It must be love…

“Perhaps one girl who was moving in a fine line finds one boy in back that she can always stand behind…  – It Must Be Love, Rickie Lee Jones

Fifteen years ago today, Dada and I got married.  It was HOT that day, even by California standards.  TGG was dizzy from the heat, and I thought he was going to faint before he valiantly took a deep breath and walked me halfway down the aisle.  Then he went and got his Dada, and brought him to me.  And we walked the rest of the way together.  It was a sweet wedding.  My ring wouldn’t fit, and I had to push it in place.  J decided to run all over the place, and prompted my sister into dumping him at my feet because he wasn’t letting her “mingle.”  The kids ate mac and cheese and hot dogs; I don’t remember what we ate.  The cake was good…and beautiful without being wedding cake-like in appearance.

Marriage, though, isn’t about the wedding.  If you judged our marriage based solely on our wedding you’d see a slapdash, thrown-together event peppered with home-made souvenirs, a dress that wasn’t white and wasn’t expensive, kids running around having more fun than kids should have at a wedding, people who didn’t even know we were madly in love attending a wedding that they didn’t know was going to happen.  Makes for an interesting picture.  One of those “I give it six months” deals…

Behind the workings of throwing a wedding together, a family had already taken root and started to grow.  The man who had nieces and nephews he hadn’t carried until they were old enough to not break, and whose diapers he had never changed was suddenly a father of two, changing diapers for a nearly-five year-old J.  On that hot Saturday afternoon, our dynamics were already incomprehensible to many.  Whatever doubts existed in other people’s minds at that moment should be completely moot by now…

You know those conversations that happen when the room is still dark, the alarm hasn’t gone off and you’re wide awake but not yet ready to start the day outside the confines of bed?  We had one of those this morning.  It started when I sat bolt-upright in bed at 4:48 and said “happy anniversary” before kissing my husband and dashing off to the bathroom because I keep getting these e-mails saying your odds of having a heart attack are reduced by drinking lots of water before going to bed.

We laugh a lot.  You’d think we don’t because we’re living with a severely autistic individual, but we do laugh a lot.  We laughed at our aches and pains; we laughed at what we see in each other; we laughed at the fact that people don’t see those things and this makes them weird in our eyes; we laughed at why people buy houses in TV shows after specifying that they need granite countertops and they like to entertain; we pondered what “we like to entertain” means, and then we laughed at the couple who gets married and his idea of entertaining is watching football while she likes to hang out with the women drinking wine in the kitchen.  We also wondered if there are those girls out there who suddenly realize that the idea of entertaining their husbands harbor involves playing D&D.

Dada and I talk like the Gilmore Girls.  This is not an exaggeration.  We skip from one thing to another using a variety of random references that only WE get, and which -when explained to others- elicit a shake of the head and a “huh????”  This morning’s riff involved how Dada resembles the kid who, when visiting grandma, desperately wants to play one-on-one with the taciturn, cantankerous old cat who wants attention while still scoffing at it.  That would be me…I’d be the cat that gets wrangled into tea parties and playing pirates even when I think I’d rather take a nap on a sunny spot on the couch.  And it’s when the cat is napping that the kid wants to play, and it’s when the kid wants to play that the cat pretends like it’s offended and annoyed.

We then wondered out loud if our pirate personas would rather have an eyepatch, a peg leg or a hook for a hand, and what we would carry when taking over a ship…  And that, my friends, was without one single bit of coffee yet in our systems.  By the time the alarm emitted its increasingly loud beeping, we were doubled over laughing, and it was time to rush through the morning routine.

Don’t worry.  Our life is plenty romantic.  We do make time to not be goofy together, and we succeed beautifully.  Our kids understand that we are one subset of the larger set we make up together, and that the subset has its own dialect and rituals, a private covenant that helps the general well-being to survive.  We dance in the kitchen…Paul Simon’s Kodachrome will do that to us; we start every vacation jumping on the bed…literally, like kids, jumping on the bed…even if we’re going nowhere interesting; we are expressive in goofy, wonderful ways that hark back to the people we are deep inside and that have hidden under layers of adulthood; we neck on the couch; we go for walks; we are sexy with the bodies we have and the same energy and emotion of much younger people…and then the Tiger Balm comes out of the drawer and we laugh about how creaky and rusty our joints are.  We argue with the same gusto of an eighteen year-old and a twenty-one year-old who haven’t yet learned to “talk” to each other, only to let the 49 and 52 year-olds take over and make sense of how absurd it all can be.

