Friday, December 14, 2012

I used to know you 25 years ago.

As I seem to often reflect on the years of my childhood spent in Hungary and what it was like for me to be for a few years on and off at the Insitute for children with my type of disability, a lot of Hungarians connected to the method  reach out to me on Facebook. I rarely give it a second thought if they feel that my story is of benefit to what they're doing I welcome their requests. Rarely it's somebody I actually know or have a chance of meeting. But the world is a small place and social media make it even smaller. A couple of days ago I got a friend request from someone I have not seen or quite frankly thought of much in 25 years. It was one of my Conductors- the ladies that worked on our floor who were charged with every task from exercises to taking care of us. When I got the friend request I wasn't sure who it was. But I told her that I always liked her first name and that I remembered having a Conductor named Marika. Turns out it was her. In turn, she remembered me, my mom and my dad, who at that stage alternated every weekend when they flew in to Budapest on Friday to pick me up and bring me back Monday morning. (Later they would get an apartment in the city and take me home each night). I remembered had vividly because she had a wild sense of humor and a lot personality. She was just fun to be around and laughed a lot.  We called her "crazy Marika", but not in a mean spirited sense- she was very noticeable and very much out there, stood out in my memory quarter of a century later. I don't think I could recognize any other person that worked with me at the Institute to be honest or remember their names. And I think I wrote about it before. She was the Conductor that was moved to tears as she was leaving us, as we were weeping as well. I remember how on her last night she came down to our floor and sat with us watching us sleeping on our plinths that served as beds at night. Why were we crying- asked Andrew Sutton when I shared the story with him- What is this bond between a child and a Conductor? I really don't think it's complicated to be honest. They were young ladies with a lot of heart.  They were not cold detached nurses with thirty years of work in some hospital they hated,  focused more on watching the tele drinking coffee and never be bothered. They saw us as we would see them every week. It's a human reaction to be attached. You would probably expect some deep revelation about the nature of Conductive Education at that stage. But the attachment, at least for me, didn't come from the fact that they were in charge of daily exercise routines and them issuing commands. As exercises went we've always followed the same scripts and sets. At the time it didn't feel like they were telling me to do things. It seemed more like we were all following our assigned roles, the scripts were already there, they didn't make them up on the fly, ithe source of it seemed external. But consider this: A Conductor serves  your food. A conductor bathes you. A conductor helps you get dressed. A conductor takes you to the bathroom. For kids that were there in the overnight setting there was nobody else they would see. There were only other children and Conductors. Unlike any other institution I've been in there was no other personnel to perform different tasks and functions. During the week you don't interact with anybody else. Some of us were picked up for the weekend (My parents only missed one), but you knew that there were kids that were not taken home for many weeks at the time. My mom used to described the anticipation with which the children looked at her as they waited to see who and if if would come for them. I remember staring  at the door a few times myself. When I say Conductors were like mothers I don't just mean to say they were motherly, although they were loving and warm. But they were actually raising some of those kids whose parents were too far or too busy to be there. But if you ask me why we cried, I'd say it's also because we knew something was over, something would change-  and in a setting based on a familiarity of routine change was scary. Marika remembers me from the red floor, which was were I started. Sometime later, as we grew they packed us up and moved us to the orange floor- which was scary too. It was sudden and I thought my parents would never find me (I remember leaving a note in Polish with instructions) but if I had to be honest I'd say it was the change aspect of it that felt like it was introducing some unfamiliar chaos.

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