For the past week, I’ve been horribly busy fighting, yes, a SECOND severe infestation of bed bugs in Samantha’s bedroom. I thought we had defeated the bedbugs, but thanks to an incompetent exterminator, our bedbug battle has begun again—in the same exact place.  Exterminators only guarantee three months bug free, so what’s their incentive to do a thorough job if that means customers won’t return?  What a great racket! I can’t help thinking about the Three Stooges episode “Pest Control,” where the Stooges played exterminators who were instructed by their boss to plant bugs and mice in Park Avenue apartments because business was slow.

Once again, I am throwing out Samantha’s new mattress (along with the bed-bug proof cover that completely failed), box spring, and rug. Our building sent us a new exterminator, who has so far treated our apartment FOUR times and sent us to stay in a hotel for a night. This time I’ve discarded even more furniture than our first go round, and I even plan to take down our track lighting to see if any of these insidious and disgusting insects are hatching more babies. (We found a live one after three bombings!)

On the last bug buster visit, the young man blasting the poison in my daughter’s room at 8:30 am suggested that we also seal every nook and cranny above and below the baseboard along the perimeter of the room. Our superintendent has also suggested we paint the entire apartment as a further deterrent, since our landlord owes us a paint job anyway. Why not? Our apartment is in such a mess anyway, strewn with garbage bags full of clothing, that prepping for the painters will be child’s play.  I’m convinced that our laundromat and cleaner are going to retire soon or at least enjoy an extended vacation around the world on their income from our latest fiasco.

Speaking of vacations, I will not let these blood sucking little monsters deter me from writing about our own mini-vacation and a final film festival in New Hampshire.  During the July 4th week, we went to the White Mountain Jewish Film Festival in Bethlehem, New Hampshire for what appears to be the last showing for Keep the Change on the film festival circuit.  We drove 7 hours, spent one night in a (not-so-comfortable) Comfort Inn in Brattleboro, followed by two nights at The Wayside Inn, an even more modest and Spartan establishment paid for by the

festival. Fortunately, the air conditioning worked in both places, and our room at The Wayside Inn overlooked the Amonoosuc River, which was more like a lovely babbling brook.  Finally, for Howard’s birthday weekend, we stayed at the lovely Mount Washington Hotel, where we enjoyed nature trails and treated ourselves to massages.

So why did we bother with such a long, grueling drive?  (We didn’t know we would be returning to bedbugs). For the past few months, my mother has been asking me if going to film festivals has become tedious and repetitive. Although the travel is tiresome and I’ve seen the movie so many times that I know every actor’s lines, the answer is mostly no.  Each film festival brings different audiences—all enthusiastic—and sometimes new questions about Samantha’s experience in making the movie. My daughter’s joy in the applause and accolades never gets old.  In addition, Samantha has blossomed in the limelight; she has become increasingly poised and confident in talking to large audiences, even when she isn’t sure of how to answer a question.  Tentative and anxious at first, somehow Samantha reaches deep inside herself and manages to reveal more of her thought process, surprising and delighting her audiences (including me!)IMG_2399

In some ways, traveling to screenings in the US and other countries has been like entering a different world or an altered state.  During most of Samantha’s childhood, she did not have friends. Strangers and even family members scattered like cockroaches when my daughter had her frequent and unpredictable tantrums.  Strangers who mostly hadn’t heard of autism thought she was a brat and I was a bad mother.  Samantha was lonely, and I wasn’t popular on the mommy circuit either. But now suddenly, after years of isolation and rejections, we are a mother and daughter team embraced wherever we go, thanks to her performance in Keep the Change.  Everyone wants a hug or a picture with Samantha EVERYWHERE. Now she draws a crowd around her like a magnet. Now people want to meet “Samantha’s mom” and compliment me on awesome mothering.  At Karlovy Vary, I thought the 11 minute standing ovation after the movie ended was a one-time phenomenon.  But then EVERY film festival large and small, here and abroad stood up to offer applause. I love watching people love my daughter. I’m so proud: I could never get tired of seeing Samantha glow warmer and brighter.

I’m a little sad that Keep the Change has reached the end of a wonderful run that has lasted more than year. I hope that Samantha has other opportunities to grow and perform, and that her exciting debut will lead to new beginnings. I also hope the film educates people to have a deeper respect and understanding of people with autism.  Of course, that kind of appreciation will take time, and even a film as successful as Keep the Change will not change minds and hearts overnight. But at least the process is beginning….

As for endings,  I hope and pray that my war on bedbugs will be over VERY soon, and I can go back to the hard work of autism advocacy instead.








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