Our wedding was a rather spontaneously-unplanned event, but our marriage isn’t.  If Gwyneth Paltrow used “conscious uncoupling” as a crutch for her divorce, we can only argue “stubborn in-your-face love” as our reason for being together.  We are people who argue with each other saying, rather forcefully and with sincere feeling, “well…I…LOVE…you!”  And then we laugh…because it’s true…we don’t just love each other; we are IN love with each other.  Like Johnny says to Frankie in Terrence McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune, “we were a couple before we met.”  Of course, Johnny refers to the song Frankie and Johnny as much as he means that he recognizes something in Frankie that fits perfectly with him…

Rickie Lee, by the way, finishes that line I quoted at the beginning with “…and it’s still you and me ’cause that’s where we want to be.”  Sounds about right, doesn’t it?



The drudgery of winter…

As I start writing this, Spring 2014 is 43 days, 2 hours, and a little over 26 minutes away.  If I could put skates on her, I would…and if, while wearing those skates, I could push her down the hill so she could swoosh over here even faster…you get the picture.  Our calendar looks like a Snow Day version of Edmond Dantès’ wall at the Chateau D’If; yes, we are ticking off the days and wondering why Winter 2014 has decided to be so persistent.

Yesterday, I’m sure you’ve concluded from all this, was another snow day.  It didn’t SNOW, but there was plenty of snow still on the ground.  J and I trekked to the mailbox and back twice, and didn’t enjoy the experience once we’d passed the point where our driveway ends/begins.  Paul Simon might have been walking on New York City snow when he came up with “slip slidin’ away.”  At one point our steps were so small that it looked like we were having a grand old time tiptoeing our way to our destination.  That we did this in the morning and then again in the afternoon is proof of…something, but I’ve yet to figure out if that something is 1) stupidity, 2) foolishness, 3) lack of wisdom, 4) a sense of humor, or 5) an inclination to mild masochism.  The only time we found mail was in the morning; the afternoon trip was wasted.  And, having sat there since the day before, the letters were so cold that I had to immediately fold them into my jacket pocket so I didn’t have to carry them in my bare hand.  (Yes, that point is in favor of reasons number 1, 2, 3 and 5.)

You know that winter has gone on (for what seems like) too long when you have your seed catalogs flagged with little post-it notes (color-coded,) and the list for SPRING CLEANING! is attached to the catalogs.  You’d think that, having lived here for not-yet seven months, spring cleaning wouldn’t require bold and italicized capital letters followed by an exclamation point, but I feel like all this being-cooped-up-indoors makes it important to open windows (the only two the whole house has,) sliding glass doors (three of them,) and every single door to let the air come in from the NW and out the SE…or vice versa.  I am walking around reciting Neruda under my breath, and not the happy, sensual stuff that makes you want to watch Il Postino with a bottle of wine, three boxes of Kleenex and every single bit of sad trivia you remember about how Massimo Troisi didn’t live to see this masterpiece he so wanted to film.  No, I’m walking around reciting the Neruda of strife and loneliness, which -yes- is still some of the most life-affirming poetry you’ll ever experience, but I’m doing it in slippers, pajamas, and sipping hot tea.

