I cannot follow María into many of the places she heads for these days. If she self injures, I can’t even try to get into her head hoping to understand why. Mental Illness, or whatever you want to call it, pulls at all of us like a black hole and I resist with all my might now. There is a still, small strength that will not, cannot, allow all hope, life and joy to be consumed. There’s a certitude that even in these really dark times, this is my daughter, not a monster.
It’s Christmas. About two years after we brought María home, I started a tradition with her that has withstood the vicissitudes of our life together. Olaf is an elf who arrives at the beginning of December and carelessly leaves his tiny Danish (after all, a Swedish elf would never be so naughty) passport lying around somewhere in the house for the rest of the month. At best, one might catch a flash or glimpse of him, but we sure know when he’s arrived. One time, he got one of Mami’s fine silk cushions and poured himself some Coca Cola in a crystal cordial glass. He took both of them and settled in for the night in the refrigerator. When María woke up the next day and went to the fridge to get her morning OJ, those big brown eyes just about popped out of her face. In a hushed, awed and horror-struck voice she said, “Oh. My. God. Mami. You have to come see this”. With appropriate indignation I threatened to have him removed immediately back to the cold northern tundras and only relented when she begged me to give him one last chance.
Olaf has been known to put peanut butter in María’s hair when she was asleep and make all kinds of mess with Dad’s can of shaving cream. But he also got in her room one day when she was at school and turned it into a winter wonderland of snow and twinkling lights. He leaves her notes and gifts and María has never stopped trying to find him. It didn’t seem possible, earlier this week, for Olaf to find his way to BARC. And then, it didn’t seem possible not to help him get there. He has left a basket in her room. This year, his visits will be a little different. There will be less mischief. He will leave little notes and gifts for María and small treats for her to share with the other members of her community. But he will be there.
I laughed and cried as I put holiday-themed stickers in all kinds of foolish places in her room and bathroom. That tenuous, gossamer thin, thread of love that binds her to me and I to her, is not broken. Even if her face is scarred from the damage she’s done this week, even if there are many more “even though’s” ahead of us, and we are always fragile and on the verge of fracturing, that still, small strength sustains us. Even now. And it is Christmas.
By one of those graceful lovely coincidences that help keep us going, yesterday I was introduced to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here album. After helping Olaf get to BARC house to do his work, I rode home listening to Shine on You Crazy Diamond, full blast, with the sunroof open.