Like the Charles Dicken’s tale, this one’s about transformation and haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past. It’s about a ten year-old foster child with big trauma in her past and very aggressive behavior, which leads to a hospitalization, and then to art therapy with me. For a long time she is mostly non-verbal and sullen in the sessions, although clearly smart, and she mostly doesn’t trust me. Her birth mom has a history of heavy substance abuse and they’ve lived through lots of domestic violence. Mom has made many positive changes after a long uphill climb, and she is fighting to get her children back, all five of them. All this child wants for Christmas, she tells me, is to go home. I am awed by how hard she works to overcome the challenges she faces. Often she is not successful and beats up on herself. But she tries as hard as any kid could possibly try. She’s a fighter.
She loves to sing and dance. She is truly an amazing dancer, and regularly dances in our sessions. She doesn’t want to talk to me but she wants to dance for me. I am wowed by what a great dancer she is! At some point, she asks to use my iPhone to find music she can dance to, and I show her how to use Spotify to play the songs she likes. This Spotify/dance thing becomes part of our weekly routine. Sometimes she comes in and does nothing but sing and dance for the whole session.
When she’s not singing and dancing, she wants to make iPods and iPhones. She might not be talking much, but she’s got communication on her mind. She enlists me to cut the devices out of cardboard with my exacto knife and to help her copy the screen from my phone. Then she decorates them and makes earphones out of pipe cleaners. She makes many of them, and they all look pretty much like this reproduction:
One day she comes in after having had a very bad fight in school, refusing to speak, looking angry at the world and probably herself. She gives me the cold shoulder. I give her my iPhone and ask her to find a song that describes her day. As angry as she is, she can’t resist an iPhone, and she types “I Don’t Care” into the Spotify search bar. A lot of songs come up with this title, and she goes through them one by one until she finds one with a loud, angry, punk sound. This one, she says. Then we listen for awhile as the grating song bombards us, and talk a little about what happened.
A few weeks later she comes in feeling great and asks to use my phone to find some music. I ask her to pick a song to describe her life this week. She doesn’t hesitate. The Climb, by Miley Cyrus. She launches into it with great feeling. Although she’s an amazing dancer, she doesn’t actually have a great voice, and the fact that she’s singing a little off-key only makes her impassioned singing more beautiful.
She gets what she wants for Christmas this year. She and all of her siblings go home to their mom by early September. I haven’t had any word of how they’re doing. Keeping my fingers crossed for them. God bless us, everyone!
I can almost see it
That dream I am dreaming
But there’s a voice inside my head saying
You’ll never reach it
Every step I’m taking
Every move I make feels
Lost with no direction
My faith is shaking
But I gotta keep trying
Gotta keep my head held high
There’s always gonna be another mountain
I’m always gonna wanna make it move
Always gonna be an uphill battle
Sometimes I’m gonna have to lose
Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb
The struggles I’m facing
The chances I’m taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I’m not breaking
I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I’m gonna remember most, yeah
Just gotta keep going
And I, I got to be strong
Just keep pushing on…