Day 10…nobody told me there’d be days like these…

Life at home is fairly easy because we are used to not being out and about as much as other people.  We have our books, our music, our long conversations about this, that, the other thing.  We have J…

Routine is key so, once Dada established that he was home to NOT go to the doctor, all anxiety found a very functional level and that’s where we’re at right now.  We are as calm as we can possibly be while watching the “red areas” grow on the maps.  Because we are socially awkward and humankind-loving introverts who think of socializing as more of a spectator sport, we are not suffering from cabin fever.

I cannot swear on a stack of Bibles that this would be the case if the season was winter and snow, ice and extremely cold temperatures had been blocking our access to the great outdoors.  There’s “we like being home” and “we don’t have any real options, do we?”

A couple of weeks ago someone, not a member of the household, used the word “SICK” at a volume audible to J.  (Who am I kidding?  J can hear through walls even if these are made of granite!)  This brought with it three solid days of Mr. Blessington behavior that I had to roll with while reassuring J that we are all healthy and there is nothing to worry about.  I am not lying, but I’m also not being entirely truthful…there are things to worry about regarding COVID-19, but we are not -as was the case during the Black Death- in imminent danger if we exercise prudence and good hygiene habits while socially distancing in a proactive manner.

All that, however, is extremely abstract and J doesn’t understand it.  All J worries about is whether he’s getting tacos (funny anecdote follows…Autism parents will definitely understand!) every other Saturday, donuts on the Saturdays that are not Taco Saturdays and pizza delivered from his favorite place once a week.  So far we’re managing to fulfill all these requests, but not without some creativity involved…

And now, dear readers, I will tell you a little story about Taco Saturday in the Time of COVID-19…

Last Friday, late in the afternoon, I placed J’s usual order from his usual place for delivery on Taco Saturday (the following day) at the usual time.  The delivery service and the restaurant showed that times were available.  Chalk one up to “we encourage people to support local businesses…they are still delivering!”

An hour later…DING!

Uh-oh!  The restaurant, shortly after we placed our order and they accepted it, decided to stop delivering.

The words “Egads, Brain!” came to mind, but what we uttered was completely different and, one would say without lying, rather salty…

Now, I’d like to point out, there is a certain mechanism in Autism Parents’ brains that starts clicking even when we’re in the middle of a brief moment of panic.  This mechanism, much like something out of a steampunk dream, clicks, whirs, snaps, and wheezes…before we know it we’ve found a solution.  It’s never a SIMPLE solution…it’s more of a Mike Wazowski “using mainly spoons” solution, but it’s a solution nonetheless.

The Allies planned D-Day and executed it with razor-sharp precision…

We executed the Big Taco Saturday Fake-Out in the Time of COVID-19 with pretty much the same effect.

Less than a minute passed between the DING! of the e-mail and the springing-into-action of Dada and yours truly.  A sandwich steak was found in the freezer and taken out for defrosting while marinating; street taco-size tortillas were located in the pantry.  A year or so ago I’d bought the aluminum trays with plastic lids that they sell for “bake and take”; the purpose of this was to have ready “here, take these leftovers” containers that people wouldn’t feel obligated to return within six months time.  By the next morning, our plan was in place, and our timing had been hammered out to perfection…

Our main concern was that we’d be forced -like Leonard Hofstadter had to do with Sheldon Cooper- to confess to J that this was not a meal from his favorite Mexican joint but rather a well-executed ruse on the parents he trusted and tolerated.  The feelings of betrayal would be serious if we failed to a) produce the tacos on Taco Saturday, and b) were caught in flagrante delicto trying to fool our son with subpar and obviously fake tacos.

Like dancers on a stage, we executed every move with such exquisite detail and grace that it would’ve made a seasoned choreographer’s heart glad.  Our product (and we have pictures to prove this) was quite a reasonable facsimile of that which J expects from the restaurant.  A paper bag was procured from the recycle pile, and we found a bag of chips from the restaurant that I had put in a gallon-size Ziploc bag the previous Taco Saturday.  To add a flourish, we’d had a brilliant notion to purchase several bottles of Mexican Coca-Cola and they were stored in a concealed spot in the closet under the stairs.  My yellow rice was yellower, yes, but it was also tastier and not as dry as the one from the restaurant (this is a point of pride for me…a little bitchy, perhaps, but I make really delicious yellow rice that J loves).  The tortillas were fried early and left to get soggy-enough, and the little piece of meat was cooked whole (on a very hot crêpe pan to make sure it seared properly) and then after it had been cut up in the right size chunks to emulate the restaurant’s meat.