On Monday night J sensed that we’d be getting a call from Kierkegaard.  Here we were, insisting that there would be school on Tuesday, and J kept coming upstairs to ask for his IT’S A SNOW DAY! PECS card.  When the phone rang, I simply grabbed some chocolate-covered pomegranate seeds and went to tell J.  He gave me a look that clearly indicated I was fool to think he didn’t KNOW this already.  We passed the day rather pleasantly; our focus is on getting him to recognize the numbers and the words for them, and he finds this entertaining.  I am more and more convinced that he can read better than we’ve been able to assess, but I can’t quite figure out how to get him to do it outside of the exercises we’re doing.  When I read to him, he can complete sentences, but I know that is as much memorization as inference from what he sees in the illustrations.  We work our way slowly through exercises, and I leave plenty of room for J to respond spontaneously.  I’ve noticed that he does look for the “pattern” to match what he’s seeing on the screen of his iPad, and that he knows the letters as we read and sign them, but I don’t know how deftly he reaches the point of recognition.  We know, because we’ve seen it at work, that J has a mind palace, a method of loci, a mnemonic catalog allows him to connect things; he doesn’t use it like Sherlock Holmes does (I’ve yet to see either Jeremy Brett or Benedict Cumberbatch reacting to the notion of a dog with the alacrity that J applies to this particular exercise,) but it’s there.  The mechanics of reading, of course, are there, but I don’t know how much of the comprehension we are tapping into here.  I refuse to give up, however, and -knowing the way I am when I’m bound and determined to achieve something- I will find some way to push forward on J’s reading skills.

Mind you: this is not about him analyzing Tolstoy or writing a dissertation on the novels of Steinbeck.  This is about the simplest tasks…putting his thoughts out there when he needs to, rudimentary as it might be.  Now that I’ve got his attention (and I KNOW I do because I see it in the way he goes from screen to paper to flashcard to sign to my lips to screen to his hand to pencil,) I need to use it wisely.

My take on all this is that if I can persuade J to steam cauliflower, puree it and throw it into a meal he’s going to eat (without any pretense at disguising that the weird smell we all sniff at is coming from our shoes or wet socks,) anything else I try to accomplish with him is possible.  The degree to which it’s possible is what we have yet to determine.  He recognizes pictures and matches them to words, but now I want to see if I can catch the word in a sea of others and get him to identify it…match it to the mental picture.

Forty-three days, and a little over ten minutes until Spring 2014 arrives…and I obviously have something lined up for every single day, and some of it might be improbable.

A well-timed, heartfelt, deserving encomium to himself…

J’s teacher writes to let me know that she doesn’t know what was going through his mind today, but he suddenly stood up, put his arms in the air and struck a pose that was interpreted by all who witnessed it as “I am the champion!”  I’ve seen this pose…sometimes it comes in the heels of finishing his run with the Wii; other times it’s attached to music…  Because she didn’t give too much detail, I can’t figure out where it came from this time, but I do know that it’s not random or lacking in significance.

For a person whose ability to communicate and empathize is impaired, J finds music a very effective way to tell us how he’s feeling, to inform his moods with music.  After reading the teacher’s note, I sat on the steps that lead to the basement and listened to what he was doing.  Call it spying if you will, but I think it’s all in the spirit of trying to figure out how he’s feeling.

The choices these past few days have been varied.  On Monday, after his outburst of Sunday evening, J was listening to Debussy’s Clair de Lune repeatedly; there was no sadness involved, but it did seem to relax him.  Yesterday he was happily listening to one particular spot in a DVD…one with boings and sproings that made him laugh, and he came to bed with a spring in his step.

I don’t know what it means, but this afternoon he was listening to Jim Croce’s I Got a Name, a song that basically speaks of self-respect and full understanding of who you are and your purpose in life, even if it’s not clear to others.  Does it have anything to do with a moment, perhaps of illumination, that he experienced today at school?

Reading too much into things is something that one does when the details are scant and the possibility of being enlightened is nil.  There are days when we feel as if we have to unravel a mystery when we observe J.  Because we cannot ask him and get a straightforward answer, we often seem to be adding one detail to another, and trying to figure out what they all mean.  We could spend hours talking about J, referring back to previous incidents, composing potential scenarios…if we added some drinking to the mix, we could be holding a symposium in the Ancient Greek fashion.  I think, personally, that Socrates would have been totally into discussing J, and J would have taken rather well to the Socratic Method.  That’s just me, though…

The thing that struck me today was that sentence: “I don’t know what was going through J’s mind, but…”  I read it aloud and he looked at me, his face completely non-committal.  A run-of-the-mill teenager would have shrugged, given a roll of the eyes and said “I don’t know what she’s talking about,” or they would have walked out and said “whatever!”  J looked at me as if I had read this sentence and it referred to someone else.  Then I peered at him through my sawdust-covered glasses (long story…not germane to the situation except to explain the extra effort) and he smiled.  CLOTHES?  Yeah, I said, go change your clothes…

An hour later Dada came home with TGG in tow, and I read the note out loud again.  This time, J rolled his eyes and walked out of the room after instructing everyone to change their work clothes into at-home clothes.  Jim Croce started singing once more.

