Martian Woman [Part VI]

By Haven Lindsey  in  blog  on  11.25.2022

In the ensuing months, it seemed every part of life changed yet in some ways it felt the same. Life continued. We embraced Justin and perhaps more so, we welcomed his situation. Given my resistance to rubbing off the not-so-good things of my upbringing, I worked hard to add goodness and love to Justin’s life without adding discomfort or stigma – he had enough of that already. We were often in touch with Jackie, Justin’s mom, to strengthen the bond between the two of them.

I continued working hard at my business, gaining clients, and hiring employees and subcontractors, yet in the evenings rather than spend time doing whatever I was doing B.J. (Before Justin), I would work with him on his studies. We would go through homework and lessons – something he had never given much consideration to before. When a chapter would have sample test questions at the end, we would go through them – we took the extra steps, we did the extra work. Justin didn’t particularly like it but he didn’t hate it. He struggled with concepts and he struggled with how to study but he worked hard.

One particularly frustrating evening as we tried to work through a concept, Martian Woman landed in our living room. She wasn’t expected and I suppose like most Martians or UFOs, no one knows where they come from. But there she was, front and center. To my surprise, as soon as Martian Woman arrived, everything got better – studying and practicing for tests became fun.

Justin was struggling to understand a science class. It wasn’t that he wasn’t trying – but he wasn’t getting it. I’ve never been a good student. I have always been a horrible test taker and I related to his struggle. When then husband and I were planning a trip to France we hired a local tutor to help us learn the language. Then husband excelled in the structured lessons and practice sessions while I floundered. Yet, as soon as we landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, without the pressure or structure, I found myself speaking and communicating while then husband was the one left to flail. I knew what it was like to be smart but to struggle with structured, left-brain assignments.

It occurred to me as we continued on a bumpy, uncomfortable, yet familiar, path that I was trying to get Justin to see something he couldn’t – something that teachers had always done to me – when really, we just needed to be presented with the information and be trusted to discover what was in front of us. Without any conscious decision or preplanning, I turned into Martian Woman on the spot – someone who did not understand the language, the steps, the concept. In essence, Martian Woman had just landed in our living room and didn’t have a clue as to what was going on. Justin had to teach her.

For whatever reason, and for all the silly laughter, Martian Woman helped bridge the gap for the boy struggling with school to one who couldn’t wait to tell Martian Woman about the things he learned in class that day. Without any prompts or suggestions, Justin started taking notes during class so he could explain it to Martian Woman that night. He would stay after class and ask questions to make sure he understood how to describe the steps to her. He would raise his hand if he didn’t understand a word and write down the definition. It was as if Justin wasn’t just responsible for himself – he was responsible for Martian Woman and he loved trying to make her understand.

For me, it was comically easy to be someone from outer space – school never came easy to me anyway. It was at times, side-splitting, pee-your-pants (not quite) funny, but in what seemed like no time at all, school, studies, homework, and assignments became fun. Our study sessions were filled with laughter and more than once Justin would say, “Martian Woman is SO stupid!” I would laugh and agree every time.

The first test Justin took after Martian Woman landed in our living room, he made an ‘A’. But it was not just a run-of-the-mill ‘A’. He had scored 100, his first-ever (there would be many more). His teacher wrote a note at the top of the paper in red ink about his improvement. The 100 was circled with two or three exclamation marks. Sitting in my office, I heard Justin burst through the door and watch as he bounded into my office. Keely had quickly learned not to schedule any calls or meetings for me from 3:30 to 5 PM – although we never actually discussed it, that time had become reserved for Justin. Beaming from ear to ear, laughing and jumping around, “Look! It’s because of Martian Woman.”

I listened to Justin excitedly tell the whole story of the test and how the teacher handed them out and explained in front of everyone that Justin was one of three students who had made a 100. I told Justin to go show Keely and I’d be right there. I ducked into the bathroom, a solace to hide my tears – an emotion I had been taught was weak and embarrassing. My tears of joy and utter amazement ran down my face and soaked into my collar. Trying to dry my eyes, flooded with emotion I hadn’t anticipated, I wasted a lot of toilet paper. I looked in the mirror and saw the joy on my tear-stained face. Why was I hiding tears of happiness? How would I explain that behavior to Martian Woman?

I walked out into the office with big tear-filled eyes and laughed and cried and celebrated all of us – Martian Woman too.