“Yun Hi Chala, Maa Beta Version”
We went on a road trip last week. Well, three of us did. A stayed home for a night with a sitter, while the rest of us drove to Pittsburgh to see some family. The next day, my husband turned around and flew home to A, while R and I continued on to Ohio to see a dear friend and her son.
We’ve learned to value those moments when we are off duty, brief as they tend to be. No guilt, we tell ourselves sternly, feeling pangs of it anyway. A was having a marvelous time with the sitter, and, as the miles blurred by, we all felt ourselves exhaling and coming together.
What is the world like when you don’t have to measure time and space through the lens of autism? We had one day and one night to remember. It felt both liberating and curiously disconnected. The virtual lines of stimming followed us, and all of us at various times said stuff like, “A would screech at that,” or we thought of sounds he might make. His demanding little imagined presence followed us through mountains, pit stops, and conversations.
The next morning, we woke up with no sense of urgency. No one to usher to the loo. No one trying to bust in to hurry us through our own ablutions. No one to choreograph us while we interacted over tea. No One Lath still managed to come into our thoughts with regularity and ease, though!
It was fun too, continuing on the road with just R. He is a pleasant and patient travel companion, and his only dealbreakers are indoor bugs and erratic meals. Otherwise he pawed through old crap in antique store aisles, arranging creepy dolls in dubious ways, romped with the kids we stayed with, lounged good naturedly in a jewelry store, explored the town in his own way, and pretended to care about the food co-op we dragged him to. He stealth texted with his friend L who is overseas with her own family, and they mutually laughed at themselves as they toured worlds further afield than New Jersey. I was kind of fascinated by their connectedness. As a kid, I would have loved to text my friends from the bucolic rural India vacation scene! 😉
There was one moment of mutual horror on the way back. It was pouring sheets of rain and I could hardly see the road, so I pulled off the interstate, to find that what I thought was a gas station was actually for trucks to diesel up, and was just a bunch of pumps and an office trailer. Nooooo thank you. We drove the local roads a bit, in hopes of finding somewhere to park and wait out the rain, but it was all farms and mud and narrow roads, and then R started noticing the confederate flags waving gaily from a great many houses…
…We hared out of there. Took our chances with the near zero visibility. I am still amazed that we were better off in such horrendous road conditions. But no way was I going to let our maa-beta road trip turn into a Flannery O’Connor revival. I flipped the mental bird at my fears and the implied threats we had fled by listening to Lata Mangeshkar, and when we reached one of those delightful TA stops, I leaned my seat all the way back and let the relief take over.
There are just as many Americas as there are people who live here. Now that I am back in our version of Autism America, and the chaotic certainties it can impose, I find myself endlessly grateful for the people who value neurodiversity, and who look into my brown eyed little man’s eyes and see his guileless spirit shining back at them. This is the America entrusted to my care. I honor it by reflecting back the world which shines from my own eyes.