We are a comfortably lazy sort of family when it comes to the December holidays. We don’t celebrate Christmas, but we turn on the decorative porch lights at Diwali, and then just leave them on a timer till January. We don’t have a tree or exchange gifts, as many non-Christians do because it’s fun, mostly because we just don’t want to, but December 25th is our wedding anniversary, so we usually go do some mutual gift shopping together, either before or after the holidays. Both of us shrink instinctively from visiting stores in December because we detest crowds.
One year, we were checking out some pearls at the Jewelry Exchange, and a teenage boy ran in, shouting that his friends were being mugged in the parking lot. No one moved at first, until the poor kid begged, “Please!” When we left the place, there were three cop cars and sure enough, the mugger was being arrested. Every time I wear the pendant my husband bought me that day, I remember that incident.
For me, this time of year is for burrowing in and disconnecting from the outside world for a bit, and also for showing our appreciation to the wonderful people who are involved in our lives; whose kindness means that professionalism and friendship blend together; for whom A is not just a case number; and through whom we have learned so much about how to wear the autism family label with pride and joy.
It can be incredibly weird at first to entrust ourselves to unknown people. On A’s first day at his new school, a minivan came to pick him up, since he is the only kid from our town who is a student there. I didn’t see the name of the transport company painted on the side of the van, and after waving at the departing vehicle with trepidation, I began imagining that A was going to end up being driven to some mythical dockside warehouse like in creepy movies. Even the fact that my husband had taken note of the side of the van, and had met the driver several days prior didn’t stop my mom freak out, and we finally called the school to ask if A had arrived safely. The teacher, wise to the worries of moms like me, had to text us a photo of him in class before I stopped developing the dockside plot. 😉 What can I say. It’s easy to tell myself to be sensible, but a nonverbal, developmentally delayed child is someone whom it is natural to shield until further information is forthcoming. To me, a little initial scrutiny is more sensible than blind faith..
A is a lucky fellow, to have some truly wonderful people in his life. Some are special ed and ABA professionals, and we admire and honor them for the task focused, intensive work they do. Some are medical and dental professionals, and they keep his energetic body healthy. Some are extra curricular activity teachers, and they are amazing for developing inclusive teaching techniques from their own instinct, observation and experience. Some are babysitters, and I think of them with so much gratitude for the hands on care they provide, and for the camaraderie these young women have extended to G. And some are friends and family, who love him for being himself, and who give him bear hugs, let him smell their clothes, and whose beautiful birthday cards and gifts we appreciate so much.
One of them is my cleaning lady, J. I feel like giving her a special mention today. We’ve known each other since I was pregnant with G, and she has been a dear friend for all these years. We’ve shared many stories and cups of tea. And from being terrified and discombobulated by her visits because she moves stuff around and the vacuum cleaner is loud, A has evolved to following her around the house to watch her work. J gives him little tasks to do, which fills him with delight, and chats with him, waiting for his nods and laughs, and integrating him so beautifully into her work sessions that he feels like he had a play date. Structured time makes sense to him, and J knows that without having to be told.
We are so blessed to know such high minded, love filled people, who see not difference but innocence, not weird tics but overtures of friendship on A’s part, and whose gazes bent upon him are not filled with judgment but with respect for all the sensory overload he attempts to overcome so he can smile, hug and be social. If our friendship fills you up even half as much as yours does for us, I will count that a success. May you have peace, and the wealth of good company this holiday. That is my autism mother wish for my most beloved circle of trusted ones.