, below where my daughter’s feet brush the floor, is filled with rocks, a magnifying glass, a turquoise hair bow, and chocolate-chip granola bar (smooshed, of course).  And her seat is positioned directly behind me.  I can look into her eyes and see her.  Her.  My girl.

And these are her tools for coping during car rides.

And in the third row sits my son.  He is adjacent to her because directly behind her is an invitation for hair pulling, kicking, and pushing against the seat.  Instead, his steadying service dog, Aussie, sits next to him.  Her soft ears resting on his arm.  Her overstuffed pillow bed a place for my son to also rest his head during our car rides.  And in his place, tucked into the back corner of third row, is where he watches the world outside his window.  He often perches himself on the arm rests, examining the cars on the road, the people on their bikes, the clouds floating above, and the moon that follows us.  And during his examination of the world that surrounds him, he moves his torso, very slowly, back-and-forth and back-and-forth.  It is a gentle movement.  There are also times when he will feel the clouds by creating a sound with his mouth or his hands.  The sounds change depending upon what he is trying to explore.  The cloud sound sometimes sound like a low zzzz-buzzzz-zzzz-sssshhh-shhoooowsh . And when he feels excitement about his sounds, he will follow-up with a siren noise, blaring loudly into the corners of the car.

zzzz

buzzzz

zzzz

sssshhh

shhoooowsh

And then, reeee-roooo, ree-rooo-OOOOO. 

It isn’t until the siren noises begin, the Sis begins to also scream at her brother.  With frustration in her voice, she screeches, “Buddy, be quiet, please!”  I look at her eyes through my driver’s rearview window.  I see the exhaustion in her eyes.  The bubbles of anxiety getting bigger with each breath.  And then she will yell, again, “Be quiet!  I need peace right now!”  And the quintessential remark from Buddy in the third row is, “I’m not doing anything!  I’m listening to the clouds Sissy!”

zzzz

buzzzz

zzzz

sssshhh

shhoooowsh

And then, reeee-roooo, ree-rooo-OOOOO. 

“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” she screams, again!  Looking, again, at her eyes through my mirror, I offer my only words of advice during a car ride on the interstate.  “Sissy, why don’t you put on your red headphones and take out your journal?” I offer.   I also want to scream.  I want to pull over the car and open the door and throw a catastrophic screaming fit.  I want peace and quiet, also.  I just want to get from point A to point B.   Seriously, why must the clouds follow us on this particular car ride?  Why must my daughter screech and scream?  Why must the siren noise in my car escalate after each cloud’s noise?

Yet, I say none of this.  It stays permanently tucked away in a small corner of my brain.  It knows better than to emerge.

And, so I offer Sissy another nudge.  “Sis, you know you always feel better with the headphones on.  And I really need a new picture to keep in my billfold,” I encourage with a soft voice.

“Ugh, this is ridiculous!” she responds.  And then I watch her put the red headphones over her small ears.  She picks up her markers and flips through her journal of letters and mermaids and cupcakes.  “Okay, what should I draw you, Mom?” she asks with a tone of annoyance.

I smile at her in the mirror.  “Why don’t you draw me a picture that makes you happy,” I say in response.  “Alright, fine” I hear from her small voice.

zzzz

buzzzz

zzzz

sssshhh

shhoooowsh

Blip 

Blip

Beep Beep Beep … BEE!

“Bee!  Bee!” I hear from the third row of the car.  And suddenly I watch as my son unbuckles his seatbelt and climbs into the second row in the seat next to his sisters.  “Mom, you have to stop the car,” he cries in terror!  “There is a bee!  A bee!” he continues to cry.

“Brother, it’s okay,” offers Sister’s reassuring voice. I watch as my daughter takes her headphones off her small head.  She carefully places them on the floor.  “Here, is a blanket.  This will protect you.” she offers.  My son wraps himself into the warmth of the pink and brown leopard print blanket.  His head is covered.  His knees are tucked in tight to his chest.

“Mom, you need to unlock the windows,” says the now firm voice of my daughter.  I oblige and quickly unlock the windows.  “Brother, the bee is going to fly away now.  He hates it in this car, too.” she says with great wisdom and compassion.

The intensity of this moment is filled with panic.  A true sense of fear wraps tightly around my son and add a quickness to his breathing.  His body becomes stiff because any movement may result in that bite, that sting.

And the windows roll down.  And the bee flies out.  And the windows come back up.

“Okay, Brother.  It’s over.  You are okay now.” she says.

Small whimpers reveal come through the corners of the blanket.  Buddy unveils his face and looks at his sister.  He smiles.  He unbuckles his seatbelt, again, and crawls into the third row. Tucking his head into Aussie’s soft neck – the place between her ears and her snout, he closes his eyes.

“Mom, I think we need some calm-down music now,” says Sis.

And, like I’m listening to the cues of a pro, a true guru in the world of empathy and compassion, I follow her directions.  I cue up my Pandora station to a Meditation and Mantras channel.

I breathe in deeply.

I exhale completely.

And, I smile, with gratitude at my little girl who is now coloring in her journal.  She is a champion of love in more ways than she will ever comprehend at the small age of 6.

The car ride continues down the interstate.  The clouds continue to follow us.  My son drifts into a deep sleep.  My daughter colors and smiles and makes small talk with me.  And, I reminded that these cloud-chasing moments are filled with love.

 

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