J turned nineteen today, and the weather cooperated. Yesterday morning there was a two-hour delay, but on this not-as-cold and not-snowy morning, J got to leave for school at the crack of dawn on the yellow bus that he loves…
I sprang into action (sort of) and made his cake, and prepared wrapping paper for his presents. By the time he got home at three, J was happily anticipating any attention we might point in his direction. His first stop was the office, and there awaited him the property manager and four beautifully wrapped packages. We brought them home to open after cake.
The news from school were good. He had a good day and worked hard. If he had any tantrums or upheaval, it was minimal. As soon as we walked into the house, J put his things away, started preparing his snack, and went to change in to his pajamas.
At around five-thirty I asked him if he wanted us to take him out. He chose Five Guys, and I put a timer on so he knew when to get ready. I was almost ready when I heard him bounce up the stairs chanting FIVE GUYS FIVE GUYS HOT DOG FRENCH FRIES SODA FIVE GUYS FIVE GUYS! It was a treat, and J knew it…he was going to thoroughly enjoy this outing.
Our order number was 48. The place was packed and there was a lot of hustle and bustle. If you’ve ever been to Five Guys, you know they love to play their music loud. And J LOVES this. Of course, J also puts his fingers in his ears while he’s watching them put the food together, but what he’s filtering (I’ve realized over time) is the stuff that is layered on top of the music. Over the PA system I could tell they were playing Springsteen’s Born to Run, and J loves this song, so he was trying to filter out the chatter, the sound of the griddle, the fryer, and so forth. One of the employees noticed J’s fingers, and asked “is the music too loud for him?” I didn’t immediately hear her because I wasn’t expecting to be asked, so she nudged her co-worker and said “I think the music bothers him…turn it down!” We noticed this and said “no, no…don’t worry! He likes the music. It’s not too loud!” This stopped the other employee in her tracks because…get this…she was actually going to turn the music down!!!!!
This is why we become regular patrons at businesses. This is the reason that we feel comfortable taking J to Five Guys. These kids recognize him, welcome him, acknowledge that he’s not their run-of-the-mill customer, and they actually think of what he might need in spite of the place being packed, full of young adults who don’t mind the music at all, and it’s a Friday night…you want your crowd to be happy. But, bless them, they actually thought of J, and were about to act based on what they thought was a need in spite of the fact that the rest of the crowd was happy, relaxed and enjoying the music.
Our meal was great. It was delicious. As usual, we ate with gusto and J was happy with his choice for a birthday meal. You can’t ask for more than that, right?
We stopped at the grocery store before coming home. We bought a little tub of ice cream (the birthday boy chose vanilla,) and some other things J wanted. He bought ramen noodle, but it’s not what you’re envisioning. Yes, he made a play for the Maruchan stuff, but I was able to convince him to try the organic ramen noodles that I can season at home in an alternative, no-sodium way. That he said YES to this option is proof-positive that we have become more flexible; that this comes in the heels of having Jessica Seinfeld’s “green eggs” from her Deceptively Delicious cookbook for today’s breakfast is…well…I’d say miraculous, but these things happen so often now that…you know…I am accepting them more as par for the course than exceptions.
We took pictures of all of us with J, and we compared his height to TGG’s and mine. We compared how much he has changed over the course of the past nineteen years. We realized WE have changed, too. We took stock of the wonder that is, well, being a satellite to this kid…this person…this force of nature. He has grown and matured, and learned. We’re not doing too shabbily ourselves.
After singing happy birthday (a cacophonous enough rendition judging by the skeptical look in J’s face in the pictures we took,) he ate a modest slice of cake and a modest amount of ice cream. I’m sure next year he might request the ASL version of the song, and then happily move on to the cake-and-ice-cream portion of the festivities. When he recovered from our…howling? Caterwauling? NOT singing? J opened his presents, and found an embarrassment of riches in books, and Marilyn Monroe, Jane Russell and Leslie Caron to complete his evening. Katy Perry’s issue of GQ found its way to him yesterday evening.
As usual, there was very little observation of the date from the outer edges of the world. J’s biological dad called early this morning, and sounded surprised to hear that J was at school. I got two e-mails sending best regards from family members. My Facebook friends responded kindly to my annual posting about how much it rocks to be J’s mom even though it sucks sometimes, too. The people that count, care and matter, counted, cared and mattered. That’s all one can ask for…that’s what one hopes for.
So J is nineteen. He had a fantastic birthday. He enjoyed it a great deal, and that’s more than can be said for other birthdays. He ate green eggs; he went to school; he wore his new jacket; he got books and movies; he went to Five Guys; he had cake and ice cream…he made us wash dishes, and he is happily sitting in his TV room basking in the glow of being a little older. And the countdown to “my not-a-teenager is autistic” begins…NOW!