An Unplanned Anniversary

Goldi is all dressed. Her lunch is packed. Her hair is combed.

“It’s a snow day!” I tell her.

“Oh,” she says softly, looking down.

“Are you sad?”

“Well, ” she sighs, “I guess we will go to school tomorrow?”

“Probably,” I answer.

“But today, we will do the same thing I did 43 years ago. ”

I look at the faces of both Goldi and her brother. He enters with his eyes squinting.

Their faces are still coming alive at 6:30 am.

“You mean when you were about nine?” asked Goldi’s brother. Just one wiping away of sleep from his eyes, and he is a walking calculator.

“You’re right.” I answer.

I have no idea but I trust his math over mine any day.

I had whipped up French Toast and waffles. We have time to bite, chew, and swallow. So, the three of us sit down to feast and I begin a story –

“It was 1978. The flakes weren’t dancing and floating around pleasantly so we could see their special beauty. They were instead rushing down like it was the grand finale of snowfalls. The wind howled loud enough to rattle the glass of my window. I was afraid to even get out of bed. The brown house across the street, our mailbox, and the street lamp, were all erased with white. “

“You couldn’t see anything?” my son asks.

“No. Just white. ”

Goldi’s eyes get big.

“We didn’t even have breakfast. We just got all bundled up and went out exploring. It took all of our arms at once to push the door outside open. It took all the strength we could muster up to even move an inch in the snow. One step and you were nearly buried in cold. It was only when I saw the neighbor’s American Flag , that I knew where I was. Soon, we were standing on the roof of our house! The wind had just kept whooshing the snow into such a mountain, we had the perfect hill. We flew down on sleds right into the street. The world was a playground and nothing more. “

Do you think we got out our computers? “

They shake their heads.

“How about our video games or tablets?”

They shrug their shoulders.

“No, mom. ” my son says in a tone saying “you always remind us things were so different then.”

” We had a rotary phone on the wall and a black and white television. For two weeks, we stayed home. For two weeks we had to fill our days with things of home. The roads were not plowed. No one was going anywhere.

After making two mountains of snow on both sides of our driveway, the neighborhood fathers, took sleds, and walked to the grocery store about 5 miles away. I thought we would never see them again. But we needed milk, eggs, and bread. We needed to eat. So they went.

We could do all sorts of things that we wanted to do, and only a few things we had to do. Sledding, snowman building, hot chocolate, filled our days like it was a happily ever after dream.

But after awhile, it seemed like the normal things we once did, like going to school, going to the grocery store, a walk down the street, going to church, even going on any sort of outing, was all like a dream too. It seemed like the wait for normal would never end.

It’s our first snow day this year. Life will be probably be “normal” tomorrow. In the meantime, you CAN do a lot of something elses instead. “

The kids both nod their heads. They know as well as I , that normal these days seems out the window even without a snow day.

Goldi begins to cover herself from head to toe with winter clothes. Her brother soon follows.

“Where are you going?” I ask.

“Outside!” they both say in unison.

I watch them from the window. Each have a shovel. One of them falls down on purpose and just lays there looking up. One holds their hand out to catch a snowflake and hold it close for a few seconds.

It is the perfect something else to be doing, just like it was 43 years ago.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

Whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31.


Two weeks ago, Once upon a time….

“Mom, I have to tell you something,” says Goldi crunching her favorite graham cracker cereal.

A story is coming. I ready myself by opening my ears even though I am waiting for the water to boil for my morning cup of tea.

“Ok. I’m listening,” I say looking at her eyes that I look as though they have wandered all around the world.

“Well, Annie told me that Mr. Brown went water skiing on Lake Michigan. He did some flips!”

“Really?”

My eyebrows are raised. I can’t picture her very serious and sensible history teacher on water skis and certainly not doing flips!

“How does Annie know this?”

Suddenly I sound like a detective.

“Annie said that Mr. Brown told her class.”

“Really, Mr. Brown did?”

“Yes! Mom! Mr. Brown said that he went water skiing on Lake Michigan!”

I squint and try to picture this man wearing a bright orange life jacket on two skis sliding across the lake behind a boat bouncing on the waves. The image is fuzzy and is tainted by my cemented notions.

“So when did he go skiing then?”

“Probably about two weeks ago!” Goldi insists.

Two weeks ago it was 30 something degrees.

I sigh.

“That’s impossible!” interjects her brother who is also sitting at the table munching.

Logic and reason and all things realistic are what makes any story valid enough to tell according to her brother.

“He probably went water skiing this past summer. ” I conclude.

“Well, ” she says looking out into the distance. “Yeah, well, probably,” she says still uncertain, “I can’t believe he did that! That is so crazy!”

Goldi laughs heartily.

I envision Mr. Brown a little more clearly. He is smiling wide as he “sticks” his landing after doing a double flip.

“Wow!” I said. “That is really something!” I said smiling big.

