WARNING: RAMBLING and NON-PROOFREAD POST AHEAD! DONE OVER THE COURSE OF A VERY BUSY DAY J
Collin still loves Halloween. He loves dressing up, and he loves the candy (of course). I think he likes getting home and sorting it into piles, more than anything else. I’m not sure if that’s an autism thing, or just a Collin thing. The other day, he broke my heart, when he said, “Next year, I’m probably a little too old to go, so this is it, huh?”
Oh, my baby, you can go out trick or treating until you are the kid at the door that the grown-up judgey-lady passing out candy rolls her eyes at you. In other words, until you are forty. Then, you can dress up with your kids. You are never too old for Halloween.
We were all set to have a great Halloween, and because he loves it so much, I went all out decorating the porch. Years ago, I went to a social event on General’s row at Fort McArthur. It was in a Colonel’s house, but nonetheless, I was very impressed with how “decorated,” it was for the season. Literally, every space had some kind of seasonal décor. She had a seasonal cozy for the toaster, for cripes’ sake! Don’t get me wrong, that much effort is decidedly not me. And, when I asked her how she had the time and effort to go this far and do this much to beautify her home, she said she considered it her job to be a wife, everything from getting up before her “hubby” to make his morning coffee, to making his house a home. Gag.
I’ve sat on that thought for a lot of years. It’s ruminated. It’s percolated. It’s morphed. I’m home now, and I’ve discovered that I like making my house a home. Part of that is the seasonal stuff. I like making my boy’s face light up with the Halloween decorations. I like doing it for Bryon, so he doesn’t have to do it himself. That doesn’t mean that I don’t also insist on his help for the things that are too hard for me to do myself, of course. But, if I don’t have a job anymore, isn’t that my “job” for my family, and not in a Donna Reed sort of way; but in a way that I want to do? No one would care if I didn’t put up Halloween decorations, but I would. I would be less happy if they weren’t happy. So, up they go. That means I’m fighting you for the last 70% off decorations at Michael’s, woman-with-too-many ravens in her basket! What are you decorating? A burned-out orphanage?
But, someone shoot me if I put a cozy on my toaster. Please. Or, if I feel the need to get up at 4 am, to greet my husband’s day with coffee and toast. In fact, as I recall, she made him a full breakfast. Far be it from me to judge what another woman does to keep her household running smoothly, but we all have our balance, our line in the sand. That’s mine. He can make his own damn coffee, and “greet his own day,” as she called it. I’ll put up décor and run the Swiffer. We’ll see what grows from there.
P.S. I switched from Halloween to fall today (and he helped put it all up). Oh, and I’m a cheapskate. So, I ONLY buy what’s on sale the week(s) after the holiday. So, all my décor is accumulated from years of shopping post-holiday(s). Maybe more pics of fall next time!
Anyway, Collin’s school wouldn’t let the sixth graders wear costumes to class, which was a bit of a relief, because let’s face it, some kids would feel like they were too old. This means half the class would be too cool for the other half of the class, leaving half the class feeling dorky. So, there was a moratorium put down on costumes. Less fun, sure; but, also less chance for embarrassment. He mentioned, repeatedly a girl that he clearly feels is “cool,” that was staying home this year, to help with her family’s haunted house.
However, my son found his own special way to wreck the day for himself, anyway. Cops and Robbers is the playground game of choice here in Virginia. I joke that these are the two career goals here. I have said that they should be more specific: cop and meth addict. I know, super mean. Still, this is basically the only thing the kids play, when they are outdoors. Plus, it’s an opportunity to be cruel to one another, as kids, without being overt: assign the kids you don’t like to be the “robber,” chase them mercilessly, then “arrest” them, tell them they committed a horrendous crime, and “punish” them. All innocent fun! Hooray!
Collin was running, top speed, of course; this is the only speed he knows. He claims that he thinks he was jumping over some steps, when he fell. He doesn’t know how he fell, what angle at which he fell, or anything useful about his injury. This, this my friends, is what it’s like to have a kid with autism, when you want a useful detail. He can, however, tell you all the details you want about the playground stairs, near which he fell. They are wooden, there are eight of them, they have splinters on some of them, and they are somewhat steep. They have dust on them. The doctor felt this information was also useless. Did I mention these stairs were near where he fell, not stairs upon which he fell?
A pause here to tell you my biggest fear in life: that I will be at work, or otherwise engaged, and the school will call with my sick or injured child, and I will miss it. On the first day of class, I always tell my students that I leave my phone on, and that I leave it out, just for this purpose. All it takes is me picturing my sad-faced little boy, sitting in the office with an ice pack, or rushing to the hospital in an ambulance, all without his mother, and I’d strap the phone to my face.
