I get the urge for going
When the meadow grass is turning brown
Summertime is falling down and winter is closing in
— Joni Mitchell
(I needed this photo today. It’s freezing outside. Summer will be back some day, right?)
I found out via Facebook last night that Pete Seeger passed away. Historically, I’ve never been a huge fan of folk music– it’s one of the few genres that have felt a bit inaccessible to me. I recognize the irony in that, since folk music belongs to The People, the common human experience. It never felt terribly relevant to me as a teen and young college student because anything timeless went straight over my head and was ignored in favor of the preferred screeching vocals and whirring guitars of Kids Today. Honestly, the first time I heard “Pete Seeger” I wondered if he was related to Bob Seger, in whom I also had limited interest.
My next encounter with Pete Seeger was in 2009, while sifting through my recently– and suddenly– deceased father-in-law’s wordily possessions, of which there were many. His CD collection was astounding in size and scope, and featured more folk music than I’d ever heard of. The name Seeger appeared on a number of the discs, usually preceded by Pete but occasionally Mike or Peggy or another of the many musicians in the Seeger family appeared as well. I listened to some of it to ease my sadness a bit but still, it didn’t really speak to me (although I did like a folk covers album he had by Bruce Springsteen that featured a Pete Seeger song).
When my girls were born in 2011, I thought about my father-in-law often and decided to take a real stab at this folk music thing, out of a desire to connect with the part of M’s family that was now gone and to try to fill in some of what was missing in the girls’ lives. I found that while there was a lot of folk and Americana out there that, in its original form, felt a bit too antique for my taste, it translated excellently into reinvented children’s music a la Elizabeth Mitchell, Dan Zanes and other folksy/kindie* offerings.
One of the songs I found through Elizabeth Mitchell (oh, how I love her) is called Freight Train. It falls into a class of children’s songs that I love– “songs that are sweet and appropriate for children but have a depth to them and don’t sound like children’s music.” I looked the song up and found out some interesting things. You can read the full Wikipedia article yourself if you feel so inclined, but suffice it to say that a young Black girl in her early teens wrote the song and then years later, through a strange coincidence of fate, connects with the Seeger family and her talents are discovered by one of the most prolific folk families of connected musicians in the US and she starts recording her music.
In another interesting twist, I found out soon after discovering the CDs that Mike Seeger taught my father-in-law’s girlfriend– herself a folk singer, in her seventies– how to play guitar.
An hour after the girls’ ABA session this afternoon, I got a phone call from a familiar-looking but unknown number. It was the supervisor for their ABA program asking if I “had a few minutes.” She broke the news to me that one of Chicken’s ABA therapists, “K”, is leaving shortly after her wedding at the end of the month. I knew about the wedding because she’s mentioned it off and on and I’ve asked about her plans, and I knew she was moving to a new apartment because she had to take a quick phone call about it a few weeks ago, but I didn’t realize she was moving far enough away to be transferring outside our catchment area.
All of our therapists are dedicated and hardworking professionals– really. I expected to have one or two who I was less thrilled with than the others because in total we see seven different people from that agency, but they’re all great– different from one another, but great. I dont mean to make any comparisons but I have to say that K is really, really special. She’s a friendly dark-haired four-foot-ten bundle of energy who looks young but is professional, organized, creative, quick-thinking, smart, and always seems to get a lot out of Chicken even on tough days (like this morning). She was born for this job and has exactly the right set of skills for it, which honestly has always made me a bit nervous thinking she was about to get promoted or trade up to another agency using her expertise as a well-earned bargaining chip.
She’s not leaving the job, just the location. And us.
After I hung up the phone, I had a surprising reaction– I burst into tears.
It would be silly to say that these therapists are like family. Often people say things like that but don’t really mean it, not literally. I wouldn’t ever call them up just to chat, or hang out with them outside the scope of their jobs, or offer to drive them to the airport. It’s not for lack of enjoying their company but because there are professional lines that shouldn’t be crossed and because, while they might be very central to my life, me and my kids are much more of a footnote in theirs. You can love your job and the children and families that you work with, but at the end of the day you go home to your significant other and eat dinner and watch The Voice and text your friend. That is their life, even if what they do is pretty much my life at the moment. It’s a perspective I didn’t have when I was a childcare teacher but which I very much appreciate now. So while they may not be “family” in a strict sense, they are very important to me and are intrinsically tied in with our family’s life and with my vision of my children’s well-being.
I wonder who K’s replacement will be. It’ll be a new hire, which I admit to being a touch anxious about because I really hate to see an experienced, capable and very organized person replaced by someone who’s still learning the ropes and relying heavily on coworker support. K has two sessions a week that partially overlap with a BCBA (supervising ABA professional), but one alone, so I hope the new therapist will have enough support to get through the solo time. I’m also apprehensive about toppling the balance– like I said, against all odds, we really love all of the therapists right now; I don’t want to push our luck by bringing a new person on-board. I feel like this will all put us at a deficit for a little while. On top of all of that, I’m really going to miss K– and despite her reduced social interaction skills, I think Chicken will too, in her own way. K has been fantastic. And since she’s about to effectively reset her entire caseload and start over, and whole new crop of families are about to enjoy the genuine benefit of having her as a “part of their family,” too. I can’t begrudge them that blessing.
(In perfect alignment with the structure of this post, K is herself a folk/pop singer-songwriter who I’d totally link you to via her YouTube channel if I wasn’t just slightly more interested in her privacy than I am in wanting to show off her skills. I really, really wish I could link you to her. She’s very talented.)
I’m trying hard to remain open-minded and open-hearted on this one. I’m sure we’ll grow to love the new hire, and it will be my job to help guide her. I will introduce her and Chicken to each other. I will help the new therapist learn about Chicken’s quirks, challenges, and preferences, and will probably give her a lot of snacks to use as friendship-building tools (toddlers can be simple creatures, after all). I will give her the cliff’s notes version of Chicken’s history and current set of “things to watch for.” I will be patient and remain confident of her abilities and potential, within reason, while she figures it out. I’ve been the new kid before, too.
It’s hard to process some of these transitions in the deep dark heart of winter, where there’s a grey layer hanging over everything like a physical fog on top of the pre-existing mental fog of feeling about 80% overwhelmed 90% of the time. It’s not easy to manage even small changes in the tenuous balance of my kids’ different therapies. It feels so vulnerable to have to welcome in a new person and let go of someone with whom we’re comfortable and who’s been a good fit. But this is just tough because it’s the first time we’ve had to do this. My girls are pretty young still, after all, and we’ve only been doing ABA for a few months. I want to set us into a holding pattern so we can just power on through until preschool, but that’s not how it works. I hear little comments here and there from the other therapists about degrees they’re currently working towards or “last summer when I worked at ____” that remind me that this is a high turnover profession, and I’m sure they won’t all still be with us to see the girls turn three. It’s a normal part of the process, and one we’ll get adjusted to with time.
Until then, I need to come up with a good parting/wedding gift for K.
* Kindie! It’s the clever name given to indie music for kids. Here’s a neat article from 2006 I found on it. If you’re interested in this kind of music, I’d recommend just browsing around and writing down some of the artist names that pop up, but definitely the ones I mentioned above plus a few others: Elizabeth Mitchell, Dan Zanes, Charlie Hope, and Caspar Babypants (formerly of Presidents of the United States of America) are my top favorites. Barenaked Ladies have at least one kids’ album I know of, too.