I asked Emma if I could write a post about her string and she has agreed. Yesterday she told Soma about her string. Emma wrote by pointing to letters on a letter board.
“It is sometimes like a pet, but I don’t have to walk it every day. It does not bother me with noise. It helps me think and I can have secret names for it…”
When Emma was around two she had a mermaid finger puppet that she would hold in one hand and run up and down the hallway leading to our front door. The mermaid had long black hair and she’d watch its hair sway as she ran. Later, Emma began twirling a strand of her own hair. She would twirl it around, but then began putting it in her mouth. The strand would get tangled and knotted and no matter what we did, that strand of hair would escape our attempts to keep it contained. We were advised to always put her hair in a pony tail, or braid it, which we diligently did, but despite our best efforts, the strand would come loose, wrapped around a sticky finger, wound and unwound; no brush or comb could tame it.
Then, one day at a birthday party Emma caught hold of a balloon string, the kind that one uses for wrapping presents with. It was yellow and the balloon had long since popped and been cut away. I kept thinking she wanted the balloon and asked the parent hosting the party if I could take another balloon as Emma’s had popped. But Emma wasn’t interested in the balloon. It was the string she wanted. I was so fixated on the balloon it took several balloons before it dawned on me that the balloon was merely an annoyance and removing it from the beloved string was necessary.
That yellow balloon string was joined by another balloon string, this time blue. Emma would intertwine the two, twist them together and twirl them. This then evolved to packing tape, which Emma would strip down to narrower pieces and then gather a dozen or so up and twirl them about. A few years ago, she began adding brightly colored duct tape to a few of the pieces, thereby binding them together and it became a kind of work of art, constantly changing, growing, evolving.
Now, the packing strips count to over a dozen, some are several feet long, others are shorter, some even less than six inches, but each string is part of a larger whole and when one goes missing, the upset it causes can be terrible. Still, we have come to understand how important the string is. When Emma is writing she wraps it around the other hand, or will place it in her lap, or sometimes will even set it down on the table next to her left hand. But it is always close by. We have come to see that this is Emma’s version of a stim, or as Emma has described it, “self-care”.
Yesterday Emma wrote about her string with Soma and I once again marveled at her creative and inventive mind. I have come to see it as a thing of beauty, ever-changing, a metamorphic reminder of life, attachment, movement, and the never-ending dance we are engaged in with ourselves and each other.