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We arrived at the farm mid morning on Friday. What a great place! www.east-hill-farm.com Our first day was spent discovering the different animals — the cows, horses, sheep, rams, goats…but most importantly the chickens. A loved the chicken coop. Love may actually be an understatement. A became OBSESSED with the chicken coop! He repeatedly checked the little boxes for eggs. Occasionally he was rewarded with one and it was saved for the next day’s breakfast. Lots of swimming, bingo and eating too.

A and I were up at 5:30 am with the roosters- time to check  for more eggs. None. But there was a cow on the loose! A took charge and kept the cow in sight while he sent me to find help. He loved the excitement of the farm!  Our “real” purpose of being in NH, however, was to visit the school. I spent the morning wondering how on earth we were going to get A into the car. We prepped everyone- “First we are going to milk the cow and goat, then make friendship bracelets and swim. After that it’s lunchtime and then we are getting into the car to go visit the school.” Lunch came and went and we announced it was time to load up. Amazingly, A got into the car with limited issues (he had to check from eggs first, but that was it.)

We took the short drive and as we drive up the driveway I am unsure what to say or do. I blurt out, “I didn’t notice the climbing wall before.” We had just watched the HBO documentary on Temple Grandin- she attended Hampshire Country School when it was a coed school. A thinks I meant I didn’t see it in the movie. “Its the 21st century mom, some things have changed.” We did tell him David and I had visited a few weeks ago, but the movie is in the forefront of his mind. He told me it was an amazing movie- that he was very similar to Temple in many ways.

When Bill greets us at the main house, he immediately introduces himself to A and tell him he has seen A’s website (abesanimalmission.org) “One question though. The picture of you with a black wrinkled dog- what breed is that?” I breathe a sigh of relief and A is off on a tangent about sharpeis and other dog breeds. Bill knows his stuff.

We all go into a large comfortable room with tables, chairs, books and board games. “I bet you would love this game A,” Hannah points to a spy boardgame. “Or this one- it’s a farm one!” Ben and I play bookstore while Bill and A discuss the options of what to do during the visit. I am amazed at how every book I pick up would be a book A would love. There is a book on Indian sign language, books on specific animal species,history books- everything right up A’s alley.

A and Bill are involved in a discussion about Temple Grandin. A can’t believe that Bill has met her. He gets to hear how she designed her squeeze box at Hampshire Country School and what some of the changes in the movie were. A hangs on every word.

We are taken on a tour of the grounds- the goats, the rock climbing wall. Then the chickens. They have chickens here! A is very excited and quickly uses his new skills to gather 12 eggs, which we now have to keep fresh and transport safely home.  Most of our time is spent at he school’s lake. We are warned that while there are some fish, it’s often tough to reel one in. They havent met A. Over the course of the afternoon, he catches 7 or 8- a large mouth bass- bigger than anything ever caught there before!

One of  the dorm parents is at the lake with her 8 year old son. They live in one of the dorms and her son attends public school. He comes back to Hampshire Country School in the afternoon and does all the activities with the other boys. The woman tells me how she is known for all the hugs she gives and how she gets up in the middle of the night to settle a middle of the night waker back to sleep. I really like her.

B gets to canoe. H swims, A fishes. Even our dog is with us and having a great time.  Bill and I steal away to talk about how to approach A and let him know that he will be attending in September. “Tell him we are very impressed and are confident he will do well here. Tell him you and D need a few days to ‘research’ and make sure you agree. Then let him know you re sending in his registration paperwork.” I tell Bill I am worried that A has a whole summer to be anxious over this. He tells me it is better to have “manageable” anxiety knowing he will be going, rather than anxiety because he doesn’t know if he is or isn’t. Makes sense.

Bill tells us we should wrap things up, end them on a positive note and let A want to come back for more. As we leave A asks if he was accepted. I proudly say “yes! They were very impressed by you!” A grins ear to ear! “WOW! I was one of 20 boys picked out of the whole world!” He hesitates and then says, “But, I’m not going.” I smile and tell him D and I need to research it more to makes ure this is where he will do well. A asks what kind of research I will do- I tell him I plan to call parents of boys who are students at Hampshire Country. A tells me he wants to hear what Temple Grandin thinks about the school.

We spend one more day at the farm and then head back home. There isn’t much talk about the school, except for the occasional, “Am I going?” TO which I reply that D and I need to make sure he will do well there and we will know in a few days.  A mentions to someone that he visited a boarding school. I interrupt and let them know that A was one of only 5 boys this year selected to attend and it is incredible that he qualified. A tells me he thinks he wants to go.

I sent an email to Temple Grandin with a little about A and how much he enjoyed her movie and identifies with her so much. I tell her that A wants her opinion on Hampshire Country School. I hit send and wonder if she will ever even see the email. I immediately get a reply from her secretary that Temple is out of town until Wednesday but she will email A then and also send him a card! She tells me that Temple loves to correspond with kids like A. I feel giddy!

D and I are 100% sold on this. Even if A becomes horribly upset I feel ike I will soldier on. This is what is going to make all the difference in the world.

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9 Responses to “Back Home”

  1. Barbara Sontz Says:

    Lucy – What wonderful news! Everything about this sounds so right for A and for your family. I am so happy for you! Love, Barbara S.

  2. fran Says:

    You are right – this is going to make all the difference in the world. Good for you for sorting through all the possibilities and sticking with it to find this place.

  3. Aunt Kathy Says:

    Lucy & David,
    Wow! This school sounds amazing!
    And what a journey this has been……… things are falling into place for all of you! Thanks for keeping us “in the loop!”
    We love you all !
    Aunt Kathy & Uncle Bill(y)

  4. Laura Says:

    This is awesome Lucy!

  5. J Says:

    Wow, this is so exciting for A and you! We here in my house loved that movie too, and I could not imagine a better school for a kid like A — or anyone for that matter!

  6. David Says:

    I was employed at HCS for 7 great years.
    It is an unbelievable community dedicated to the types of young people your son sounds like he is. Bill Dickerman is an amazing man and is excellent at knowing the type of young person who stands the most chance of success in the program at HCS. He has been involved with the school for so many years and in so many roles as have so much of the faculty there. I had the pleasure of working with so many of them including Bernd (the headmaster) when he first arrived at HCS. Good luck to your family and god bless!

  7. aunt judy Says:

    Lucy,

    My mantra is the same as yours…

    never, never, never give up

    so far, so good

    Love you, J

  8. aunt judy Says:

    Lucy,

    My mantra is the same as yours…

    never, never, never give up

    so far, so good

    Love you, J

  9. Steven Burstein Says:

    I went to Hampshire Country School from 1974-78. It’s so different now-but that’s to be expected after 30 years.

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