It is Tuesday…the Tuesday before Fat Tuesday…Valentine’s Day Tuesday…Breakfast for Dinner Tuesday. For some obscure reason, people get excited about this menu…I don’t know if it’s the bacon that accidentally meets the maple syrup (not, thank you very much, the maple-flavored bacon) or if it’s the fluffy pancakes (some with chocolate chips, some without) or if it’s the creamy scrambled eggs that melt in our mouths, but we do love our Breakfast for Dinner Tuesdays…and Wednesdays…and the occasional Thursday…
Out of a sense of ritualistic obligation, J wore a red shirt to school today. It IS his favorite color and it IS the day in which it is expected. He wore a charcoal gray-striped long-sleeved thermal under it, and he refused to smile when I said (again, out of ritualistic obligation and so that he will be in the “proper” place in time) “Happy Valentine’s Day.” This greeting elicited an immediate dash to his CD collection where he promptly found Bach and dressed with Toccata and Fugue in d minor as a musical background. I walked out of his room wondering if it was a Professor Fate/The Great Race reference or a reaction to the “holiday” he’d be experiencing at school.
The one thing that perked him up was noticing the menu for this evening’s meal on the chalkboard we keep in the kitchen. As I walked down the stairs I found J dancing a little jig in front of the board while putting on his jacket. If only it took something as simple as pancakes to fix every ill in this world, right?
I have been getting the house ready for company since early this morning. No, I am not ripping the place apart to make ourselves look “normal.” I am merely making sure that we have plenty of space to sit, to sleep, to relax. The people we love and who love us know they’re coming to a home, not to an abode that is designed to impress. I think this is why our guests’ presence is even more exciting…we get to all be human.
The visitors in question are my best friend from school and her family. I have very few friends and only one biological sister, but this particular friend is one of the three women I call sisters aside from the one who shares parentage with me. I am one of those people, yes, who believes that sisterhood is not about flying a banner, but more about the grind and screech of wheels over a long period of time. This is not like Sex and the City. My idea of sisterhood is more like Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Howards End. Well…these women and I are not in the same cart in the roller coaster, but we recognize each others’ exhilaration and terrified screams when we hear them from a distance. We’re truly, seriously, irrevocably friends…and have been for a long time, with dry spells of silence and occasional disconnectedness in between.
Yesterday I read an essay in The Huffington Post about a subject that made me stop and wonder for a while; this is the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/louise-kinross/genetic-disability-friendship_b_1263895.html?ref=parents
Does J have friends? I actually was midway up the stairs when this thought overtook me. I stopped and sat on a step, not because, thank goodness, I was winded, but because I really wanted to think about this. Does J feel affection and kinship and closeness and intimacy? Does he understand the flow of recognition that happens between people? Does he feel happiness or dread when he encounters someone he likes or dislikes? Does he, heavens, LIKE people?
The question arises from time to time: does J know who I am? I mean in a way other than “ah, you’re familiar!” I mean in a way that tells him that I have been there all along, that I breastfed him for four years (don’t judge…he was not keen on eating at the time,) that I have kissed boo-boos, untangled hair, wiped butt, sat next to him in the ER, measured his height with dashes on a wall… Does he know? Does he know who we are? Not existentially, mind you…I am pretty sure that to J (as to children all over the world who eventually, when they grow up, add two and two and realize the actual truth) I sprang into existence when he concocted me out of his imagination or his desire to be cradled or whatever.
Once in a while we rub noses with each other, J and I. There is a smile that spreads across his face then. This smile seems to illuminate something and I can almost hear this smile humming a ditty to itself. J smiles frequently (when he’s not acting like a surly teenager,) but this smile is different…it is like that smile we all have that is rare and surprises even US when it happens. He whispers when we’re forehead to forehead, nose to nose, and he answers my “I love you, J” with “I love you, J.” It’s all very based on echolalia, but the smile is all its own.
Yes, I guess he has friends. Friends after a fashion, anyway. Not friends like mine who have been around forever and are meaningful and leave a hole in my heart when we drop out of each other sights for longer than is decent. We do have lives, you know…and there are things we don’t even tell our friends as they are happening. J doesn’t have that…people are profoundly marked by him when they allow themselves to be, but J (with his long memory and his short interactions) doesn’t connect everything in the same way others do. Maybe it’s that quality of self-containment that people with Autism have…
Breakfast for dinner…a silly little ritual that, we hope, has its impact as we do it, and will bring pleasurable thoughts in the future when we are all scattered…some to dust, of course…that’s the way of the world. A little bit of heartfelt syrup meeting the saltiness of everyday circumstances…with some chocolate chips thrown in for good measure.