December 26, 2010
An elf with rock star aspirations, more “naughty than nice” letters, and the probable kidnapping of the jolly old star of the show. Alas, I’m not alluding to the holiday episode of Jersey Shore, because the latter part would be a welcome improvement in my eyes. No, I’m simply referring to the lovely holiday play, Chasing Tinsel, that Justin and I were privileged to view this weekend at his school (and armed with our new behavior management techniques from the fabulous “Miss M” as well as a few snacks, we almost made it to intermission).
After a brief tussle upon initially entering the auditorium (Justin was convinced the brightly wrapped prop-presents were indeed for him), we quickly settled into one of the front row seats, and were immediately greeted by his teacher. I’ve been certain that Justin loves his new school, mostly from the way he bounds to the bus in the morning and practically launches himself into my arms from the vehicle at the end of the day, but if I needed reassurance, I got it. Justin heard her say his name, did a double-take when he figured out who she was, and treated us both to the view of his joyful grin overtaking his entire face.
My boy truly gets who loves him.
After a brief sojourn to the fifties-style girls’potty and a complete rejection of the salty and sweet for-purchase snacks in the back of the room (the snubbing of which made me break out in a cold sweat as I wondered if his “goody bag” indeed contained his favorite pretzels), we quickly returned to our seats. We retained our Christmas cheer after I gratefully located Justin’s “twists” and offered him a juice box, and he smiled in recognition as I showed him the timer with its wealth of red. We settled into our seats to be regaled with tales of greedy children and icon abductions, and I noticed that Justin, particularly during the singing scenes, was hanging raptly onto their every word. He even grinned at me periodically and checked to see if his teacher was still in attendance, and we soon made it past the thirty-minute-marker that usually symbolizes his impending egress. He was far more engaged than when I take him to 3-D movies, even paying attention to scenes not involving pretty, talented, teen-aged elves.
Heck, I may have to rethink the insanity of braving Broadway with him.
We didn’t quite make it to the halfway point, although Justin sat dutifully for TEN EXTRA MINUTES after he signaled his desire to leave and was confronted with our coveted time-piece. Since we were within spitting distance of his teacher and one of the directors of the school, I couldn’t have been more proud of his patience. He saw the timer, glanced at me and smiled, and slid back into his seat to take in the next scene. Since he was out of pretzels and juice by then his only sensory option was visual, and he seemed perfectly happy just to wait until I released him. There was not one complaint, not one cry, not even the tiniest of protests.
He made us look good.
All too quickly the clock wended its way to white, and I honored our contract, and gathered our stuff to leave. We were briefly waylaid by the executive director of the school who was kind enough to tell us we didn’t need to leave if our only reason for departure was a “noise issue”, and I happily responded that no, thank you, he was just done, and we were ready to go. I settled him into his harness and we headed for Wegman’s (of COURSE I was going to get some food out of this), and as my faithful GPS helped me navigate the labyrinth of circles that is the heart of New Jersey I had a few minutes to reflect on why Justin is so happy, and why I am in such a state of peace. There are multiple reasons, but I’ve become aware of one in particular that has come to have great meaning to me.
We are truly part of a community.
I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been blessed with family, good friends, amazing co-workers, a husband who does our food shopping (!) and of course my boys, but I can’t say I’ve truly felt part of any community before. I’m a white girl of middle-class origins, a veritable Western European mutt. I’ve wondered if entire cathedrals would crumble in despair as I darkened their doors due to my impatience with organized religion, and I was perhaps the worse sorority sister on record. The most distinct, unique thing about me is perhaps my Huguenot ancestry, which almost landed me a full scholarship at a hoity-toity women’s college (when it required an emphasis on economics I wisely declined, deciding I actually wanted to obtain a degree one day). I’ve felt loved in my life, included, but not really unique, not a part of any particular cohort.
Ours is a community composed of eager volunteers in our local autism organization, men and woman who strive so hard to provide the training of police officers and teachers, as well as those blessed opportunities for fun that all families with disabled children need.
It is comprised of the online bloggers I’ve come to know, both for their eloquent missives and our personal interchanges, sometimes poignant, often hilarious.
It encompasses that fleeting moment of eye contact between two parents at a pediatrician’s office, imparting instant understanding, compassion, and often humor of a shared and harrowing situation.
Our community includes my sons’ schools, where teaching my boys seems to be a “calling”, not just a job, for all the faculty involved.
It’s not a community I would have ever thought I’d be a card-carrying member of, and certainly not one I would have chosen for myself and my family years ago. Its membership comes with many burdens and obstacles, and often I’ve found its entirety diminished to a circle of four, as our family has simply tried to make it through a day.
But our horizons are broader now, our boundaries have extended to embrace both people I’ve actually met, and those whose presence might never physically encounter mine. It is a warm, accepting place, and I am so grateful to burrow there, to have found its grace.
And I hope for all of you still searching for yours, in whatever form your sanctuary takes, that you find its confines soon.