We Will Talk About These Days: Rebecca Bricklin

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Rebecca Bricklin looking up toward viewerInterview conducted by Marcie Bramucci in 2020

Rebecca Bricklin Colorful and dramatic, Rebecca aspires to become a published artist. She is working diligently to complete her first comic book featuring her "chakra girls and boys"—a series of characters each embodying the unique characteristic of their corresponding chakra energy centers in the body.

Rebecca loves the limelight, and is happy to be interviewed anytime, anywhere.

Alexandra Bricklin sitting outdoors on a benchAlexandra Bricklin Passionately dedicated to improving the lives of people who have historically lived on the fringe of society, Alexandra has spent the last 35 years of her life, parenting and promoting Rebecca's ultimate journey into "independence."

Alexandra is also a singer/songwriter currently creating and publishing podcasts with her partner David Namerow that feature original songs and poetry. "Memories in the Key of Life" can be found on Apple Podcasts.

MARCIE
I'm Marcie. I work at People's Light. We are partnering with the Institute on Disabilities at Temple University on this project to hear about life for individuals with disabilities now in the time of COVID.

REBECCA:
I'm Rebecca Bricklin, and this is my mom, Alexandra Bricklin. I am 35. And she's 64, going on 65.

ALEXANDRA
Sometimes I function as Rebecca's translator, because sometimes her language is diffuse. I will try to clarify, if she needs it.

MARCIE
Rebecca, what is a typical day for you, now, in COVID? And then I'd also love to talk about what a day was like before COVID. Are there any differences?

REBECCA
My structure has been gone. I used to go in public places and participate in a lot. I would go to Kelly Café on Sundays. And Also, on Transitions on the weekdays. (HUMAN SERVICES INC, TRANSITIONS SUB-ACUTE COMMUNITY BASED PARTIAL HOSPITAL PROGRAM)

ALEXANDRA
She had settled into a routine about three days a week, 9 am to 2:30 pm. Something like that. They loved her. She was like a rock star, because she participated in the groups and there was -

REBECCA
Yeah, I was a rock star. I was, like, wanting to be a peer mentor.

ALEXANDRA
And then COVID. Corona came and everything stopped. They didn't offer telemedicine or anything like that, except for her psychiatrist, who calls once a month and renews her prescriptions. And then we also volunteered at a café on Sundays, in Havertown. It supports people with disabilities. That left. She had karate twice a week. And that stopped.

REBECCA
I also did my chiropractor on Mondays. But now I do it on Saturdays, by appointment.

ALEXANDRA
Chiropractor was the first thing that came back. But it came back as a scheduled appointment, rather than a walk-in. Rebecca liked it, and then it became pretty redundant. She got tired of Zoom. We picked up fishing, which went a really long way.

REBECCA
Fishing for minnows and crayfish.

ALEXANDRA
Then she got frustrated -

MARCIE
Where do you go fishing?

REBECCA
Lots of places. I spent a lot of time researching fishing.

MARCIE
In Chester County? Outside of Chester County?

ALEXANDRA
Oh, we traveled further. See, I kept creating new structures to match Rebecca's need for high structure. Rebecca is always interested in novelty. And then novelty, once it becomes routine, wears off. So I keep creating new structures. Fishing was initially interesting, until she got frustrated. She was only able to catch what they call crappies. Little fish. She really wanted to catch a rainbow trout.

Read the rest of the interview

REBECCA
Or sea bass.

ALEXANDRA
Or something larger. So we fished -

REBECCA
So we could eat it.

ALEXANDRA
We fished at Pickering Creek. We fished at Hibernia Park and various spots. And we chatted with various fishermen. And all that.

REBECCA
Next week, I'm going for professional fishermen's training.

ALEXANDRA
Yeah. We paid for a half-day excursion instruction, because she's getting tired of not catching fish.

MARCIE
That's exciting.

REBECCA
I also want to tell you I'm playing "fish for squirrels."

ALEXANDRA
That's a new activity. A friend taught Rebecca how to put peanuts on her fishing rod and cast them out over our porch. I have a video of that.

MARCIE
Your videos. The one you sent me of her - of your drawing, Rebecca. There was a drawing that you had done.

REBECCA
I learned to create new characters. They're called my chakra kids.

ALEXANDRA
She found a site online that has chakra characters similar to hers. It was eight-week modules about mindfulness, designed for parents to work with their pre-adolescents.

It was part of Rebecca's daily structure. Every day, we did a module. And then she finished that. We just got the second one.

MARCIE
Having the structure of this program sounds useful.

ALEXANDRA
Yeah. And art classes went from once a week to twice a week through Zoom. But now that's back in the office, with masks. Her Transitions program reopened last week, but she's not comfortable going back. And I don't blame her.

REBECCA
Masks are especially an issue. I really just can't breathe in them. I coughed, literally coughed, and I felt my throat was really closing.