Luck smiled on us and a car drove by slowly enough to pass for a delivery vehicle just as I was ready to head to the porch to ring the doorbell.  The only flaw in our plan was that Dada really doesn’t know how to not overact…never has there been an instance when he’s too loud, too emotive and, in a nutshell, potentially catastrophic in his performances,  but…I couldn’t very well be the one who opened the door and gave an Oscar-worthy performance if this is usually Dada’s job on Taco Saturdays.

Suffice it to say we were as excited as high school kids who have just performed their annual musical for a live audience for the very first time.

Suffice it to say that J reacted with the same kind of encouraging, loving enthusiasm that parents display even when their kid has shown an absolute lack of talent, coordination, rhythm, and timing…  He was happy to get tacos, of course, but he was not in any way, shape or form fooled by our attempts regardless of how amazingly well-executed it was.

On Saturday, dear friends, we’re having cinnamon rolls…from scratch, but cinnamon rolls.  I can’t even remotely attempt to fake his favorite frosted donuts with sprinkles…  Not no way.  Not no how!

A red (like a tomato) letter day….

When future generations of historians decide to look back on this particular date, I hope they will take into consideration the fact that today, of all days, J ate tomato for the first time.  I mean seriously a tomato…not tomato sauce, not ketchup, not pizza or pasta sauce…  I mean an actual tomato…grown in our garden…picked from one of our plants…ripened to perfection on the vine…sliced in our kitchen with the same dinky knife we use for all other tomatoes…

Not only did J taste the first chunk of tomato that I, foolishly hoping for a miraculous development that completely varied from the usual “I am a vampire and that is garlic, madam!” reaction that fruits and vegetables cause.  Or imagine Ferdinand the Bull sitting on that bee…

ferdinand

I’ve been pleasantly surprised (and ultimately, because I don’t get enough when the plate goes around) by J’s love of avocados.  I have been encouraged and fortified by his willingness to eat carrots in his egg-white omelets and egg salad, cauliflower in his scrambled eggs, pumpkin in his French toast, peas and broccoli just for the fun of it, spinach in almost anything…

Tomatoes, however, were the verboten fruit.  Until tonight.  That first chunk of tomato was a gateway chunk of tomato…

We had tacos for dinner.  This, as you might already know, is an exciting prospect for J because he loves the texture and smell of the home-made tortillas, the juicy chicken fresh off the grill, the yellow rice, the melting cheese…  I simply decided to try handing him a chunk of tomato.  I wanted to dance around the kitchen when he put it in his mouth and chewed it, and when he actually ATE it and asked for more I wanted to step on the balcony and do my best Madeline Kahn singing “Ah, Sweet Mystery of Life…” in Young Frankenstein, but I figured it would be inappropriate…

I didn’t make a fuss because if J sees I’m making a fuss he might think “I’ve just made my middle-aged mother happy…what am I THINKING????!!!!”  Dada walked into the kitchen and, after much exertion with the body language and the eyebrows, he noticed that he, too, was witnessing a miracle.  TGG, squeaking like Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles, tried to act non-chalant about the amazing developments of the evening.

J enjoyed his tacos.  J loved the rice.  J trilled happily throughout the meal, smiling and beaming like he’d just won a big prize.  We were excited, impressed, happy, surprised…feet looking for other feet under the table for the equivalent of a high-five.

Unless you’re the parent of a picky eater, or your kid is autistic and has gone out of his/her way to stick to a monochrome menu for years, you can’t really understand the thrill of tomatoes at dinner. Twenty years (give or take) eating tomato-related products, and about fifteen years fishing out chunks of tomato skin from sauces…  And then, out of the blue, on a hot summer night, someone (who has been attempting the same stunt with faith and planning that are equal only to Evel Knievel’s) hands you a chunk of tomato and you eat it…

Have you seen Kristen Bell talking about how she is fine as long as she is between 3 and 7 in the emotional scale?  Have you seen Kristen Bell reacting to a sloth?

That is EXACTLY what I felt like inside watching J eat tomato…

So let’s not talk about when he started munching on lettuce.  OK?