Mother of reinvention

  • Alison Auerbach / For the AJC
March 24, 2017
Henry P. Taylor/Henry Taylor / AJC
Gabriel and his mother Alison sit aboard a MARTA train. (HENRY TAYLOR / HENRY.TAYLOR@AJC.COM)

This is not supposed to be my life. The me I planned to be is slipping on a pair of designer shoes while my husband serves our children breakfast in the kitchen of our Cambridge townhouse. On the way to my first appointment of the day with a client at the Boston Women’s Health Collective, I drop my kids off at school while mentally outlining my latest article on feminist therapy.  

Instead, something is burning. While I’ve been pondering the life I imagined when I was a social work grad student at Bryn Mawr, a clot of scrambled egg has stuck to the frying pan and scorched in my kitchen in Atlanta. As I furiously scrape the pan, the microwave beeps indicating the bacon is done. Breakfast finally assembled, I slide the whole thing across the counter toward my only child, 6-year-old son Gabriel, whose head is bowed over the game he’s playing on my iPhone.  

I have about three minutes to whip up a fruit smoothie for myself. In my rush, I turn the stick blender on before it’s fully immersed in the yogurt. Now it’s a facial.  

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“It’s already 7:52!” Gabriel announces.  

Despite his anti-anxiety medication, Gabriel still tends to fixate on the time. He knows his morning routine down to the minute and becomes agitated if he believes he is falling behind. It’s hard for me to help him overcome this obsession, because I empathize. I also love schedules and order, though I don’t cry or have a panic attack if we leave the house at 8:41 instead of 8:40. Then again, the world isn’t a constant unpredictable assault on my nervous system, as it is for Gabriel. Autism dictates the morning routine must proceed as scheduled if my son is to leave for school in a calm frame of mind conducive to learning.  

As I plop down beside Gabriel, I shove my hair out of my eyes and discover yogurt in my eyebrows. I love my son and everything about him. I just always thought I’d get a tiny piece of my old self back when he went to school full-time. I didn’t anticipate the hours of research and advocacy required to untangle his complex set of needs, nor the fatigue that comes with it. I wouldn’t trade him for anything, but this was not supposed to be my life.

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