ALEXANDRA
Yeah. She has an emotional reaction to them, really, especially in public places. It's kind of a claustrophobic thing.

REBECCA
It's an epic struggle. I mean, it's not an epic struggle.

ALEXANDRA
That's a good word, my dear. Epic struggle's a good word.

MARCIE

If you needed to put on a mask, how does that make you feel, Rebecca?

REBECCA
Like I'm not recognized. And I feel like there's a doctor's office everywhere. But you know what I miss most about being in the world? I miss hugging people. I'm a hugger. When I hug people, it makes them feel really good. Now that I can't hug them, it makes me feel discouraged and depressed. I had hugs from some people lately, but it's not enough. I want to give hugs to the whole world.

MARCIE
I can hear in your voice that this is having an impact on you right now. How are you feeling, Rebecca?

REBECCA
I feel kind of sad.

MARCIE
When COVID is all done, what are some of the things that you're hoping for?

REBECCA
I definitely want to be a peer mentor and a speaker. I also love styling clothes. And I like to really use words that speak my truth. Right now, we just speak it. I live it. And I also want to do music with my mom. My mom has original songs. My mom and her collaborator David Namerow were supposed to sing this summer, but instead we do podcasts.

MARCIE
What did it sound like?

REBECCA
It sounded wonderful, like nothing I've ever heard.

MARCIE
Had you heard your mom's music before?

REBECCA
Yeah, since I was a little girl.

ALEXANDRA
I have one song about her. The first video I made was a song called "Talk to Me," which is the story of -

REBECCA
My life.

ALEXANDRA
It has video footage of her, from 2 and ½, when she's very autistic to about 14. Kind of like a memoir.

REBECCA
I wish I could make a new video. A memoir, carrying up from there to who I am now.

ALEXANDRA
And you can! I mean, it's pretty amazing how much Rebecca has grown. And now, especially, Rebecca has morphed, in the last three months, into so much more of a mature adult human being. Tomorrow she gets a key to her own apartment.

REBECCA
Thank you. We're just getting the key to the house today.

ALEXANDRA
Tomorrow, tomorrow.

REBECCA
I mean tomorrow. I'm going to practice living there.

ALEXANDRA
We're going to take it slow. A day at a time. It'll be like a club - you know, it'll be like practice. We'll be able to modulate.

REBECCA
I don't like going through change. But you know what? I learned to really handle change when I got to see it from my chakra kids. Life's got to tell you to go with the flow.

ALEXANDRA
Big lesson. And Rebecca has always liked to be in control of what happens.

REBECCA
COVID's been a big deal. It's like nothing I've ever experienced in my life.

MARCIE
What does your support structure look like? Who are all the staff members and specialists that are supporting your world?

ALEXANDRA
Ideally, a person at Rebecca's level of support succeeds with a delicate and well-developed combination of paid and unpaid supports, of which the most important part are the unpaid supports. The thing that counts in the end are relationships because they make a person's life, they make the difference.

REBECCA
Yeah, they make a very big difference. It's just a kind of love that's just so overwhelming. It just wants to make you cry.

This is the kind of life that my mom struggles with every day to support us. She's like our champion. The fear I have most of all, it's where my mom would die, and I wouldn't know what to do. I'm really developing this gratitude, especially for that sake. Because I want to remind myself just how good of a mother she really is on the inside, despite her struggles.

ALEXANDRA
I've spent the last twenty years of my life developing Rebecca's relationships in the community. And learning about paid systems of care. To be quite honest with you, they suck. The design is faulty. The thing I've focused on more than anything else is teaching her "good self-advocacy skills."

You have to really know what you're doing to help a person like Rebecca. She gets a lot of inner information but can't organize her vocabulary in a way where she's understood.

REBECCA
There's other things I can't organize, either. Like I would put stuff places and then my mom finds them in peculiar places.

ALEXANDRA
We had one of those situations yesterday where she couldn't find her phone. What did you do? Did you leave it at art therapy? And then there's a rage trigger. She frustrates very easily. The point I'm making is, for us, COVID was a true demonstration of what's possible. Because a lot of Rebecca's challenges turned around when it was just me and her.

REBECCA
And Daddy.

ALEXANDRA
Which told me how much of it's being reinforced by things that are out of my control. And that I get angry about. And I get punished for getting angry about. But I'm standing in a new place now.

MARCIE
What have some other changes been? The control of your environment that you both now have. What have been some of the strategies or some of the things that have been able to flourish as a result?

REBECCA
It just gives me an opportunity to be self-sufficient. I've learned to turn on my observer hat, instead of my reactiveness. I've been reactive my whole life.

ALEXANDRA
Self-regulation. That's the key to Rebecca's success in life. Two weeks into Corona, Rebecca went into one of her tirades, and she went into Brandywine Hospital for a week. We couldn't even visit. All the nurses had to wear masks. Rebecca handled it quite well. It was pretty uncomfortable for her, but she came out intact.