I can’t help wondering if it’s a newfound sense of achievement.  I wonder if J is just aware that he is in control of things that he was afraid he wouldn’t be in control of…like his dependence on his gloves.  I wonder if he stood up and said to himself “It’s been a week and I don’t need the friggin’ gloves!!!”  Since he knows he can’t stand on furniture and since he probably assumes it would look goofy, he stood up and raised his arms in the air.  The closest thing would have been playing the Theme from Rocky or reciting Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself:

I CELEBRATE myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you. 

We celebrate J’s achievements whether they are big or small.  We make sure we let him know that he is admired and respected, and we encourage him to try new things.  The gloves, however, were his own decision.  OK, we PRAYED vigorously, but God helps those who help themselves and, in this particular case, it was J’s doing…all of it.  We didn’t cajole, persuade, suggest, hint, force, indicate, steer, push…

Perhaps today, in one of those a-ha moments we all have from time to time, J realized that he has gone almost a whole week without his gloves and that he can function and that, while everyone is proud of him, he has to give himself a pat in the back.  Eureka! would have worked (it did for Archimedes,) so would have Nike! (which Pheidippides used to announce the result of the Battle of Marathon.)  But J simply got up, put his arms in the air and gave his class a moment to relish.

“We must remember this moment,” the teacher’s note continued.  Indeed, we must.  The rich layers of guitars in Croce’s song, the “and I’m gonna go there free, like the fool I am and I’ll always be…”  Yeah, that’s J all over…his dreams are constructed slightly different from ours, but there’s a definite sense of self, of achievement, of celebration in the way he speaks to himself and to us about them.  Sproing or boing; Debussy; Paul Simon’s The Obvious Child (with the drums of Olodum making J skip and bounce in a dance of joy,) the plaintive longing in Big Star’s Thirteen…it’s not PECS or ASL, but J’s talking…

And don’t you forget it.


Negotiations are fast and furious…well, furious anyway…

On the walk home from the bus, I told J the disc for the Wii Fit Plus was missing.  No sooner had I revealed this detail that J developed, in quick succession, an interest in visiting the management office, a desire to check the mailbox (I waved a travel brochure we’d received in front of him,) an urge to observe cloud formations and the construction site behind our row of townhouses, and a hurry to get home that can only be described as “I really have to GO!” or “There’s something I need to do at home NOW!”  To slow him down, lest he get overheated, overexerted or clumsily try to hurry up the stairs and trip, I told him I didn’t care where the disc was, I just wanted it found.

With that, I let the matter go and J came home to his usual routine of updating his weekly board, putting away our jackets, hanging the keys (which he asks for signing and saying I WANT KEY OPEN DOOR PLEASE,) starting his snack, requesting his soda and informing me that he is going to change his clothes.  The Great Gonzo, without being asked to intervene, came up and asked me if I’d found the disc because it was not among the ones he’d brought up from the basement.  J must have overheard this exchange of information.  I told TGG not to worry about it for now, and I went to change into my “at home” clothes, and to gather laundry.  A while later, after J had had his snack and we’d taken laundry downstairs, TGG and I sat in J’s room looking through his stacks and binders of DVDs and CDs to no avail.

It wasn’t until my husband came home and asked “well, no sign of the disc?” that I figured the amnesty I’d offered had been either unnecessary or declined in name of something grander.  TGG walked past me and said “are you sure it’s not in the machine?”  I said: “it isn’t.  It wasn’t there this morning.  Regardless, J’s going for a brisk walk as soon as Dada changes.”  And from the bottom of the stairs came a loud AHEM! and there was TGG, disc in hand, crouching in front of the Wii console.