“Yeah!” said Goldi smiling and giggling.

“Mom!” her brother’s whisper blasts into my ear drum. “Mr. Brown did not go water skiing two weeks ago! Why does she always say things happened two weeks ago?”

Every story that Goldi has told happened two weeks ago. I don’t know why. It’s her way of saying “Once upon a time.” It happened. She just doesn’t know when. Nor does she really care. It’s a story that is worth telling. When she is sleeping, remembering, and dreaming, all those stories are racing around in her mind. The one that captures her attention will be told at a time when Goldi suddenly feels it is the right time to tell it.

Once upon a time has begun so many stories that have been a part of her life. It begins the story of Cinderella before she married the prince. It begins Goldilocks and the Three Bears before Goldilocks fell asleep in baby bear’s bed. It begins the story of The Elves and the Shoemaker before the elves appear and worked their magic. Once upon a time starts all those stories that says it happened. Maybe it happened in the dream world. Maybe it happened in the real world. Maybe it happened in a little bit of both worlds. Two weeks ago and once upon a time, is enough. What’s next is what counts. And so the story is told and the only thing that really matters is that it is not when it happened in her wildest dreams or in real life, but that it becomes a story that became part of her. So it is worth telling and remembering and keeping.

Goldi is keeping many stories I have yet to know. There may be a time when she will tell them. What she may recall over this past year 2020! What she may not! Nonetheless, what she has remembered, dreamed, and kept, happened not just in a time that has now passed, but in a time two weeks ago and once upon a time, there are stories that she has remembered for a reason.

Sometimes it is frustrating that her awareness of time does not go beyond day and night or when she was younger and now she is older. Something from the past is just as real as if it has just happened. I sigh because in her mind, time is so irrelevant.

But then, I smile. I smile because time IS so irrelevant to her. Two weeks ago, and once upon a time, someone began a story. The One who always was. He said “Let there be Light and it seems it doesn’t matter exactly when, but what matters most is that that Light appeared and it still is here. It happened long ago, and it is happening now. This is a story that never ends. Time cannot put this story in its place and it will exist beyond time. For it will always will be two weeks, once upon a time, and for all eternity.

“In the beginning, God” Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word” John 1

2 Peter 3:3 For with the Lord, one day is as thousand years, and thousand years as one day.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

N

Covid Cornucopia

The day after Halloween, the wind undressed the trees and now they have gone to sleep. I can hear the new wind in the distance as only a whisper now but soon it will sure to shout out its arrival with white crystal confetti and a roar or two.

“Aren’t we going to put the cornucopia on the table now?” Goldi asked the next morning.

Still recovering from the fast moving time warp we all find ourselves in, I stood in a daze.

“The cornucopia?” said looking at her with scrunched eyebrows.

“You know, the big horn basket thing we put on the table. Then at our dinner we write on a colored slip of paper something we are thankful for. Then we read it and put it in the cornucopia and THEN on Thanksgiving Day we make a big long chain! Remember?”

“How did I not remember? It’s November. Even though it seems like it was just the fourth of July. ”

How could I forget? It’s been our tradition since we moved to our new house. Not only that, it is a Geek thing. It’s a Roman thing too, but it’s the Greek part that is important. No one ever said “This is your grandfather’s cornucopia , I want you to have it to remember him by. ” It comes from Greek mythology and some story that actually seems ridiculous to me. I like to focus on its symbol. It has been called the “horn of plenty” for its curved shape. It represents abundance. Later in Early America, around Thanksgiving time , it was basket filled with fruits and vegetables from the harvest.

I had cleaned ours up a bit and spray painted it a golden color. Stuffed with fake poinsettias, I found it among the Christmas decorations. ( Alas, one season at a time please) The dried up roses from the yard were removed. The cornucopia was laid in place. It seemed so much bigger than I remembered. I wondered if it would really look full on Thanksgiving Day.

Goldi chose the color red to start. She laid out four strips of red paper and a pen at each place setting.

“What’s this? someone who shall be nameless asked.

“We are starting the cornucopia!” Goldi states as though frustrated that everyone seemed clueless.

I am thankful for this sunny day. I wrote.

I am thankful for steak! said her brother.

I am thankful for this house. said my husband.

I am thankful for friends, family, food, and mashed potatoes! said Goldi.

Four red strips were rolled up and put inside the cornucopia.

As the sunset, I began to get chilled. I hoped the sun would shine the next day, and the next day after that and for all the days ahead. But not even knowing what tomorrow ever brings, I got out the electric blanket for bedtime.

“Will we do the cornucopia again tomorrow?” Goldi asked as I tucked her in.

“Of course!” I said closing her bedroom door slow enough to see the twinkling smile on her face.

Tomorrow started with more chills. Ten layers of blankets with one being electric and I was chilled. The sun was going to shine , was to be nearly 70 degrees ,and I was chilled.