With all of that fear ingrained in my soul, I missed the injury call when it came! Don’t get me wrong, I saw the call, but it didn’t say the name of his school, and the city displayed incorrectly. So, I didn’t pick up! I’ve been getting nonstop solicitor calls for the past thirty days or so, so I just hit, “ignore.” Oh, the humanity!
When I was headed home, Bryon told me he was also driving home, only he was with our injured boy. I about lost my lunch. I had so many questions! I cried so much that Collin was crying less than me. I felt like the worst mother in the world, for real. Bryon did his best to calm me down, because he’s the best, and he felt like it was the perfect moment to show me up with his calm, cool demeanor, and his constant praise. Screw him.
He told me that even if the school had reached me, I’d have had to call him anyway, because I was an hour away (Ugh! Ugh!), and he was home. He was right (I’m the worst!). Still, an injured boy needs his mama. Just re-telling this makes the mom guilt so heavy that I think I’ll be weighed down all day.
I gleaned from the phone chat that the kid had a broken wrist. He was relatively calm and collected, but in pain. Collin thought it was a great treat to be injured, because he got to watch cartoons in the middle of the day, before doing homework. We left for the ER as soon as I got there (at least it wasn’t for me, this time – yay!). No matter how much he practices, he can’t get that little lip of his to quiver and pout when he’s faking. He could get me to buy him a car if he could.
They took us in right away, and I was right: broken. Wait…fractured. Bryon keeps correcting me. Apparently, that distinction is wildly important. All that matters to me is that a bone in my child’s wrist is no longer structurally the same as it was when I sent him off to school, that morning. He has to wear a brace until he sees the orthopedic doctor, where he might get a cast. Poor kiddo. He’s pretty miserable. He doesn’t like the brace, and it definitely hurts.
He managed to get home in time to trick or treat at a couple of dozen houses, but he was only out for about a half an hour. It’s his right hand, so he’s pretty limited at school with writing, and with playing the flute. He’s basically a mess.
For him, the worst part is that I have to help him wash his hair. For a kid approaching puberty, there’s nothing worse than the shame of mommy helping in the shower. He insists on wearing his underwear for this procedure. At first, he insisted he didn’t need the help at all. However, the minute he tried to do anything himself, including opening the shampoo, he cried, and I heard that sound all mothers secretly long to hear, the whimpering sound of “Mommy!” He still needs me! Huzzah!
Still, one of the highlights, which is definitely the wrong word, of the evening was one of the worst days of someone else’s life, I’m sure. We were seen relatively quickly, and were right on track to be sent home, when a worksite accident was brought in. It was obviously fatal. All the medical staff was rushed off to one area, except for a PA, and a single nurse, who were left covering the rest of the patients. It was clearly a terrible accident.
When the person’s loved one arrived, the anguish in her cry was something you had to feel; it was indescribable. Collin, right at that moment, was asking what was taking so long to be discharged. He paused when he heard her wail, and we explained that she just lost someone she loved very much, so no matter how badly you think your day is going, there’s always someone who’s day is worse, who has lost something more important than what you think you’ve lost, and her voice helped us remember that. He was very quiet for a while and then said, “I didn’t mean to be selfish about trick or treating.”
I don’t mean to imply that I’m glad for someone to have died for my son to display empathy, far from it. But, those moments are huge for a kid like Collin. He was very sad for that woman, for the victim, and even for the nurse who provided comfort to the woman, as she was so kind to him, only moments earlier. He even kept repeating, “someone always has it worse,” throughout the evening. I think it really hit home with him.
I’ve thought about that woman, and the victim of that accident a lot since then. I know that, for her, Halloween will never again be about opening the door to adorable children dressed as dinosaurs and princesses. But, I wish that she knew that, in some way, before she was even able to finish being notified of her loss, it was already doing someone else some good in the world. Life, and people are certainly a circle. All of us sharing the same experiences.
Sure, the next day, it was back to Collin’s world as usual, but some part of me has to believe that the nugget of the lesson is back there. He’s a kid that sits on those big lessons for a long time. Just when you least expect it, they come out in big, big ways.
So, that was our super-eventful Halloween. From the ER, we went trick or treating. I handed out candy dressed in Wonder Woman pajamas because I was too exhausted to put on my usual corset! I was wildly disappointed with the kids in our neighborhood because almost none of them said thank you, and many of them just grabbed into the bowl and took handfuls of candy, rather than waiting their turns. It was a weird night. I try to be patient with the way kids trick or treat, because kids are all battling different issues, but it seemed more like rudeness and bad manners than anything else, and I love Halloween. I love talking to the kids about their costumes, and telling them how cute they are. Overall, it was an off night, and I hope for smoother sailing next year, when Collin is decidedly NOT too old!