MARCIE
What was that like, Rebecca?

REBECCA
Oh, it was so sad and so scary. I had to keep fighting for it. It was - hopefully would be my last hospitalization.

ALEXANDRA
Rebecca depends a lot on her devices for entertainment. Movies, music, she has all these ways to calm herself. In a psych hospital, you can't have any of your devices. You can't have your music.

MARCIE
But you could have your art? Were you able to create?

ALEXANDRA
No! They have art class. Like, you know, they give you a piece of paper and -

REBECCA
It's just dumb. And you eat the same breakfast over and over and over again. It didn't taste as good. After a while, it gets boring.

MARCIE
And what has it been like now, Rebecca, to be home for this long? Because you've been inside, in the same place, for quite a long time.

REBECCA
Well, it's been up and down. Some days are good days, where I just understand. And there are some bad days. A good day, we cooperate and get along. And I kiss her [KISSING NOISE] and we read stories together.

ALEXANDRA
Because of Corona, Rebecca's capacity to self-initiate independent activity has increased tremendously, because there's no time pressure. We don't have to be anywhere, generally, early in the morning or anything. Rebecca can get up, get her own breakfast, get herself dressed. She can do things more in her own time and in her own rhythm. And then I join her and support her without trying to pull her along.

REBECCA
Before, things would just be done for me out of default. Sometimes I would have little successes, and sometimes I had big failures. But all that shifted since Corona. I thrive, which I never could imagine.

MARCIE
You're surprising yourself.

REBECCA
Yes, I'm surprising myself.

ALEXANDRA
She's a relational person in a whole new way. She lived 35 years primarily out of her imagination.

REBECCA
If I want to expand my imagination, first, I have to take a little bit of the real world and take it within. Then I get inspirations that I can develop from without.

ALEXANDRA
She's emerging out of her autism. It's a developmental milestone.

REBECCA
It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do. But you know, after a while, you get used to it. It's so worthwhile.

ALEXANDRA
For years, she actually thought that it was her job to get the rest of us to do what her inner voice, her imaginary characters, were telling her to do. And she would expect impossible things. And she would try it, these things, and they wouldn't work. She'd wind up in the psych hospital.

REBECCA
Like my chakra girls, the ones I made up. They're the ones who really would influence me. At first, I thought they were harmless and they could help me, but I was so wrong.

MARCIE
What does it mean for you to listen to yourself, Rebecca?

REBECCA
It means to not make the same mistakes and believe the same things.

ALEXANDRA
Now she can take her imagination and put it into cartoons and characters and distinguish between what is imaginary and share it. She was always upset that she couldn't share her imagination in the real world. I was always saying, well, you can, if you put it on paper.

REBECCA
And now I'm doing that.

ALEXANDRA
Her art therapist is amazing. We have this collaboration going. I'm not considered to be some intrusive figure.

REBECCA
Sometimes I get mad at my mom and say, you're the worst, Mom. I want to find another mom. And you know what I realize? She's as good as it's going to get. There's no one else like her in this whole world that does things. I never noticed it. I lived in my imagination all these years.

MARCIE
Are you worried about any health risks with COVID?

REBECCA
I never want to go outside. I stick to what I know, what feels comfortable for me.

ALEXANDRA
I'm in a high-risk category. Next to caring for Rebecca, I'm obsessed with my health. Because I have to have the longevity to see it through. This is our destiny. When Rebecca was diagnosed at two and ½, I had this dream where we were in a dark tunnel, a subway.

REBECCA
And you were poor.

ALEXANDRA
And the trains weren't operating. There were crowds of people. And I had Rebecca on my shoulders. She was pointing the way. And here we are in Corona, in a dark time, and she's emerging.

REBECCA
I'm pointing the way. And your dream has come true. I've really been one of the people that's found this silver lining. I want to inspire - to hear others. I'm not alone out there. There's lots of people out there I'd like to meet.




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People's Light, one of the largest professional theatres in Pennsylvania, forges cultural and civic connections throughout our rapidly growing region. In the landscape of American regional theatres, we count ourselves among the few located outside of a metropolitan area. Our home in the heart of Chester County places us at a unique crossroads of rural, urban, and suburban populations. Throughout our year-round season, we produce contemporary plays, classics, new forms of music theatre, and original work. Beyond the stage, we host a wide array of cultural experiences and education programs that inspire meaningful engagement with, and sustained investment in and from, our surrounding communities.

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Our ties are local, our reach is national. We surround our productions with activities that connect us with our neighbors, weaving the onstage work into the fabric of community life. We lead the nation in accessible theatre practices, and strive to create programs and performances that can be enjoyed by everyone. As part of a longstanding history of new work development, People's Light commissions and produces world premiere plays, many of which go on to additional productions across the country. We established a nationally recognized model for locally inspired plays that aim to awaken a greater collective consciousness of our American experience.


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