“Do you know where the thermometer is?” I asked my husband.

In typical nurse fashion, he had dug out our thermometer, cleaned it off with alcohol, and handed it to me ready. He took my heart rate too.

“What do you think?” he asked showing me the high number.

“I think I have it. ” I said feeling the thud of the realization heavy on my chest.

I spent the entire day in bed. My husband stayed home from the hospital. Kids stayed home from school. I slept and sometimes just laying there thinking –what does the world look like outside the bedroom door?

Dinnertime came and I was alone. I heard plates and silverware clanging.

Golid came in

“Mom, here- ” she said with her head turned away .

She had laid out a green strip of paper and pen on the table next to me, then quickly stepped away.

“You have to do the cornucopia. We did it too. ” she informed.

I am thankful for warm bed. I wrote.

“I will put it inside the cornucopia!” Goldi said speeding away .

Testing once seemed no big deal. Goldi and I had tested in the summer. Mostly a precautionary thing. It didn’t seem so bad. We’ve all stuck things up our nose before.

“What is your name and birthdate” said the PPE covered girl.

What was my name and birthdate? Things seemed so blurry right then. I sat there scrunched in my seat looking more like my kids before getting their vaccinations.

“It’s going to be uncomfortable. But just relax . Four seconds in each side. “

“Okay.” I said

It was over quicker than the wait on the phone to talk to the doctor. It was over quicker than waiting in the line even with an appointment. It was over quicker than it took me to remember my name and birthday. But I was crying.

“Kids,” I said with a cracked voice, “You are braver than me. You got all those shots and didn’t cry a bit. ”

“Here mom. ” said Goldi handing me a yellow strip and a pen before dinner.

I am thankful for my family. I wrote.

“How do you feel? ” Goldi asked as she stepped away .

“Okay. ”

“Well, I ‘m sure you will feel better soon. ” she said.

Sleep was pretty easy to do after such a day. I didn’t want to get out of bed for one minute. Soon, I grew thirsty.

The moon’s glow lit up the kitchen. As I filled by cup with water, I could see the cornucopia looking fuller. Goldi had certainly seen to it that we carry on the tradition. Only three days into the month and it didn’t look so empty anymore.

Pink strips of paper were set out for dinner two days later. A couple of hours before, I read my results. I read them twice. I was positive that I was positive. I sat several feet away from my family, feeling very little appetite, and like I was about to eat invisible food.

I am thankful for the fruit jelly. Brother wrote.

I am thankful I could wear shorts today. Goldi wrote.

I am thankful that we are all home together. My husband wrote.

I am thankful that I am positive, I began, that this cornucopia is going to be the fullest ever. ”

2 Corinthians 9:8 And God is able to bless you abundantly , to that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work!

A Just Right Girl

Never did I think that my first published story would be about a girl with autism or that the girl would be my own. But Goldi is ours. She is this outstretched armed, wind combed, stand smiling in the rippling waves, girl whose mind is full of wonder and whose heart is full of love. Goldiella is a story that had to be told.

Though I didn’t imagine I would tell such a story 44 years ago, when I lay on my pink fluffy rug , writing pages and pages of stories about talking toys while locked in my room. I was out of sight for hours. There, the ideas poured out of me like the falls at Niagra. My stories would be in books for children who would check them out of the library, buy them from the bookstore, and even order them from the book clubs. I knew story after story that children needed to read and know and hold onto forever. I didn’t expect it to be the story of Goldiella.

But life lived brought growing up, teaching and working with kids, then later marriage and two children of our own. One was a daughter with autism. With that came unexpected stories that poured out like the falls at Niagra. Certainly not the kind of made up story of talking toys in a wonderful fantasy world of happy go lucky days. But real life stories of setback, hardship, sadness, and most of all something more amazing than we could have imagined. Goldiella is a story of our just right girl. Just right not just because she has autism.

Goldi is also a dreamer. She dreams of being happily ever after for real. She believes dreams will come true despite this mysterious thing called autism that could have, even should have, kept her from dreaming in the first place.

In many ways it is many stories. It does tell the about the life of someone who has autism. But it also tells the story of the lives of people who know her and live life with her. It is the story of growing up. Most of all it is the story of the amazing thing that can happen, in the life of one who falls short of being normal, because of Someone so amazing because He is more than normal He is awesome!

Goldiella is being sold on amazon and is there for those who want to know more about autism. It is for those who wish to find themselves in a story, no matter where they are in life. It is a story that when finished reading you might find yourself in a just right place to begin dreaming a happily ever after dream.

Quiet the Questioning

The phone beeped, buzzed, and rang all within a few minutes. These interruptions snatched me from a dream I had been caught in, promising to keep me engaged in another intriguing world until the sun was shining bright enough to end it. It was the Friday after parent teacher conferences, the middle of March, and two weeks before spring break. There was two and a half months left of school. It was the last year of our son’s elementary years. Spring was just around the corner. But all of these things were in the shadows . What marked that moment was a heavy, pressing question: What does all this mean? It lead to an endless series of questions.

