Why we didn’t buy a lottery ticket today…

You know that feeling when something fantastic has just happened and you are so happy, so stunned, so grateful that you are actually calm down to your very core?  Yeah…we feel like that.

This morning, very early, my husband went to pick The Great Gonzo from his 12-hour shift at work; he has finished his probationary period and is now a full-time, permanent employee who, by the by, had an excellent performance evaluation.  That was one level of Cloud Nine…pretty hefty stuff, I must say.  Upon receiving the news my husband said “you should tell your mom…it’ll make her day.”  The Great Gonzo countered with “nah, she’ll just rub in my face the stuff they said about my impressive work ethic!”  Both things happened: my day was made (because The Great Gonzo is a dunderhead as we all know, but he IS -in essence- a very decent person) and I got a jab in about how all our annoying, insistent, relentless drumming into his brain of the importance of being reliable has left its (grudging) mark on him.  There was a lot of eye-rolling and a sweet, bashful smile that tells me he’s proud that he’s a work in progress rather than a lost cause.

And then, of course, we have J.  Where to begin?  My father called early this morning to discuss matters unrelated to our side of the family and, after a little over an hour on the phone, he asked if I’d taken J birthday-present shopping.  I told him it was on the agenda for this morning, along with a trip to the public library, the dry cleaners in the downtown area and the grocery store.  We left the house with Slinky, but without the boxing gloves, and we parked across the street from the library.

For the first time in a looooong time, we looked for books at a leisurely pace, and J even selected a big book about the making of Fantasia, one of his favorite movies.  Once done with that errand, he patiently waited with me as his dad crossed over to the parking lot, left the books in the car and returned to meet up with us.  We walked, again at a leisurely pace, to the next street where we made our way to the dry cleaners, and then we went next door to a new bakery that we’d heard had just opened in town.  J selected a cinnamon roll and we bought a couple more pastries and a baguette, and then we walked back to our car.

After these errands were completed, we drove across town to the department store that J prefers and, in a light drizzle of rain, we made our way in; since this was not a “snack shopping” trip, we moved directly to the areas of the store where J might find items that would interest him for birthday presents.  The Muppet Show Season 2 was his selection, and a DVD of Shirley Temple movies; I will defend this choice by saying that they’ve relentlessly  played a commercial for this on TV and she’s pretty appealing when she’s singing “animal crackers in my soup…,” which makes J laugh.  Not one set of Legos appealed to him, so we moved on through the store at a pace that would indicate our son was quite a his ease.  Winter is but a month old and all the winter outdoor gear is on clearance sale so J selected a toboggan that will hold him and another human being (one who will have to be very, very brave and very, very daring to navigate the slope behind the house with J in tow) for a mere 20 dollars.

There was no demand for snacks and I offered him a treat.  He selected cookies and a soda.  Aside from a few other incidentals, we left the store with very little by way of J-friendly items.  And then…

I asked “is anyone hungry?”  My husband’s eyes opened wide and narrowed to their normal size so quickly a less observant person would have missed the change.  “I…could eat…” he said.  I looked at J and said “let’s go eat.”  Not “let’s go get food.”  Not “let’s go grab something.”  I said “let’s go eat.”

After being married for a while one communicates telepathically.  I could hear my husband’s brain screaming “are you out of your mind, woman????  Is it the hot flashes?  If it’s the hot flashes, we can get you something…I don’t know what, but this is INSANITY!  Where are we going?  What are we doing?  Are you NUTS??????”  Outwardly he seemed calmer when he said (only half in jest) “so…where do you never want to go to again?”

I guess I’ve mentioned before our experience at our favorite Chinese restaurant in Southern California.  They have, since 2001, age-progression photos of J, my husband and I so they can invite us to leave should we ever attempt to eat there again.  Eleven years later, the joke still is “we can take him somewhere…we never want to be allowed into again!”  Hardee-har-har…

I said, quite calmly, the name of our favorite Mexican place.  Horror-stricken, my husband gasped and gripped the wheel…but I remained so cool and collected that he just went with it.  I promised him, once he parked, that I’d reconnoitre and determine how possible this endeavor was…if the place was too full, I’d signal and he could respond with the headlights.  (Yeah…very non-suspicious behavior in post 9-11 America, I know!)  It was still drizzling and the air was getting colder so I walked briskly and determined the line was long enough to warrant a half-hour eating window of opportunity and short enough that I could say “just serve our food in to-go containers, but give me a tray so we can start here.”

We took a table close to the door, the fire extinguisher, a plant and a trash bin.  I explained to the ladies (who know us already because it IS our favorite Mexican joint in town) what I was doing…all eyes opened wide and reverted to normal size quite quickly.  I ordered a plain cheese quesadilla, a Coke bottle (glass…figured it would give J a thrill,) two sodas, a chimichanga and two carnitas tacos.  All dishes include rice, beans, chips and salsa.  We sat down, elevated a silent prayer and started eating…

Fifty minutes later I went back to the counter.  “Did he like his quesadilla?”  “Is he happy?”  “How did it go?”  J ate his quesadilla, part of my rice, some of my carnitas, everyone’s chips and drank his soda calmly, slowly, savoring it…all while clapping, giggling and laughing…  It is our favorite Mexican restaurant for a reason: the food is good…the people are wonderful.  I bought more chips and salsa to bring home.  A collective elevation to Cloud Nine had taken place.  Nirvana, as it were, had been achieved between bites of quesadilla and swigs of Coca-Cola…

Gone seem to be the days of Godzilla tearing through Tokyo while people run for their lives.  Gone seem to be the days when we take a step with trepidation.  I thanked my husband when we got home and sat down to reminisce about the events of the day.  It was not yet two o’clock in the afternoon and we felt as if we’d invented the wheel, found the shores of America, struck gold and oil, discovered penicillin and fired the shot that destroyed the Death Star.  He asked me why I was thanking him (he looked stunned, shocked, relieved, grateful,) and I said “you walked into the restaurant and sat down with both feet under the table.”

Only he understands what I meant by that.  Only other parents who have been through the same crap we’ve been with their autistic kids will know why this is such a big deal…

In a nutshell, my friends…why buy a lottery ticket when you’ve already won?

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