Saturday, August 11, 2007

About this heat. ...

The downside to not having air conditioning is the heat. And the humidity. But believe it or not, there are upsides. In our neighborhood of houses mostly built in the years before 1910 only a few have air conditioning. So the early evening hours will find people strolling. And visiting. Sitting on the glider or porch swing on the front porch. We know most of our neighbors and there is the feeling of being part of a community. Need an egg or a cup of flour? Go ask Crystal. A flashlight or help with your car? Ask Angel. Someone to watch your kids for an hour? Leanne or Phil are always at home and one more kid doesn't make a difference at their house.

The other upside is that it forces us, especially on a week like the one we've just had, to find ways to stay cool. If you have the time a trip to the river is always good. Or the library. Or the bookshop with the great Thomas the Train setup. Or head to the bakery for a cup of lemonade and a cookie. A trip to Lowe's? Yes, that will kill an hour in the middle of the afternoon.

We've also made a daily pilgrimage to the community pool this week. We timed our 4:30 arrival to coincide with the time most folks are leaving for the evening and can swim for an hour or ninety minutes when the sun isn't so high and the pool not so crowded. I've loved watching both boys in the water. Oliver is in his glory. He can stand now in the 3.5 foot section and just keep his face out of the water. He moves about by taking little jumps and doesn't mind if the water washes over his face on the landing. He is also really good about jumping from the side of the pool. Sam, in his little arm floaties, swims like a fish.

Yesterday as I was sitting on the step of the pool watching both kids another boy came over to where I was and said hello. I watched him for a bit because he had the same "swimming" technique as Oliver. He appeared to be about the same age and size and he hung around the area of the steps just a few feet from where Oliver was. Everytime a child or adult came near he would greet them with the same "Hello." A few minutes after I noticed this boy I heard Oliver's excited vocalizations -- noises that sound to me almost like excited buddhist chants. Only I soon realized that it was the other boy making that same sound.

I looked around for the boy's mother but didn't see any likely candidates. I hover. Don't all moms of autistic children hover? Ready to leap in if their child needs help navigating something? No one else was hoving nearby. The boy eventually moved out of my orbit and I returned focus to my kids. But later I scanned the pool for the boy and saw him climbing the steps and running along the side of the pool, hands flapping in excitment. His mom swooped in and got him to stop running. She then took ahold of his wrist and led him to the opposite end of the pool. So then I knew. How many times in the past, when Oliver was prone to darting, had I told Nik and RT not to pull him along by his wrist? Just ask him to hold your hand, I'd say. I watched them wondering if I was seeing what other people saw when they saw us. If you didn't really know about this boy, you wouldn't know.

Aside from the wrist pulling, I really admired this mother. She wasn't hovering. She was standing at a very discreet distance from the pool, ready to jump in at a moments notice if she needed to. When her son got too near the deep end she beckoned him back.

I wanted to find a way to approach her, to say: Your son reminds me a lot of my own. But I couldn't find a way to comfortably do it. What if she took offense? I mean how do you approach someone and start off a conversation like that?

I watched as they prepared to leave the pool. I watched as the boy tried to slap her when she made it clear they were going. It happened so fast and with so little to-do that a by-stander might have thought his eyes were mistaken, that he didn't really see this five year old try to smack his mother. Then I watched as she positioned the boy between two pool chairs and the fence, standing between him and the pool, and told him to put on his shoes and dry off.

About this time, I told Oliver it was time to go. On this day there were no complaints. Both boys were tired and hungry. Before leaving the parking lot I drove around once, scanning the cars for a magnetic ribbon on the bumper. I didn't see one. But then I don't have one either.


  1. It seems the heat wave is finally breaking! I live in your neck of thr woods, and we have an older, un-air-conditioned house, too. I like the way you considered the upside.

  2. You illustrated this beautifully. I felt like I was there. I'm always looking for "kids like Conor", but never know what to say to the moms, either. Hmm. I wonder if we're all thinking this? Maybe we should all wear signs. :-)

  3. Wow, kudos to that mom for not hovering! I can not help but get involved in everything, I am the one that ends up looking "off".

  4. When I see a parent of a child like Charlie, or a child like Charlie, and then see the parent, lately I've just been sending a smile or "friendly vibes" or making a remark about something totally non-autism ("really hot today, isn't it"). Sometimes I just want to try for the connection, and that's enough. Sometimes I just feel comforted knowing there are other kids like Charlie so close by.

  5. It is so funny how that magnet on the back of the car is our beacon to find each other.

    Thanks for your beautiful post!