Friday, October 2, 2009

Keeping Time with Amy

Even though she doesn’t entirely understand the concept, my daughter Amy has several ways of keeping track of the passage of time. She keeps track of the seasons by the condition of Patterson’s Fruit & Vegetable Stand which we pass by every time we go shopping. After sitting closed for a couple of months she knows they will have flowers for Valentine’s Day, then again for Easter and Mother’s Day. She anticipates summer, watching for the place to open with its fruit and vegetables. She knows that as the pumpkins appear that Halloween is in the offing and that when the stand closes after Halloween they will reopen after Thanksgiving with Christmas trees.

Amy keeps track of the months by family birthdays. She knows when everyone’s birthday is, hers being the most important. Amy looks forward to October as much as I do, but for a different reason. It is the month of her semiannual perm. Amy is stuck in the ‘80s. She loves the music, the movies and the big hair. It’s the decade she grew up in. She began getting her hair permed in about 1982 and has twice per year since then. Like many people with a disability, Amy is routine bound so perms in April and October are a must. Her stepfather’s one request—that she not look like a poodle. We try.

There are no accidents in life. I believe that as long as you are open with the universe and have a need that situations and things will come along to fill that. When we moved to Gig Harbor, WA from the Long Beach Peninsula we needed to find someone to cut the boys and my mother’s hair and to perm Amy’s. We knew no one, but my husband who had lived in Gig Harbor for only a couple of months when we arrived. Quite by chance we wandered into a beauty salon located in Gig Harbor’s main shopping center and met Carrie. That was nineteen years and lots of perms and haircuts ago.

Besides being a good hairdresser and a nice person, it turned out that Carrie had a special needs daughter of her own, younger than Amy. She understood and treated Amy like a princess when it was her day to get her hair done. Over the years and over Amy’s roller festooned head we’ve traded war stories. The girls were alone the day of the Nalley Valley earthquake. Well, Amy wasn’t quite alone, but Dave was on his way out the door to work, pausing just long enough to make sure she was okay. Ginnie really was alone, but had the presence of mind to scoot out the back door on her bottom to the back of the yard to wait for Carrie to come rushing home. I rushed home, too, having borrowed a van from school since my purse was in the school and they wouldn't let me in to get the keys to my car. Dave had locked the house and I had to throw rocks at Amy's window. She was not pleased when she opened the window and asked what the heck I wanted. I finally got her to come downstairs and open the door for me so I could use the bathroom and get a coat (it was February). It seemed that Amy had been asleep and the earthquake had waked her, but the lights were on (ours were not at school) and the heat on so she was more annoyed at the rude awakening than anything else.

Carrie and I had both the girls employed when they exited the school system and both of us discovered that it was more trouble than it was worth to have them working for a few hours per week at a minimum wage job that caused their social security to fluctuate monthly and if a job ended trying to get the full SSI reinstated took something next to an act of Congress.

We’ve commiserated at the exorbitant cost of handicapped seating at performances and the logistics of traveling with them. Although Amy is not in a wheelchair she is short and short of stamina. We arrive early to movies in the hopes of having her sit behind a wheelchair spot and then pray that no one in a wheelchair needs the spot. One night we were outfoxed when a literal busload of wheelchair bound movie goers arrived. Amy ended up in the front row in order to be able to see.

So yesterday was the big day. I sneaked away from work a few minutes early to go home and get her. At Amy’s birthday I take the entire day off from work and we really make a big deal, usually ending with a family dinner at whatever restaurant she fancies that year.

Over the years we’ve followed Carrie from shop to shop since our beginning with her in 1990. One time, when the shopping center burned down and the shop where she worked along with it, she even came to our house to cut my husband’s hair. We were a little early and Carrie had gone home to check on her daughter, but we waited with varying degrees of patience for her to return and get to the business of Amy’s afternoon of beauty.

Part of Amy’s perm routine is fast food. I don’t remember how it began, but the original shop was near to a McDonalds and since the process takes so long we began entertaining her with a chicken sandwich and fries. Now Carrie’s shop is right next door to a Burger King which is very handy so once her hair was wrapped around pink curlers she happily munched a chicken sandwich with a chocolate milkshake which was a first.

I would like it if Amy just gave up the ‘80s look, but then I wouldn’t get to sit and gossip with Carrie so we’ll keep going as long as Carrie keeps dishing out the beauty.

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