The immediate answer for me was a cup of tea. One sip of hot chamomile was calming and soothing. But then, questions blew in like a gust of wind and caused me to shiver.

“What was that sound? What happened? What’s going on? ” Goldi, asked with the bright eyes she always wears when she is excited or extremely curious.

I took one more sip to wet my still dry and tired pallet to help make my answer sound clear and confident:

“School is closed because of the coronavirus.”

Holding my mug of tea and still wearing my pj’s, I had hoped those words seemed more like words of everyday news like there is slight chance of rain today or dad forget his lunch. No big deal. But my answer invited more questions from the wide open floodgates.

“Are we going to get the virus? How long will school be closed? Why does school have to be closed? Will I still have to hand in my homework? What are we going to do today?” Both Goldi and her brother didn’t seem to be breathing . It was simply hopeless to attempt to “step over their words” with attempts to silence and satisfy.

Soon, the subject was left hanging. We carried on with the usual things as though nothing had happened. Goldi dressed in her outfit she had planned to wear that day to school, combed her hair, brushed her teeth, and began talking in various accents in her room as she played with different dolls and figurines. Her brother got lost in checking scores and stats for the upcoming NBA championship. ( thinking all games would still take place) I found a pencil and a piece of notebook paper. I wiggled the pencil back and forth thinking and scratching out a plan.

By the end of the first week, we had established a routine and it was set it stone enough for the kids to begin to argue it:

“Why do we have to do math at 9:30 am? Can’t we just skip reading today? Could we watch a movie while we eat lunch and have a longer recess? ”

After three months, the questions were few and far between and nearly back to the normal inquiries kids ask ” What’s for dinner? Who touched my tablet? Can you please tell her/him to stop bothering me! Can we get Disney Plus? Can you help me find some socks?”

Under lockdown, our routine was in automatic mode. It was almost like we turned into robots going through the motions of our day without any emotion and on never ending repeat cycle. It was hard. It was tiring. It was sometimes complete drudgery.

Then, summer came and we grew pleasantly lazy and care free. The green grass, the blue sky, the warmth of the sun, all color our days with an easy breezy feeling. Despite the looming danger of the virus hovering over life, the questions have turned to wonders:

“What makes the sky so blue? Why does the hummingbird flap its wings so fast? What makes the firefly light up? How many shapes can a white fluffy cloud make? How do you tell if the watermelon is ripe? I wonder how fast I can run from the mailbox to the end of the street and back? Is there a dandelion I can pick and make a wish on? “

Wonderings on summer lazy days are a perfect respite from the agonizing questions with only unknown as the answer: How long will we have to wear a mask? How long until the virus is over? Will I get the virus? “

We still live in summer and are still living in this wonderful dreamy respite. There are moments that feel so normal and we forget that a virus indeed did hit and that there is still so much unknown. How pleasant it is to put that in the shadows and just live and be. But then there are moments when through one word from someone, a story, or a bit of news, buzzes in our ear like a mosquito.

“When IS this virus going to be over anyway? Are we going back to school? Will they have choir and cross country? Will I have to wear a mask all day? “

These questions are asked before spooning a bite of cereal into their mouths or right before they fly out the door. There is less panic in their tone and maybe a little bit of patience. Even when the answer is “I don’t know ” Miraculously , Goldi will shrug her shoulders and say “Oh.” Both Goldi and her brother have endured this. They have no clue as to how much longer we will worry about the virus. There is no vaccine, no cure, no promising medications, and no true rock solid facts. But Goldi flies around on her scooter, practices various accents, imagines, creates, and lays in her hammock looking up into the sky in perfect stillness. Her brother flies around on his rip stick, flips on the trampoline, pesters his sister, and slows down a little to wipe the sweat off his forehead. They have shown that even though the unknown is a constant, they aim to be a kid.

As the summer waves goodbye, and school speaks of reopening, I have asked questions to them as I worry through the laundry list of questions of my own:

“Do you feel okay? Do you want to go back to school? How do you feel about going back to school? How would you feel about school at home?

“I feel fine! I want to go back to school!” shouts Goldi’s brother.

“I think I should try to go back. ” says Goldi looking off into the distance as if she had a peek into what “going back” would look like.

They are determined to experience even the slightest trace of what was, holding on to those “good old days” with all their might. They dream about it and wish for their return.

We still have questions that float around in our heads. But they don’t blurt out as rapidly as before. After they are verbalized, even if the answers are not what they would like, we all respond with a sigh, and move forward with even a small thing like licking a popsicle, twisting a rubrics cube, or just walking around breathing in the summer air. As we all do these things, a dream of “someday soon” stirs up inside us. There is a peace and a comfort because Someone else has all the answers. Someone has wisdom beyond us. Someone is able to quiet our worries, our cares, and our endless questions with His love.

