It’s a truism that there are as many different kinds of neuro-diversity as there are neuro-diverse people, yet there is one thing that unites us all.
Holidays are hard for us. I have yet to meet anyone ND who doesn’t have a disastrous childhood holiday story.
Mine happened when was when I was thirteen. I wanted to make snow ice cream in the blender. My mom said I could if I hurried, and cleaned up after myself. My grandparents were due to arrive at any moment.
In retrospect, she probably shouldn’t have told me to hurry. Hurrying is never good when you're ADHD.
So I set about making my snow ice cream. I gathered a generous scoop of snow from the back yard and piled it into the blender with milk, sugar, and pieces of candy cane. When I turned the blender on, the snow piled up on the sides of the blender. At that exact same moment the door bell rang, and I remembered that I had to hurry. I didn’t think I had time to turn the blender off, or to get a spatula to scrape the snow that had piled on the sides of the glass, so I stuck my hand into the blender to push the ice down.
Let me repeat myself: I stuck my hand into a blender because I thought it would be quicker than turning the blender off first. This was my thought process at thirteen.
If you’ve never stuck your hand in a blender full of snow, let me reassure you that the sight is visually arresting. So much blood. Also, it doesn’t hurt as much as you might imagine sticking your hand in a blender would. It was kind of a nice surprise.
I heard my grandmother’s voice, and I knew I was in trouble. All my mother wanted was to get through a single evening with my grandparents who’d just travelled hundreds of miles to be with us. And this was more difficult than you might imagine because my grandparents drank a lot, and my mother drank not at all, and so a big part of my grandparents arriving was hauling in case after case of gin, vodka, vermouth, snappy- tom tomato mixer and bourbon while my mother grimaced. It was my job to carry the liquor to the strange bar-like piece of furniture that my parent never used until my grandparents arrived.
“Laura,” my mother called in her already-strained voice. “Your grandparents are here.”
I threw the contents of the blender— blood, snow, peppermint, bits of skin— into the sink, and wrapped my bleeding left hand in a dishtowel. I stuck my hand behind my back, and gave my grandmother a right-handed hug. And then my grandfather. He wasn’t a huggy guy, but he was my favorite relative because he loved animals, and he had an extremely low tolerance for holiday bullshit.
I was fine with my nonchalant, right-handed hugs until I released my grandpa and backed away, still shielding my left hand from view. Pretty obvious.
“Laura,” my mom said. “Show me your hand.” She knew. She always did.
I pulled my left hand from behind my back. I’d already soaked the flimsy dishtowel, and my hand was dripping blood.
My grandmother issued a few choice expletives. She looked a little pale. My grandfather wandered off to wait in an out-of-the-way comfy chair.
My mom didn’t even blink, maybe because I went to the emergency room a lot as a kid. Like the time I found a board with a nail in it, and wondered if the nail would go through the sole of my shoe. (It did.) Or the time I rode a borrowed bike through the woods, hit a tree, flew off the bike, and landed on a barbed wire fence.
Mom sighed, as though this was just what she expected. Then she yelled my older brother’s name and he came forth from his fortress of solitude. He took one look at my hand and began mopping up the blood.
“You’re in charge until we get back from he emergency room,” Mom said.
It was a slow night in the emergency room. A lot of hospital personnel came into my room just to see what a hand looks like after it’s been stuck into a blender. I don’t think you can work at an emergency room unless you are curious about this sort of thing. The hours are long, and the work is hard and sometimes heartbreaking. A ridiculous, non-life-threathening accident probably gives you something fun to talk about at parties: “At work today, I had a kid who’d stuck her hand in a blender. Her mom said she does this kind of thing all the time…”
I thought I was going to have to have stitches, but the doctor said no. He couldn’t stitch any of the bigger cuts up, because everywhere he would have sewn was another cut. In the end, his disinfected every cut, wrapped my hand tightly, and told us to come back if I bled through the bandages.
When we left, I apologized to my mom. She didn’t mind. She said at least the worst part of the holiday was over.
That was her idea of the worst part of the holiday: our inevitable trip to the emergency room.
For me, the worst part of the holiday was Christmas morning. I always got dolls or clothing as presents. Boring girl stuff. Meanwhile, my older brother got train sets and tool kits, superswag pocket knifes, and rockets that you could launch in the backyard. Fun toys. I wanted to make things, and blow stuff up. I’d ask for rockets and tool kits every year, and every year more pink diaries, and scented stationary. Depressing.
It wasn’t until I was older that I realized my mom wasn’t trying to keep me from having fun, she was trying to keep me away from sharp objects. She didn’t want to go to the emergency room any more that she had to.