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How Was My Spring Break? Shut Up.

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Dear Spring Break:

You almost broke me.

You, SB, are a foretaste of the looming three-month summer holiday, the big S to your lowercase s. When school's out, my autistic daughter--when she's awake--is at my side. And by that I mean Sadie is death-grasping my skirt's edge, my purse strap, the skin on my forearm. "Get more toys out!" "Have a cookie!" "Time to change a diaper!" She sounds like a demanding little drill sergeant.

Which I say with love.

Sadie doesn't travel well, so at the start of each April, I've become the neighborhood's go-to plant-waterer, cat-feeder, mail-fetcher. Our area is affluent, so while everyone and their brother escapes to the beach or the slopes--or Europe, which I'm told is still carrying on despite my neglect--we stay put. The spouse and I went driving one night, passing empty stores and yoga studios and restaurants. A lonely Chinese take-out sign glowed OPEN, and we giggled at its optimism. I made a mental note to order lo mein for dinner the next night, if I'm still alive. Who invented the term staycation? It was probably someone trying to make themselves feel better, somebody whose bank account looks a lot like mine. Staycations suck.

Not that I'm bitter.

SB, you last only a week (bookended by two weekends), but by Wednesday I'd had my fill, and my precious positive energy stores, still low from last summer and Christmas vacation and Martin Luther King Day, were all but spent. One morning, after 4.5 hours of fixing breakfast at breakneck speed and sneaking in the fastest shower in civilian life and getting Sadie dressed and going behind her and redoing her undoings, I triumphantly settled us in the car. And then I proceeded to fall apart, hot tears ruining the only makeup I'd had time for, mascara. Get it together, girl, we've got a doctor's appointment in 30. How had 11 a.m. come so soon? And what, exactly, did I have to show for it?

Such is the cry of mothers of young'uns everywhere, but Sadie's not young (she's 13), and neither am I (45). And there's no end in sight.

SB, your crowning moment came when the doctor and a nurse couldn't get Sadie's blood pressure, not for the life of them. My girl's got fight in her.

"Look, we'll get Mommy's blood pressure--see!" the nurse told Sadie cheerfully, strapping the cuff around my wrist.

"Wow," I said. "Now is not a good time to take Mommy's blood pressure..."

It was a tad high.

What does one do when she reaches her wit's end? Where can I go to find more wits? A penny for some wits!

What if I go to the bad place again, the place with no patience, no hope, no joie de vive? I've visited there, and I'm telling you--though I took copious notes--I have not discovered the magical key to getting out. If I had, I would've made copies.

Prayer and good books and music and trying to live in the moment and remembering to breathe and friends of the first order and family, these things help. But nothing helps like a babysitter, and sitters who can manage Sadie are in short supply. We recently got politely fired from another respite service.

Not that I blame them.

I am relieved when you're over and I quickly realize my wits have not totally left the building. They come running back Monday morning as I wave bye-bye to my adorable child, who seems bewildered by the arrival of the bus. Had she thought we were standing at the end of the drive waiting for the ice cream man?

I send up supplications for Sadie's special ed teachers as I walk back inside. I don't even need caffeine. Peace and quiet and using the restroom alone is my coffee, and I spend the day thinking long thoughts and writing a blog piece for the Huff Post and--bam!-- turning it in. I celebrate by tidying up the garden and noticing the glorious racket of birdsong. I shoo a wren away, handsome as he is, from his attempts to build a nest in a porch fern. I linger there scarecrow-like, leaning on the rail and wondering why I can't hear long thoughts or birds or why I can't write when I'm chasing Sadie.

I think it's because of what my husband calls the hum. When we're on Sadie-duty, we experience a constant low hum of being on-task, of wondering from where the next crisis will come--and will it involve number one or number two?

My spouse's workplace was pretty empty, SB, as the whole town seemed to have migrated to kinder climes. He took a couple days off so his nerves could get rattled, like mine, at home. This is true love. But before his sucky staycation, he got to put on real clothes and drive downtown and sit in his leather office chair and be a genius and probably eat lobster for lunch.

Not that I'm jealous.

Until Next Year (no hurry),