Now, any loyal reader of Agatha Christie, Josephine Tey and Ellis Peters will tell you that this makes TGG a suspect, and I’d agree with you except that, once we got to the top floor and mentioned to J “you’re off the hook.  We found the disc.  It was in the machine all along!” a giggle (with something of a Vincent Price quality to it) followed the click of the door’s closing.

In putting together his snack box, I was more measured than usual.  This is not, I would like to point out, punishment; J has been handsomely regaled with snacks, but the problem is that he has been wanting to snack in the middle of meals.  I know the feeling.  It’s called PMS or eating out of boredom or emotional eating.  It is stopping now.  Today he is getting, as he did yesterday, a reduced allotment of snacks and I expect his whole pork chop dinner to be consumed.  And once the clock hits seven, no more food.  Period.  Don’t worry: the child is getting sufficient calories each day, and they are not empty calories (aside from the soda we’ve negotiated with him and that’s going to get watered down.)  He gets plenty of food, but J wants to manipulate us into giving him what he wants…

That J has discovered the effect his haka has on the floorboards and glassware stored on shelves is adding to the melodrama.  I can see the wheels in his brain turning: ooh, did you hear that?  That’s the clinking of glass!  That’s also the clanking of dishes.  Are THOSE your good dishes?  Is it me or does the TV look a little wobbly on that NEW piece of ANTIQUE furniture you just brought into the house?????  Without even making eye contact, I repeat NO for whatever reason I’ve been using it and, with a sound that resembles Charlie Brown’s AAAARGH!, J stomps up the stairs.  The respite doesn’t last long so I have to regroup, and my husband (who has come home to find himself enmeshed in the conflict of the ages) sighs and asks how long this has been going on; seventeen years, I tell him, well…almost 21 if you count the other kid.  I smile and JINGLE…stomp stomp stomp stomp…COOKIE?  The Greek chorus says NO.  (Count to three slowly.)  COOKIE?  NO!  (Deep breath.)  COOKIE?  NO!  Stomp, stomp…  J!  Stomp back.  I am NOT going to say YES just because you want me to; I will say YES when I want to say yes.  Understood?  J closes his eyes and clinks Slinky, puckering his lips and slowly turning towards his room.  Understood?  Hem and haw, shuffle, stomp, and BYE!

My husband asks if that is it.  I hold up my hand, signaling that the next few seconds are pivotal to the resolution of this argument.  From behind J’s closed door Seals and Croft sing “My Fair Share” from One on One.  Steps from TGG’s room to J’s and the door opens: Dude, she’s totally NOT going to give you the damn cookie if you play the Robby Benson card.  The music changes to something from Paul Simon’s Graceland and the door closes with a jingle.  I put my hand down…THAT, I tell my husband, is it.

An hour or so later, without further ado, I walk up the stairs and hand J a bowl with the cookies.  I say “would you like some cookies?” and he glares at me ever so briefly before deciding to accept my benevolence as a pleasant surprise.  If he had one of those stock market tickers installed on his forehead I’m sure the word of choice would not have been THANK YOU.  But he smiles, accepts the cookies and thanks me, and as I walk out and close the door, I am followed by Billy Joel’s “My Life“…with emphasis on the “leave me alone.”

I will keep this in mind when we’re doing our run with the Wii this evening…  🙂

If it’s Tuesday, this must be…

the day J’s backpack was forgotten at home.

Autistic individuals are very attached to their routines.  The predictability of a set of tasks gives them comfort, allows them to anticipate and be ready for what’s coming next.  Never mind that this is infuriating and frustrating to the rest of us mere neuro-typical mortals, routine is good for people who have autism.  Part of the high-wire we walk on every day (the bouncier, less taut portion of the high-wire) is fraught with effort to break those routines without causing a meltdown.  When I use the word “fraught” I don’t do it lightly…I often do the sign of the cross before I even consider breaking our routine.

Consider this: the world is full of unpredictability, and there is nothing that is more unnerving to an autistic person than a “picture” that pops out of nowhere and doesn’t belong in their mental “album.”  Our mornings follow a pattern so predictable that I know something is wrong by the order in which J does things; if he comes downstairs before he goes to the bathroom, he is confused about which day it is, and this probably means he didn’t rest well, something that will throw his little universe into chaos.