His understanding is unsearchable. Isaih 40:28

He will quiet you by his love. Zephaniah 3:17

Not normal but new

Summer’s sentimental  air lends itself to reflection. The sun’s warmth is a sweet compliment to memory building days of swimming in pools, bike rides,ice cream cones, and never ending play. Summer gives way to school, and is nearly over for Goldi. So I’ve looked into a mirror of days past, and wandered into the “what will be”.

In the sparkling waters of a swimming pool, Goldi held her breath and let the wavy water blanket her. She kicked and floated and blew bubbles.

“I saw the bottom, it’s blue!” she said popping up to the top.

Hesitation no longer crippled her. The ripples of her splash stretched as far as the pool’s width and the waves took a long while to calm.

She’s older now and those her age have aged more. They know that pink and orange clash. They are playing with their rip sticks and not their princesses. Will she be as free to make her own splash? How will she deal with the poison of some bully or one who turns up their nose at her quirkiness?

“Mom! Watch me again. I am going to be underwater the whole way!” Goldi announces.

I watch with anticipation. Goldi swims the whole length of the pool underwater.

There is a new trail that winds itself through the quiet of the woods. A hush allows us to hear the sizzle of the tires on wisps of dirt. It allows for Goldi to stretch out her hand and brush the low branches of leaves as she breezes by.

“Goldi lead the way this time!” her dad invites.

Goldi takes first place. She looks from right to left at the first cross street. She waits and double looks.

“All clear! Let’s go!” She calls out.

Sometimes, her peers instruct like a momma. They stoop down and use their little kid voice:
“It’s your turn. You have to do it like this. Be careful. ”

Will she know to pause and think on her own before she acts?

Goldi pedals onward and comes to the next crosswalk.
“Go ahead!” her father says.
“Not yet Dad,” she says back.
A car storms through unexpectedly.

Laziness is at its best while licking ice cream cone on the front porch. In the shade and in everyday view of summer, we lick, question, talk, and listen to the breeze. We wait for the hummingbird to surprise us. Sometimes he comes and sometimes he is elsewhere. We are content no matter.

“Mom, this time I want a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone”. Goldi requests.
My scooper shakes with excitement.

“You mean you don’t want vanilla?” I confirm.

“Nope! I want mint chocolate chip please.” She insists.

The humming bird comes right to the kitchen window and nods.
I become more than content. I am elated.

Summer eating has turned feasting. New on Goldi’s menu is hamburgers, cheeseburgers, roast beef, grilled cheese, smoothies, spaghetti with sauce, and mint chocolate chip ice cream.
Will she know the pleasures of the new? Will she take the risk of trying even though uncertain? So much new ahead as adolescence rounds the corner and Goldi stays in the wing of little girl.

“I’ll help cook dinner.” Goldi announces wearing her pink apron.
“We need to peel some carrots and crack some eggs.” I tell her.

Goldi glides the peeler with ease and allows the slippery ooze to tickle her fingers. New has never felt so wonderful for her.

When the neighborhood wakes up, Goldi dashes off to knock on doors.
She approaches even the big tall, booming voice fathers and asks: “Is she home? Can she play?”

Even in the disappointment of decline, she realizes there is a second chance. There is a hope stemmed from forever play days passed.

But my poison is worry. Worry is a like a sword, piercing my hope with future rejection from these same playable neighbors and others sure to meet her autism. Will she initiate friendship? Will she find those that genuinely cherish her friendship? Will their discipline, poise, and maturity drift them far apart from Goldi’s childlike manner, naivety, and innocence?

“Mom, they can ‘t play right now. Maribelle has karate and Jane and Suzie are in the middle of a checkers game. ” Goldi says softly.

Right now passes quickly and there are three knocking at the door.
Right now they are eager to play. Even if it is with a Barbie Glamour pool filled with water and complete with miniature water slide. So I shelf the worry and relish in the right now.

Summer reflection has turned to a realized hope. While the “what will be” days will be tainted with the quirky, jumpy, hand flapping, immaturity of Goldi’s autism, there is a newness that will one day overshadow it and the only thing seen will be the glory of God.

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? Isaiah 43:19

Admission but Anonymous about Autism

In April there were sunny, warm, and waking up kind of blue skies days.  It seems like all winter the sky was so sleepy and lifeless and then it lit up blue just in time for April.

I admit all April I wasn’t so lit up. There was a battle in me between what I was supposed to do- spread awareness by wearing my blue shirt or dying my hair blue, or posting articles about its reality, and do what I wanted to do- just ignore it and live in the fantasy of normalcy.

Then something blue arrived home in Goldi’s brother’s school folder.

“We are Lighting it up blue” the note said.

We will be talking , sharing, and reading about autism this month.

