Saturday, December 15, 2012

when what to my cynical, sad eyes should appear

Philadelphia Flower Show
March 2009
"for i've grown a little leaner
grown a little colder
grown a little sadder
grown a little older
and i need a little angel
sitting on my shoulder
we need a little christmas now." 

from "mame"

After I finished my volunteer stint in the kids' classroom last Wednesday, I decided to take the kids home right from there. Since I was already at the school, it seemed ridiculous to send them to their after-school program. 

As we walked through the school parking lot, Boo started in about seeing Santa that weekend. 

At 11, my kids still Believe. Wholeheartedly and unabashedly and completely. And I'm not about to change that, especially after yesterday.

"I think I'd like a bulletproof vest," Boo said, very seriously. 

I was startled. I admit, the setting - the elementary/middle school parking lot, at dismissal time - jolted me. I asked him why he wanted such a thing. 

"In case someone shoots me," he said, matter of factly.

"My God, Boo," I said. "What a horrible thought. Why would someone shoot you?" 

We talked about if anyone had threatened to shoot him. Nobody hadn't. Still, my mind went there, as it tends to do. Because that's what my mind DOES. I saw it all as we walked through the crosswalk - the news vans, the police cars, the ambulances, the vigils, the candles - and I talked as calmly as possible to my son.  

"You know, 11-year old boys don't need to walk around wearing bulletproof vests," 

This was nine days ago. I felt I was lying as I remembered Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora. 

"The likelihood that you're going to get shot, sweetie, is pretty slim," I said, choosing my words carefully. 

Nine days before all of America would learn where Newtown, Connecticut was. 


I admit that I am addicted to all things social media, but even I knew that I needed to put myself on a restricted social media diet for this one. 

I knew how this would play itself out. 

I knew that there would be reports that the shooter was on the autism spectrum. That the talking heads would go there and start their damning theories. 

Facebook and Twitter and the rest of the Internet would get along just fine without me for this particular news story. My autism mom friends worked the Interwebs with poignant blog posts and tweets and impassioned pleas to media types not to paint everyone with autism with this brush. 

(I may have sneaked a peek on my phone.) 

Meanwhile, I descended into the basement and surrounded myself by scrapbooking. A banal task: sorting paper by color. The sort of thing one does in kindergarten. 

My boy came downstairs where I was working. 

"I found something," he said, holding up one of my blog cards and beginning to read the description of The Betty and Boo Chronicles to me. 

"What does this mean?" he said. "This. 'Raising a child with autism.' Do you hate me?" 

Oh, dear God. 

Do I hate you? 

Do I HATE you? 

Today, this. Today, on a day when 20 little children lost their lives. 

I told him to sit down with me on the sofa, that there were a few things I needed to say. I told him that I wrote about him having autism here because there were a lot of parents out there who were just finding out that their kids have autism. That by writing about the funny and awesome things that you do, that helps other people not be as scared and not see autism as a bad or scary thing. That when WE found out about Boo having autism, we didn't know anyone else the same age who had it or what Boo's life could possibly be like.

That's why I write about it, I explained. To try and give people some hope. 

"Does that make any sense?" I asked. 

He said that it did, that he understood. 

"Do you want me to stop writing about it?" I asked. 

"No, it's okay. It's cool." 

* * 

I don't want to leave the house today. 

I don't even want to get dressed. 

I'm still in my social media blackout (sorta). The Husband is giving me updates about Connecticut that I've read on Twitter, when I've (once again) snuck looks at it. He's told me about the autism angle. I told him I saw that last night. 

I can't do this. I'm too angry to do this. Not when the memory of my boy telling me that he wants a bulletproof vest is only (now) 10 days old. 

We need things at Costco. I get dressed, get myself into the car. Betty decides she wants to come with me for the samples and a possible Christmas gift for her teacher. 

A gift for her teacher. How can I say no? Today, I can't. 

I drive up our street, see a flash of red and white knocking on the door of one of my neighbors' houses. 

It's Santa Claus. 

"Look, Betty!" I exclaim, before I drive out of sight. 

"Oh, wow ...." Betty breathes. 

I stare. Santa turns and waves at us. We wave back and smile. Thank you, Santa, I think. 

I realize I'll lose the moment if I stop the car, reach into my purse for my phone, and take a photo for Facebook and the blog. I decide to just let it be, live it for what it is. 

I glance at Betty in the back seat. Her face is magic. 

She still Believes. 

And for just one single precious moment, so do I. 

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Book Dragon said...

tears are blurring my vision. I too went non-news after seeing the first bit so I missed the autism angle. I understand exactly where you're coming from because I'm bi-polar and a mom. We're not painted in pretty colors when we kill either.

Doesn't make it right to brush the 99 with the same colors as the 1.

On a side note... I thought of you will I was on vacation last month. I came across a bench and had to take a picture! I'll let you know when I get it posted.

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I'm having a hard time leaving the house as well. Tomorrow I have to send my 8 year old back to do I do this with a smile on my face and assurances that everything will be ok?
I hadn't heard the autism side of this story...I'm trying my best to only focus on the comments and articles that honor the ones who've lost their lives and the peaceful, loving responses to the tragedy rather than any of the blame game. Hugs to you and yours.

Lisa Gradess Weinstein said...

Oh Melissa....what can I say. Sob. Sniff. Except maybe you should be on the writing staff of Parenthood...either that or the producers are sneaking a peek at your life!