“Do you hear them?” I ask as I gently lay my hand against the trunk of a birch tree. Curls of papery white bark tickle against my palm as I watch the leaves flash silver-green in the breeze.
“Hear who, Hazel?” My best friend Rachel stares quizzically at me, her expression bordering on wary.
I smile. “The trees, of course.” She squints at me and crosses her arms over her chest. I continue, “They whisper, but I can’t tell what they’re saying.”
She studies the maple arching gracefully over her head, and nods. Her steps are swallowed by the earth as she approaches me.
“Yeah, I hear them. And do you want to know what they’re saying?”
My heart races. “Absolutely.”
She speaks, sing-song. “They are saying, ‘go home, Hazel! You really need some sleep!’”
She bats her eyes at me and I gently shove her away. “I’m serious, Rachel.” She rolls her eyes and I shrug. “Fine. Don’t believe me. I’ll figure it out myself.”
The air whooshes from my lungs as she roughly pats my back. “Sure you will. But first, we have midterms to study for.”
Now it was my turn to roll my eyes.
Once midterms were finished, I could finally spend time somewhere other than the library. Normally I love the library and all the secrets hidden there, but the silence had become insufferable. The air felt dead.
It is my first day of freedom from studying, so I am heading to the river to walk through those beautiful trees lining its banks. I sing gently and swear the trees sing back. But when I stop to listen, I hear nothing but the soft susurration of the wind dancing through leaves.
I wrote this earlier this morning as I pondered my daughter, Emily, and how she sees the world. I am blessed to have her as my daughter and though I don’t always understand, you are infinitely precious to me, my sweet. ❤
Too loud! So you raise your own voice or turn the TV up to drown out the cacophony of sound from a too-scary world that is only evident to you.
Too bright! When morning light reaches you, it burns your eyes painfully in a way mine will never know.
Too dark! The loss of that light is just as jarring, and you turn on every light you can to light the way.
Too smelly! To me, it’s barely noticeable. But to you, it’s like standing in a landfill surrounded by a sea of detritus.
Too tight! It’s just a short-sleeved t-shirt, but to you, it strangles the life out of that spot on your arm where the sleeve sits. Or maybe it’s the shorts that are threatening to slice through your thigh even though to me, they seem to fit you perfectly.
It hurts! The material might seem minutely scratchy to me (jeans in particular), but you might as well be wearing an outfit of stinging nettles. You scream, claw, and pull at it until it is finally removed.
This is disgusting! Remember how smell affected you so strongly? Well, taste does too. And sometimes, when I make something and hope you’ll love it, it hurts to get that response. But I am learning and beginning to understand.
Too much! There is so much that is too much in your world. A world that to me seems so tiny, but to you is so huge and overwhelming. Sometimes I think this is why you’re so possessive of “your” things…it grounds you and is something that belongs to you—it’s something you have control over. And to share that, relinquish it…it hurts you and drives you into a panic. You still need to learn to share, but I can go about encouraging it more gently and easily than I have.
“She’s just being dramatic.” Except you’re not. It seems that way, sure. But this has been consistent since babyhood. You have a sensory processing disorder and will (hopefully) one day learn to handle it, or that it will ease for you so that you can find bliss in this world of madness.
Helpful things: First and foremost, animals. You have always been comforted by and madly in love with animals of all kinds—even the creepy crawlies that most people tell you to kill. But you won’t because you know they are a life, too, and that they deserve to live. Cats have always been your favorite though, and I can’t see that ever changing.
Also, swimming. You love water and when Gramela asked you why you love it so much you said, “I just like the way it moves around me.” It cradles you and takes the weight of the world away so you can feel weightless and free for a short time.
Space to work through a meltdown. A safe space where you can just feel what you’re feeling and not be judged for it. If I try to touch you or talk to you, you fight and it only gets worse. But when you are done, I will be there to hold and love you for every little bit of fierceness and sensitivity in you.
Love. For you to know I will love you no matter what. That I will always try to understand even when I fail. I will do better in future. I am sorry for all the times I didn’t understand…all the times I failed you. But I will always try to do better. I will always love and support you. And I will defend you with a ferocity that will shake this scary world.
You can always come to me. And I hope that you will. I love you, Emily. You are beautiful just the way you are.
This is a real-life favorite childhood memory of mine.
The rain fell steadily, drumming on the roof and bouncing verdant leaves up and down in its joyous dance. I was about seven years old at the time and completely entranced by the beauty of the glistening drops and rich tapestry of greenery.
“Mom, can we go outside?” I glanced at my siblings noting the way we all watched her with bated breath, our eyes shining with anticipation.
“No, sweetie. It’s raining.” She continued washing dishes.
Heart sinking, I returned my gaze to the wondrous rainstorm outside, the air thick and hazy as rain met summer heat. I searched for something, anything…
“Mom! I think I saw a deer! There, by the brook! Can we go out and try to see it better?”
Our mother chuckled knowingly and turned to us as she said, “Alright, you can go out. But stay away from that brook! I don’t care if there is a deer; the water is very high from all this rain so it’s not safe to be near it.”
We charged into that rain as it ran in tickling rivulets down our faces, laughing in the downpour as smells of ozone and damp earth met our noses. And we were thankful—to be in such a beautiful place, and for the mom who let us be kids and enjoy it in all its shining, emerald glory.
I turned back and saw her watching us through the screen door. She smiled and waved. I waved back, knowing that my mom had given us a beautiful gift. It lives on in me as a memory full of life and love to this day.