Just like housewives in Königsberg could set their clocks by Immanuel Kant’s walk at three-thirty in the afternoon, we can pretty much tell what time it is in the morning by the creaking of J’s steps in his room.  In his brain, pictures of what is supposed to happen slide by, like the “cover flow” on his iPod, and he progresses through time and space aided by those.  If you throw in a new picture or remove a familiar one, confusion will ensue.

Things have been a little chaotic since our oldest son started working.  We have developed a routine of sorts, but it’s taken some effort on our part to fall into it.  The nature of hospital work schedules can be uncertain, especially around the holidays.  So there are times when our oldest works on a Friday but is off on Saturday and Sunday, or works Sunday and Monday, and is off on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The monkey wrench, so to speak, will be thrown into the machinery of J’s “cover flow” from time to time.  All in all, J has adjusted well to his brother’s absences and to the fact that he has to sleep during the day in order to work at night…

This morning…however…

For the first time in a few weeks, J was driven to school by both dad and brother; the routine of late has been dad drives him to school, drops the car off at the hospital and older brother drives it home.  We have the one car, and we’ll stay that way for a while, so there’s a lot of carpooling going on around here.  This morning the routine was altered and the backpack got left behind…

Cue the wrath of the gods of Mt. Olympus?  No, not really…there was more frustration amongst the grown-ups than for J.

The backpack was not missed until J got to school and was asked for his communication log.  He had not really had a negative reaction to the backpack’s absence until then, until he realized he didn’t bring something that is part of the morning routine.  Cue a little hollering and hand-gesturing.  The teacher, upon being told by the aides that the backpack wasn’t with J when he arrived, told him it was no big deal and sent him to his next task…peace and quiet…all is right with the world because the pictures have, once more, fallen into their rhythm.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

We don’t get a lot of phone calls around here.  We call each other, but few calls come from outside our household.  My husband will call me or e-mail me several times a day; our son will call us or text us; I will call, e-mail or text them.  When we’re all here and the phone rings, we all act as if we’ve never heard that sounds before (I TOLD you the reports of our popularity are greatly exaggerated!)  There’s a lot of “you answer!  NO!  YOU answer!  WHO could it be?” going around…we’re dorks, what can I say?

This morning there was a lot of back and forth calling.  There was some heated discussion as to who was responsible for the backpack and its being left behind.  This is when we quote Paul Simon’s line from Train in the Distance that goes “negotiations and love songs,” only with us it usually has a much happier result than in the song.  After a bit of arguing we came to the conclusion that the kid will survive the day without his backpack, and that we all have to make sure he learns to remember it…

Guess who’s pulling out another piece of foam board to make another PECS checklist to put next to another door to be seen whenever he’s leaving for school in the morning…  This board will have enough space to hold PECS of boxing gloves, Slinky, jacket, backpack, communication log, and several open spaces for whatever else J might find endearing and necessary to his daily well-being.  There will be plenty of space to add pictures, but -hopefully- we will be able to start paring them down to nothing but the absolutely necessary at one point or another…

I should have invested in Velcro stock when I had the chance…



A musical interlude…at 6 a.m. on a Sunday

The Cranberries woke us up at around six this morning.  J, who is a music junkie, decided he had had enough of sleep and cranked up the tunes.  I’d love to tell you that this is an unusual occurrence, but it isn’t.  Risperdal does have the potential to cause insomnia and, with J, this translates into music at any hour of the night or wee hours of the morning.  The Cranberries are one of the mildest manifestations of his desire to be awake, Marshall Crenshaw is one of the more irritating ones.

J has always loved music; one of his first signs was MUSIC, and the effort he put into learning to say the word and make it understood was titanic, and beautiful to behold.  He is open to all genres and performers in spite of some early hesitation on the subjects of Tchaikovsky and Britney Spears.  Tchaikovsky streaming through the grocery store would interrupt our shopping trip, and someone had to go outside with J until the piece was over.  Britney Spears had the power to clear the room from J whenever his brother wanted to have the space to himself.

