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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tess's Flashbacks

A little background info may be in order.
When we traveled to VietNam and visited the orphanage that T&J lived in, we had a glimpse at the baby room.  This room was about 20'x20' and had about 20 small metal cribs in it.  Each with a baby inside lest we forget.
There was room for 1 or 2 plastic chairs for the nannies.
It might be best to describe the room by telling you what there was not in the room.
There was no rocking chair.
There was no cute bedding, or bumper pads, or even mattresses.
There was no pastel wall paper with bunnies or choo-choo trains.
There were no books to be read at bed time.
There was no soft carpet or rug to catch the fall of a babe who was learning to sit.
There was no floor space for babes to learn to crawl or toddle around.
There were no blocks or trucks or balls or rattles or stacking cups.
There were no toys.

There was a mobile.
In fact there were several mobiles placed around the room, one in the middle of 3 or 4 cribs, so that several babes could look up and watch and listen to a mobile.  These mobiles were the only toys we saw in the room.  Well that and the paint on the wall.  Look here and you'll see a couple pictures of the baby room with the mobiles.

In the last 6-9 months, we have witnessed Tess do what we can only guess is a "flashback."  We have a couple toys, one a music box and the other a small stuffed toy, that play music that sounds just like the same music played in a baby's mobile.  When Tess hears this music, she immediately turns to its source and squeaks a tiny painful whimpering sound.  She pushes the toy away with the back of her hand as if using her fingers would be too much contact.  Then she scuttles back to the farthest corner of her room and sinks into her blankie and sucks her fingers and stares at the empty place where the musical toy used to be.  She stays just like that, nearly silent for 15-20 minutes until I guess her heart finds the courage to come back to us.

Enter one of Tess's wonderful therapists and the suggestion to try to correlate this sound with new positive thoughts and images. (Any fellow psych majors out there?)

Some of the things Tess loves-

  • Collecting.  Collecting anything.  Collecting everything.  Collecting and carrying her treasures around in her hands.  Plastic spoons, marbles, a ribbon, a matchbox car.
  • Jewelry.  Little rings and bracelets.  Bangles and bobbles.  
  • Containers.  Containers to put the things she's collected in.  Baggies, purses, lunch boxes, pockets.  
Enter a retro Strawberry Shortcake music box that I found it on eBay for $2.99, and 2 generous teenage sisters that filled it with their cast offs. 
We get out the jewelry box every couple of days, and I wind it up.  Tess lifts the latch we make a big deal about it because of course it is so special.  We sing as the ballerina turns around and gently touch her skirt, and of course I smile a lot, because this is a good happy time that we now associate with this long-time-ago sound.  
The ballerina music box.  Let us pause.  
Does every woman raised in the 70's and 80's have the same Freudian response to this music box?  Does this sound coupled with that twirling, yet non-proportionately stacked ballerina instantly transport you back to when you were 7 years old?  A time of Cabbage Patch Dolls, and clackers, and  PacMan, too tight Jordache jeans, The Thundercats, crocheted beer can hats, and corduroy everything.  They were good times.
Oooops!  Got sidetracked!

After listening to the music and admiring the twirling ballerina, Tess discovers the jewelry and puts every piece on.  
When she's done, takes the jewels off and places them back in the box.  She closes the lid and fastens the latch.  

It's working... slowly.  She still pushes those music box toys away, but, once it's gone, she goes back to playing.  No more long flashbacks recently.

A child's mind is so so amazing.  To recollect and flashback to memories that you can't remember.  
It is amazing.  
It is haunting.  

More work in progress.  


  1. wow. wow. wow. wow. wow.

    and there we go on my morning cry.

    Good working Tess.
    Good working Mama.

  2. Tess and Jude so needed you an your family and your patience to help her through the tough times is priceless!

  3. What a brilliant idea to pair the shiny fun baubles with the music box. I'm a psych major and I'm not sure I'd have thought of that one. Tess is beautiful and raw and honest. You may feel at times that progress is slow, but the pictures of her say different. Great work Mama.

  4. Wow. I don't even know what to say. Linhsey is haunted just about every night still. Marissa is haunted night and day, 24/7. This story is amazing. It's sad and beautiful all at once. The series of pictures are literally breathtaking that accompany it.

  5. Everyone else posted what I am feeling about this blog, so there is nothing more to say. :) Just thanks for sharing this with us - it was so touching.


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