He runs into the house from his school bus and stops dead in his tracks as he witnesses the magic that is my living room’s winter wonderland. Every inch is hosting a light, a singing plush toy, or an animated Christmas icon, and I know his mile-wide smile is for the tradition of this spectacle, but also it’s also comfort as he engages in a routine that happens every year.
And oh, what a routine it is.
He throws off his sneakers with glee, rips off his coat, and heads, right to our “skatey pond” comfortably ensconced on a tiny table brought out every year just to be its host. He switches it on with joy as my younger son and I look on, all of us listening to the familiar refrain of “Deck the Halls” as my eldest rocks gently back and forth.
His next move stops my heart.
For years this has been a one-man-show with a few brief moments of interaction with me. This year he walks over, grasps my hand, then takes his brother’s.
The three of us form a tight circle, an unbreakable bond as we share in his joy. He gifts us all with his gaze, beaming at our shared love of holiday classics, reveling in the touch of two of the people he loves most in his life.
It is, simply, magic.
Once again I am reminded that to truly connect with my son with severe autism I must share in what delights him, not what I think should delight him. In his toddler years it was water running from a faucet, his pre-school years repetitions of his favorite Eric Carle books until I had them memorized by heart. His elementary years I spent watching him replay scenes over and over on his DVD player, smiling at me in his joy, waiting for my smile in return. Over the years I have learned to immerse myself in his world, and I have been continually rewarded by a strengthening of our connection, a deepening of our bond.
The music ceases and he moves on; the moment is gone. My youngest is thrilled his big brother initiated “play” with him, but after a brief hug for me he moves on too. I am struck that learning how to reach him is perhaps the single most important thing I have ever done for my boy, has been instrumental in his ability to trust, to comply, to deeply enjoy the world around him.
I will forever search for ways to meet him in his world.
I will never stop.
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