Wear your blue on Thursday. ”

A wave of excitement spread over me.

“You should write something!” I said to my son.

“You could write about what it is like to have a sister with autism. ”

Goldi’s brother immediately scrunched up his eyebrows and said “No way! That would be WAY to embarrassing!”

Here was my chance to be the best “Light it up blue” parent.  The chance to give my Patrick Henry speech, my Patriotic Glory Glory Hallelujah music playing in the background to impress on him that we can make a difference!

“You are an amazing brother of someone who is autistic. You should share what it is like and how you feel and people will know…”

“Know what? my son interjects “That my sister is weird? That she says things that makes no sense sometimes. That she hits me for no reason?  That is not something to write about!”

“Please,” I begged. “It would be so great. I would be so proud. and besides everyone will think you are pretty cool. ”

“No they won’t” he screams with tears flowing down. “Please, do I really have to do this?”

The Patriotic music stopped. I sighed and cried myself. My own son did not want to admit that his sister had autism. He wasn’t at all ready to join in the mission to spread awareness.

“Maybe now isn’t the time.” interjects my husband.

“Son, ” I whispered solemnly, “Write whatever you want.”

He took out his weekly school journal. The one he has to read every week in front of the whole class. I watched him write probably about some basketball game or some play date,  and shrugged my shoulders.

I made intentional escape from this piercing reality of disappointment by joining Goldi in watching a cartoon on Youtube.

His closed journal caught my eye, laying there on the island counter. My son was nowhere in sight. I thumbed through the pages to find his new fresh entry.   This contained the pages of the history of his life told through his eyes. Here the pages revealed all that was important to this seven year old boy. I found the ink written page still clean and crisp.

Fun Things with Sister

My sister and I like to go to Sky Zone.

My sister and I liked the movie Finding Dory.

My sister and I like to go swimming.

My sister and I like to race our scooters.

My sister and I like to play Uno.

My sister was born with autism.

“Well, are you proud of me? ” my son asks catching me in the act.

I hesitated and pondered the simplicity of his message and yet it’s depth.  Scooters, and swimming, and Uno, and jumping, and movies, and………a sister named Goldi. Fun before autism. Fun with Goldi despite autism. Life as it is to this young seven year old.

“I’d say you are a real Patrick Henry!” I said drawing him close.

2 Timothy 1:7

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

Goldi gets a life

“Mom, hold out your hand and close your eyes.” Goldi commands.

“Why?” I ask

“Just be still!” she says impatiently.

Goldi ‘s finger tips tickle my palm.

I muster up a meaningful guess.

“Water!’ I said with opened eyes.

“That’s right! ” Goldi says clapping her hands.

Goldi met Helen Keller recently.  Movies, books, and pictures have led to many hand spellings and questions.

“How can she spell so fast? Did you know that Alexander Graham Bell was her friend and HE invented the telephone and did she swim in a pool? Goldi asks without pause.

I google for answers.
“Yes, she did go swimming!” I answer. ” She could not see, she could not hear. But she had a real life, an exciting one.

Goldi’s eyes brighten and sparkle as if she could see a once far off dream now within close reach. Now that Goldi has met Helen,  autism waits last in line behind them all.

” I want to be on the stage. Or maybe I want to be a puppet lady and do shows for kids. I want to be a teacher or a piano player. ” Goldi peppers out.

” Sounds  really exciting.” I say smiling.

For awhile, we were enthralled. Our talk centered on all things Helen. We were captivated with all the things she could do and easily forgot about the two big things she couldn’t.  A videos of her talking brought many wows. Google and youtube fed our fascinations.  In Goldi’s eyes, the sky was the limit for a really exciting life all because of our hero, Helen.

But then, reading on Google , I found a word. A word nearly synonymous with Helen Keller and even……  Hitler!  It was a hateful, awful, sinful word– EUGENIC- it means to improve human population with a superior gene creating a superior human race. It means to wipe out that which is inferior or defective.  Helen herself said: allowing  a “defective” child to die was simply a “weeding of the human garden that shows a sincere love of true life.”  Everything came to a thud.

Helen the hero turned brute! Brute because my autistic child, who flaps when she is excited or nervous, who speaks in echolalia when she is sad or worried, who won’t pet a fluffy kitty cat, who has trouble learning simple addition facts,  who to this day can’t survive a drive through a car wash without a scream.  My child -who makes a mess while she eats, who speaks loudly and expressively at the crack of dawn, who takes a bit to calm down when wrong has entered her life, my child whose brain works hard to keep up with the rest of the “superiors”,  My child is…. not….normal! Therefore according to Helen, my child is “defective” and not worthy of a really exciting life or any life at all!  Unbearable!  Helen the hero turned villain!

“Mom, I want to see the Helen Keller Movie again!” Goldi requests.

I am tongue tied. A hard rock pressed against my heart. Her innocence only knows Helen as hero.

