It's March, and we’re still singing Christmas songs. Even though the calendar says spring is only a few weeks away, I’ll believe it when I see it. We’re running out of places to put the snow.
Monday we awoke to a record low of -19 degrees. Noah commented that it’s fun to be a part of history. (Is it really?) Our local meteorologist reported we’ve had 55.9 inches of snow this winter, making it the 3rd snowiest in Iowa history. We’ve witnessed 38 days of new measurable snowfall, and 46 days (since December 1) with temperatures of 0 or colder.
Next year I may be sending my Christmas greetings from Tahiti.
One afternoon we were at home, waiting for Noah to finish his variety show practice at school. Isaac was crying because Noah hadn’t taken the bus home. “Pick up Noah!” he screamed, over and over. Although it was much too early to go to the school, we did. I knew it would calm Isaac’s nerves. Henry, Isaac, and I sat in the parking lot with the van running so we wouldn’t freeze to death, while the music played and Isaac sang. He sang his heart out while he kept watch at the school for his brother, who might appear with a bright red coat and a matching backpack.
In case you’re wondering, he won’t listen to the music when he’s inside our home. It’s a van thing.
As a toddler, Isaac wouldn’t respond to his own name. I recall a social worker from the Area Education Agency (AEA) standing in our living room, barking like a dog. Then she quacked like a duck. She mooed. He never once looked at her or gave her a second glance. He never sang along with songs (he had no speech), nor did he hum. In preschool he loved Five Little Ducks and could imitate the sound of a duck in his own way, but it was rare that he sang along at home.
I had all of those thoughts as we were sitting at the school, waiting for Noah. Here’s a kid who, at age 12, is acquiring some functional speech. Now he says a few words that most people can understand. If he wants to play Sleigh Ride over and over again, I had better allow him to sing his heart out. He’s earned it. He hasn’t been able to do it for years, even though he’s known the words all along. He usually needs some encouragement to sing. It’s as though his body just can’t produce the words, even though he knows what to say. Some people with autism can sing show tunes or movie soundtracks but have a difficult time speaking a sentence. In my experience, most people with autism love music. So I sat there, starting the van and letting it run from time to time, while we shivered and listened to Isaac’s serenade. It was absolutely beautiful.
(Please feel free to watch both videos. You may have to turn up the volume.)
“It’s like Christmas except there are no gifts,” Henry said, sounding disappointed.
The conversation turned somehow to the young kids in our neighborhood who used to stand in our driveway to wait for the school bus. They had been living with extended family temporarily, and they seemed to vanish as mysteriously as they appeared. Henry said a boy in his third grade class recently moved with one of his parents to Louisiana, where it is certainly much warmer during this time of year. He said his friend moves around a lot, and we talked about how difficult that must be.
I told the boys sometimes families move because a parent gets a different job, they move in with a friend, and sometimes kids will live with different parents. I said that’s why we need to be kind because we never really know what anyone’s situation is like . . . what if Noah lived with Dad, and Isaac and Henry lived with me? The kids couldn’t imagine it. I said it was reality for some families for many reasons. We decided we are pretty lucky to be in this house every day, year after year, with two parents and stability while the snow continues to pile up.
After we stepped inside the house, Henry said, “When I get older, I’d probably want to live with Isaac or near him because he’s going to need some help in life.”
I stopped in my tracks and looked at Henry.
“Right?” he asked.
“Yes, he probably will need some help. That will be your choice when you’re older,” I told him.
Suddenly Isaac was chasing Henry down the hallway, and they were giggling and tossing Nerf basketballs in the air.
That moment hung in the air like the Nerf hoop. I wasn’t expecting to hear those words from a nine year old.
I have been blessed with a son who fiercely loves his brothers and is able to sing along with the Elf soundtrack. He happens to have autism. I’m going to let him sing, no matter how many times we have heard it. I have a son who can sing, dance, and play his trombone (including a jazz solo) on stage during a variety show, all while changing costumes and keeping track of his belongings. He is soaring in junior high. He happens to have autism, too. I’m proud. I have a son who never ceases to surprise me with all of his questions, observations, and deep thoughts, both about the present and the future. And I have a loving, hardworking husband who supports us and comes to the rescue with a snowblower. He’s pretty handy with a shovel, too.
Henry said the weather’s like Christmas, but we have no gifts. I’m not sure I agree.