Once upon a time, I was rocking my new born in Mississippi. Well, now that I’m thinking of it, it was a glider and not a rocker. But people don’t say, “I was gliding my new born.” I was in a movable chair in Mississippi, trying to lull my baby to sleep.
And it was raining.
I’m not sure if I ever experienced rain, or will ever experience rain, like the rain in Mississippi. It could last for weeks. It could fall with such gusto that you’d worry for the safety of your children. Roads could flood in a matter of minutes. The rain felt like something other worldly. It felt like not a force, but a being. A wrathful something-or-other. Rain would fall. Beautiful sunny mornings could cloud over into thunderstorms that could last for entire weeks. Rain. Lots of rain. Leaky roofs. Flooded carports. Wet socks. Destroyed paperbacks. Rain.
I didn’t grow up in Mississippi. I grew up in San Diego, California. It was sunny, unless it was June-gloomy. It was beautiful. Rain hardly ever fell. Trust the little girl who received a pink polka dotted umbrella for Christmas. I was desperate to use that umbrella, packed it in my book bag on cloudy days just in case. It hardly ever rained.
So one night, as I was rock–gliding– repetitively moving in a chair with my baby, bored to tears with the monotony of diapers and nursing, my mind wondered away to my childhood and how it never rained. But it didn’t stop there. It wandered to happy, rare trips my husband and I had taken to national parks. Zions for our honeymoon. Arches one weekend in-between winter and summer classes. Bet it’s not raining there, I thought. And there was a part of me that craved those places. Monoliths of stone. Blazing heat. Landscapes made remarkable by the scarcity of water. Hot, dry ground that would radiate heat long after the sun set.
I began writing a fairy tale. About a girl trapped by rain who seeks the desert. It sat on my computer for years and years. I have returned to this story. I was reading parts of it today, and it was charming in places, but now I am a much older woman. My children are in school. My eldest is three inches taller than me. My youngest refuses to let me hold his hand in public. Rockers/gliders/movable chairs aren’t part of our relationship. And I find that I have things that are more interesting to say. I lived in the high Mojave desert for nearly five years. I can add Mesa Verde, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest and Sand Dunes to the list of national parks that have inspire me.
But beyond the idea of a waterlogged young woman fascinated by the desert, attracted to everything that her life hasn’t been, I find that I have some interesting things to say about points of view. In the years since the rocking chair in Mississippi, I’ve had an education in neurodiversity. Three of the four of us have it. The maxim that if you’ve seen one person with neurodiversity, congratulations you’ve seen one person with neurodiversity is incredibly true. It presents uniquely in every individual. But I have been reimagining this young woman who’s been surrounded by rain and craves the desert as neurodiverse. It has given me space and time to try on my family members’ POVs. It’s also given me a safe space to explore the rage, love, despair, and joy I feel as a mama.
I don’t know how this project will turn out. I don’t know if empathy and exposure gives me license to write a character who is all the things my children are with many of the same struggles my children have. I don’t know who gets to tell stories of neurodiversity, but I know for me it is important that these stories show both the frustration and joy, the growth and set backs, the gifts and challenges that are inherent to this POV. I know that this story is a story that I want to tell, not because it is interesting (although I think it is), not because it is unique (in my family the neurotypical POV is the outlier), but because it is a really good story, overflowing with all the things good stories have–hope, growth, wit, love, and hard earned happily-ever-afters. Is that enough? I don’t know. I’m willing to keep writing to find out.