I bury this dreadful secret and say “Would you play some some music for me instead?”

Goldi willingly bounces into the living room and props herself up at the piano as if ready for a concert performance. She confidently and enthusiastically plays.

For a moment I close my eyes and with faith and hope strain to see a dream for Goldi.   She begins playing Happy Birthday. I see her standing in a garden of flowers galore.  There are more colors of flowers than in a rainbow. The sun is shining down making Goldi’s hair glow. The flowers are swaying and smiling as Goldi pours a gentle shower on each bloom.  A garden of life and Goldi stands in it.  Goldi stands up and takes a bow. Her face beams as she looks up. I clap my hands until they itch.

“I did it!” she says. “I can play all the songs in my book!” She proudly announces. In our open living room with good acoustics – perhaps the whole world heard.

“Yes! I say, “That is really exciting!”

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:14

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27

Peer to Peer

Michael had fogged up glasses that slid down his runny nose. He didn’t walk or stride ….he hobbled like a baby taking his first steps.   You knew he was coming near when you heard a tip toe sound.  When Michael saw girls, he puckered up his lips and gave air kisses. We stayed clear of Michael.

One sunny recess, some friends and  I were running around on perfect spring day. The scatterings of dandelions was like sunshine that had rained down from the sky.  Then there he was.

“Well, Well …what ….DO we have here?” Michael  said in his sly little voice.  “One…..two…. three…. four girls.”

“EEEK! ” we screamed.

“It’s Michael,  let’s get out of here!” I shouted.

But one of us didn’t run.  She picked up a dandelion and bravely walked close enough to rub that yellow staining flower under his chin.

“Do you like butter?” my friend asked Michael.

“Yes, on toast, pancakes, and waffles.” Michael answered.

“Good! Because here’s some!” yelled my friend.

We joined in and grabbed  handfuls of dandelions rubbing his cheeks, forehead,  and hands…. . Michael looked like he had splattered himself with mustard.

We all gathered around pelting him in the face causing him to fall to the ground.

“Stop that now!” yelled a booming voice. “You girls should be ashamed!”

The man reached out and pulled Michael up. There was a father and son embrace. The bell rang.

As the rest of the swarm of kids raced to the line up, we stood frozen in shame.

Goldi and I were standing out in another field one not so springy day. We huddled close together as the winter wind haunted the promise that spring had really arrived.  A school field trip had brought us outside to a certain horse farm.

Goldi watched with bright eyes as kids took turns taking a ride around the huge arena. She flapped and jumped when some she called “Friend” rode with ease. She hobbled along the bumpy ground and nearly stepped into  a pile of  manure.

It was the first year of Goldi’s involvement in her school’s peer to peer program. It was one of the first times I had seen interactions between my own quirky one and those more   “typical”.

“That was so fun!” said a girl to Goldi who had just taken her turn on a horse.

“Don’t you want to try?” invited another.

“NO!” shrieked Goldi

“We will take our turn soon.” I said.

“No mom!  Goldi said loudly yanking my arm.

Blank stares from Goldi’s peers seemed pressed against her full display of quirkiness.

” She’s got autism” I read from their shrugged shoulders.

Though Goldi was settled on just watching, I insisted she ride just like her friends.
“No! I won’t! Don’t make me!” she cried. She shrieked, she yelled.
“She’s got autism.” I read from their shrugged shoulders.

“We will try this just like your friends!” I said. I nudged her into the fenced area and up the stair boost to seat her on Chloe. I held her and walked alongside.
“No! Don’t make me! Get me off! Goldi screamed.
“We will do this just like your friends!” I insisted.
Her friends had all had their turn and were probably waiting with annoying impatience for this to all be over. I looked down the whole ride around the area. There was silence.
Then as we slowly stopped, I heard not teasing nor laughing but ….clapping and cheering from  her PEERS.  I looked down to the grass to hide my tears. Face down ,  I noticed a a clump of dandelions. It was like sunshine rained down.

I know now that  Michael’s quirkiness was autism and as peers to Michael we were  staying in our own “I am better than you world.”   Goldi’s autism invites the same response we gave to Michael. Only her peers are learning to realize she is a part of their world.

I wish I could see Michael today . I would offer him a fresh bouquet of dandelions in a vase tied in a gold ribbon. Make that two bouquets. I really need a big one for Goldi’s peers.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Pie Thanksgiving

Plop goes the flour into the silver bowl.

“Let’s do a play mom!” says Goldi “It’s almost Thanksgiving!”

SHHHH  goes the melted butter.

“I know, I am making the pumpkin pie!”

“Pumpkin Pie!” Goldi says those words like it’s Christmas. “Okay, you be the mom Pilgrim and I will be the Little Girl Pilgrim.”

“Okay, but I also have to make this pumpkin pie. ”

“That’s perfect.” she says as she jumps and flaps her hands.

