I’ll Wait For You Like a Stone
When I was little, I’d turn over stones to see the wriggling worms and ants teeming just under the surface. It became an obsession: stone pavers, garden stones, smooth or cracked, colorful or dull, sparkly or pitted, each stone carried the potential of having an entire ecosystem hidden underneath. And I thought I was the luckiest girl alive to know this little secret.
Carbon forms coal and diamonds alike, but experts and playgroups prefer to characterize, classify and diagnose the cut, clarity, color, and carat weight of my twins’ autism diagnosis rather than see how the light plays off their beautiful blue eyes when they smile. Oftentimes I feel resentment toward people who just see the autism. People who just see the stones. I find myself wanting to hold my twins up to them and say: can’t you see what I see? Can’t you see what’s buried beneath the surface? That’s why we need more than just “Autism Awareness.” It’s time to dig.
When we checkout at the grocery store and a well-meaning elderly woman asks my son, who is 3.5 but the size of a 7-year old, his name and how old he is, then looks nervously at me, then back at him. Then makes the face. You know the face, the face of judgement. Your kid is rude, or dumb, or ill-bred. Or the man down the block who withheld candy to my iron-man and superman-clad twins when they “refused” to say Trick-Or-Treat. “What do you SAY?! No candy until you say it!”
But this isn’t about all that. This is about the twins, and more specifically P, who, when you call his name or ask him if he wants ranch or ketchup on his nuggets (because that’s one of the few foods he will eat), looks up toward the ceiling out of the corner of his eye, where a cacophony randomized, swarming imagery and sounds grind and crawl through a hidden ecosystem of their own making. P, who doesn’t talk, or respond to his name, and who closes his eyes in bright lights. P who wears a compression vest to control his agitated nervous system.
Last week I put P on my lap and held him upside-down to play a game we call “Down in the Sea.” Halfway into holding him upside down, with red cheeks and giggles, he stopped in his tracks. He jerked upright and looked me square in the eye and reached his hand out to touch my cheek. I thought I hurt him, or he was scared, but he didn’t move his hand off my cheek. He reached up at me and squinted like a child leaving a movie theater into the blaring sun. Disoriented by instantaneous light. Like someone had just turned over the rock. He looked at me like I looked at that stone the first time I realized what I had done. And he said mama. My 3.5 year old giant called me Mama. That was the first time I saw the underside of the stone. And I’ll never stop searching.
And I’m the luckiest girl alive.
10% of our Autism Collection, created in honor of our twins, is donated to Autism Speaks.