When riding in the car, J’s hand will tap anyone on the front seat and ask for the radio to be turned on, the station changed or the volume turned up.  During a recent cross-country move, J and his brother took turns with the iPods, a steady stream of music flowing through the car constantly.  If the oldest has a great deal of music in his iPod, J surpasses him by a great number, and the variety of the artists and genres is impressive.

Do you know Blossom Dearie?  J recognized her singing about the number 8 in School House Rock, and pointed her to me in his iPod singing jazz.  While listening to the radio, J will come looking for me, his finger avidly pointing at the apparatus and, I have discovered, this is simply his way of saying “that sound interests me…what is it?”  Thank goodness for Google; a few lines or words from a song and you can figure out the artist and the tune.

The iPod was a Christmas gift to replace the rather voluminous pile of CDs that J has amassed over the years.  My father gave him an extensive collection of classical music and, over time, he and his brother have purchased a large number of bargain bin CDs or received music as birthday or Christmas presents.  If you add to that the ones he absconded with from the “family” pile that sat in the living room, J was often sifting through a sizable selection before finding what he wanted.

Because J doesn’t like objects in his ears (something I will explain in due course), his brother bought him a very nice iPod dock so he can listen to music without wearing the earbuds that so bother him.  At first encounter, J looked at the iPod with curiosity but no real interest…and then it started showing him the album cover and playing the song…he was hooked!!!!

We have a running list of songs he wants because he’s heard them on the radio or seen the video on TV.  If we’re lucky, we’ll know the artist right away; otherwise, he will sit next to me while I look the information up, and he’ll indicate if yes, that is the song he wants or if he has developed a sudden interest in a song we ran into by chance.  By now J is aware of what iTunes cards are for, and he knows which color card will give him more music.  At the store, he will ask for two things while standing in line waiting to pay: a soda (which he has to ask for in a complete sentence with spoken words and signs) and an iTunes card (which usually leads to negotiation because there is NO way I’m buying a fifty-dollar card over a fifteen-dollar card.  This is when he pretends he doesn’t understand the different sounds…)

For your Sunday enjoyment, here is a list of music that J has fallen in love with over the past few months and which makes him happy…

  1.   Uncharted – Sara Bareilles
  2.   Give Him the Ooh-La-La – Blossom Dearie
  3.   Short Skirt/Long Jacket – Cake
  4.   F**k You – Cee Lo Green (yes, the original version…)
  5.   Viva La Vida – Coldplay
  6.   Am I the Only One (Who’s Ever Felt This Way) – Maria McKee
  7.   Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters – Elton John
  8.   Walk – Foo Fighters
  9.   In the Mood – Glenn Miller
  10.   La Vida Tómbola – Manu Chao

So…we woke up to The Cranberries today, but tomorrow we might wake up to Metallica, Paul Simon, The Ramones, Marshall Crenshaw, Ella Fitzgerald or Tchaikovsky’s Arabian Dance from The Nutcracker Suite.

Yeah…J got over his dislike for Tchaikovsky.  Once he saw a performance of The Nutcracker on TV, he couldn’t really keep up the resistance.  Maybe some day we’ll talk someone into letting us watch a dress rehearsal for the ballet????

Oh, and about Britney Spears?  He prefers Lady Gaga.

J is, after all, a teenager…or a kaleidoscope version of one.  The only thing that helps us differentiate between the kids’ shirts is the size, but we see  a lot of Green Day, Metallica, Beatles, Ramones and Rolling Stones t-shirts going into their closets while their music flows from their bedrooms.  The volume is always turned up after they’ve gone somewhere together and we’ve stayed behind.  Somewhere, between the moments when J is with his brother, there is a private language that they have developed; we hear it in the music they listen to, we see it in their head-shaking  to Bohemian Rhapsody and we notice it in the eye-rolls and arching brows they exchange when we’re giving one of our speeches…  The tap on the shoulder, asking for the volume to be turned up is one of J’s earliest attempts at communicating with us.

Yes, J is most definitely a teenager…with kick-ass musical taste!