November 20, 2004

the imprint of a city

Thanks to everyone who commented on my Toronto post. It's too soon to say if we'll actually move, if we truly do want to move, if this is the best thing for our lives. But I have to say I like the idea of migrating from a country known for its standard of living to one known for quality of life.

I realize Toronto isn't New York and if we measure it by those standards, we'll probably be disappointed. But it's not Los Angeles either. This city, as I've said before, fits me like someone else's underpants. Tight in the crotch and the wrong shape altogether. But I find myself wondering now what it would be like if we could afford to move back to New York. Can you really go home again? Can home possibly live up to your memories? I'm still a New Yorker in my world view, in my preferences and my blunt speech, but I talk slower now, walk slower now (when Im not racing alongside a six year old boy), and I like living somewhere without the stink of garbage in huge bins along the street. I think about moving back and it feels almost as foreign as moving to a new city. I love New York, but do I belong there? I can't know without moving back but with the cost of living there, we can't afford to find out.

I'm a different person now than I was when we left Park Slope. Some is about mothering a special needs child (and LA has been a good place for him during those first crucial years, replete with cutting edge services). Some is due to the choice I made to leave film editing and pursue screenwriting and then the intensive exposure I got to the script development process, all very much entangled with the fact that I live here in Hollywood. The people I've met, the experiences I've had, they've shaped me and even though it's often been painful, I can't regret the lessons learned.

Would I be the person I am now if we'd stayed in New York? Somehow I doubt it. (Though the thought of who I might have been instead intrigues me.) Who will I become if we stay in LA another ten years? Twenty? Who will I become if we move to Toronto in two years? How would that still-unknown environment shape me? Is there a point in your life where your surroundings no longer alter you, when you become fixed, a butterfly in amber, forever mid-motion? Conversely, can you find what you need wherever you are? I know many good people in LA, many people not in the film industry, they're often refreshingly sane and non-competitive. I think we could stay here and be fine. We could find our fit, and to some extent we already have. So maybe that would be okay. But the lure of change is strong. The idea that a place could fit us better, that we don't have to struggle to find our place in that world, it's seductive. (Not to mention deciduous trees and the taste of snow and family hundreds instead of thousands of miles away.) And so I think we'll continue to contemplate and explore this surreal but surprisingly sensible move.

Oh, and I appreciate the info some of you have given me about Canadian services for autism. And yes, I now know about Friday's Supreme Court ruling against the parents who felt the government should pay for their children's intensive 40 hours a week ABA programs. Instead the court left it up to individual provinces to decide, which mostly means no. Fortunately for us, Damian is well beyond needing that level of intervention (and we were never exactly ABA aficionados anyway). Even if we stay in LA, he'll probably outgrow the need for much of anything within the next few years. He's doing fine without an aide in his regular kindergarten class (more on that in a Hidden Laughter entry soon, I promise); in fact, the inclusion specialist told me yesterday she couldn't tell him apart from his peers.

I'm still researching what it means to have a child with mild developmental issues in the Toronto school district whether the district offers occupational therapy, what kinds of accommodations you can ask for in an IEP but I'm optimistic that Damian can get what he needs up there. I'm more worried about the quality of the schools themselves. Mostly wondering how nurturing they are, how stimulating, and how well they keep a bright child interested in and excited by learning. I exhausted myself researching the same questions here, it's overwhelming to think about doing it all over again. But so it goes. Is it worth it? So far I think so. We'll see. Future unknown and maybe unknowable but kind of exciting, for all that.

Posted by Tamar at November 20, 2004 05:20 PM

Toronto has a lot of excellent schools -- both public and private. Have you found T.O. Mama? ( She and the other moms on her message board may be able to answer some of your specific questions. Good luck! I've faced similar challenges with some of my kids and it can be a major battle to get the necessary supports in place.

Posted by: Ann at November 25, 2004 04:09 PM