I had a dream last night about Anchor Center, the preschool for blind kids that was so awful to Gracie. In my dream, the woman I saw at Starbucks a few weeks ago (in real life) held a ceremony to offer me a Christmas present, I guess as a way to atone for the wrongs perpetrated by Anchor. (It was an electric blanket—dreams are funny.) As I was leaving the ceremony, Gracie’s teacher Stef, the only one who continued to treat us the same through the whole ordeal, decided to walk with me across what became my old college campus. (Again, dreams are funny.)
Stef and I talked while we walked, and in my dream I was less polite and accommodating than usual. I kept interrupting her and not letting her speak, determined to say my piece. I told her I was glad Alice (executive director) and Andrea (preschool director) lost their jobs after the fiasco with Gracie, and it shocked her. I told her that Andrea was an awful human being, and a terrible fit for Anchor. I told her how it felt that the organization that repeatedly assured us that we were “family,” that they were there for us, betrayed us in such a way. Real family would never treat us like that. I told her a bunch of other stuff, too, generally expressing anger and frustration for the way we were treated.
As I started to wake up, there were things I wished I’d said to Stef, like how the whole ordeal affected sweet Gracie. My girl was going through the worst time of her life—she had just had to have surgery in which part of her body was removed. She was angry, scared, and frustrated, and wanted nothing more than to get back to her routine at the school she loved. But, when she returned to school, she was treated as a monster. She was told she was bad, her behavior was bad, she was a problem, she was too much for them. Instead of being welcomed with loving arms into her family and “home,” she was shunned and rejected. No wonder my girl acted out. Although she is wise beyond her years, she was only 4 at the time, and her behavior was totally age-appropriate, considering what she went through. I don’t blame her at all for acting the way she did, and I am actually impressed that she made the choices she did. She’s a smarty pants.
I also remembered how her teacher, Caroline, had a terrified expression each morning when I would drop off Gracie. It’s especially obnoxious because Caroline’s daughter is autistic and does not feel pain appropriately. If there was anyone in that school who should have understood Gracie, it was her, but instead she treated Grace as a monster. She acted as if a scared 4-year-old child was something to fear instead of something to love and coddle. And then there’s how her other teacher, Sara, betrayed us completely by taking all the information I gave her about Gracie’s medical conditions and using it to get Gracie expelled. What a petty, two-faced bitch.
Dreams express the deepest notions of our subconscious. Clearly the wounds inflicted by Anchor Center have not healed, and an electric blanket is hardly enough to make amends. I have wondered before what would be enough for me to forgive them. I don’t think there’s anything they could do. I do remember thinking that all of them should lose their jobs and personally apologize to Gracie—part of that happened, Andrea and Alice lost their jobs, but Sara and Caroline are still teaching there, probably gossiping like biddy hens about whatever other kids or parents they don’t like. They are small-minded.
Stef is different. Even when all the rest of the staff treated Gracie as untouchable, a pariah, Stef was the same ol’ friend she’d always been. She loved on Gracie the way family should. I wish we were still in contact. She’s probably the only one who can mend the wounds Anchor inflicted, at least for Gracie.
Thankfully, the public school Gracie enrolled in after the fiasco with Anchor ended up being amazing. They loved on her the way Anchor should have. They treated her like a person, a little 4-year-old person who had been through some serious ordeals but was still sweet, lovable, kind, and amazing. They set her up for success in kindergarten, ensuring her IEP was filled with every accommodation she needed and that she’d get all the services she needs. They were, in a word, reasonable.
Dreams are funny. I’m not sure why this dream came up; I haven’t been thinking of Anchor or anything, haven’t been angry about their injustices for quite a while. Clearly there are still hard feelings, and no matter how much I may try consciously to move on, those wrongs will never be righted. But, as much as this post belies me, I am not bitter. All’s well that ends well—we learned that private school is not for Gracie, even private schools that purport to serve a special needs audience. We learned that public schools, even the crappy neighborhood one we’re assigned to, can be awesome. Although the population served by our neighborhood school is abysmally poverty-stricken, the teachers are amazing and Gracie’s helper is above and beyond any of our expectations. Gracie is thriving there.
Anchor Center gets a lot of accolades. Everyone wants to support the preschool for the blind children, and surely some of that support is warranted. But they have a dark secret, a skeleton in their closet, and its name is Gracie. Amazing Gracie, to be precise.