“Let me introduce it. ” She says clearing her throat.  She stand in the middle of the room. “Ladies and Gentlemen Boys and Girls, we will  now tell you the story of the First Pumpkin Pie.

Impromptu plays right in the middle of life’s events is a norm in our house. Yet, right in that moment I was slow to act. My mind had to rehearse how to thread it all together:the Pilgrims leaving their homeland for freedom to worship and pray, the long journey on the Mayflower, meeting  and befriending people of a totally different walk of life,  working the land, suffering, and then a Vivaldi’s  Spring announcement of planting and growing, ending in a bountiful harvest and a feast where people of two different races and faiths, sat down, ate, and played together not just for one day but three! All on the day of the First Pumpkin Pie.

This was more than a just a little play time.  It was a teachable moment. The reason for the   Day of Thanksgiving to really sink in and develop into a deep understanding. A play always does the trick with Goldi. It gives her a chance to live and breath life’s learning. Sometimes, it is the only way.

“Once there were some….” she pauses a bit and looks at me as I finish measuring the filling ingredients. “What were those people called again? ” she asks.

“Pilgrims. ” I answer as I stir.

“Yes, Pilgrims. They were about to take a long trip on the Mayflower. ”

Goldi changes her Narrator voice into a Pilgrim Girl:

“Come on Mom! The Mayflower will be here any minute.”

“I am almost ready dear. ” Says me the Pilgrim Mom “Did you pack your trunk?”

“Yes, I have my clothes, food, and my toothbrush. ” Pilgrim Goldi says.

“Good. Now all we need to do is grab the seeds.”

“Seeds? Whatever for mother?” she says.

” When we get to the new land, we will have a new home. So we need to have food. ”

“But what about the Pumpkin Pie mom!”

Being  history dunce, I can’t draw from many known facts about Thanksgiving.  Pumpkin pie had to be eaten. IT was the perfect time of harvesting this vegetable. But did they have enough eggs, condensed milk, flour, and the perfect open hearth oven to make it? Did they have the spices? For Goldi, pumpkin pie is synonymous with  Thanksgiving.Just the way it is with me.

“We will one day child. When we get to the new land we can run free and worship the God we love. We will build a new home. We will grow food. We will have a new life. ” I say. After such words, I find myself really sounding Pilgrim. So serious, determined, and ambitious.

“But how are we ever going to do all that? “Pilgrim Goldi says. She too is sounding her Pilgrim part. Curious, anxious, and ready.

As I pour the filling into the easy pie crust, ( no shortening melted butter- the kind you press in and not the kind you roll out) Goldi busies herself with building a house, a fire, and planting the seeds. She hurries over to me and wipes her forehead.

“I think all the work is done mom. Now can we have our Pumpkin Pie?”

“Soon child. But first we have to wait for the pumpkin to grow. It should be ready after the winter snows melt. “

“You mean we have to wait all that time?! Pilgrim Goldi says stomping her feet.

At that moment, the smell of a real pumpkin pie baking is what we breathe in.  Tasting time was two or three hours away. The wait of the Pilgrims was just not in her grasp nor mine.  I can’t imagine that first winter when the Pilgrims were cold and sick. When the draft of a winter wind battled their small little fire on the hearth. The wait for spring was all to unbearable. And meeting that first Indian all brown and unknown. Yet so much they knew that could help.  And the wait for the Pumpkin Pie. That first slice- it was a winter, spring, and labor intensive garden growing everything  first before tasting time away.

 “No worries. ” I tell her.

Goldi jumps into a narration and my ears tune in:

“And so the Pilgrims worked hard for a long time. They had some special friends called the Indians to help them. They knew the pumpkin pie would not be ready until the work was done. And when it was ready, they all sat down and held hands to say a prayer and then when they ate it …. they said “This is the best pie ever! Happy Thanksgiving everyone. “

THE END

Planting the seeds, working the land, waiting for rain and sun to grow the crops. Waiting for the winter winds to blow past.Waiting for what looked foe to turn friend. Waiting and accepting the kind of life that would unfold.  Waiting with prayer for God’s protection and provision. Celebrating His goodness and thanking Him.  This was the Pumpkin Pie Pilgrim Story.

Working on social skills, anxieties, building friendships, and  ….faith.Planting the seeds through lessons, social stories, and .. plays like this one.  Waiting for understanding of the why and how. Waiting for the seasons of stress and hardship to blow past.  Celebrating the successes of her growth, her maturity, and her gifts.  This is Goldi’s Pumpkin Pie Story. All for that moment of  slice of pumpkin  pie- dabbled with a little whipped cream.

That first pumpkin pie served on the first Thanksgiving must have tasted like a piece of heaven.  The verdict still stands on the pie this Thanksgiving.Regardless,  I know Goldi is ready to celebrate.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. (Psalm 107:8-9 ESV)