|Philadelphia Flower Show
“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.”
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.
(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.
“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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