I can’t believe it’s really happening. In three days, many of you – fifteen to be precise – will materialize before my very eyes. You will, like the Velveteen Rabbit of my youth, become real.
When we started talking about all of this, it felt like a pipe dream. It all started with one beautiful little girl and her courageous and determined mom. Michelle O’Neil knew that a service dog could change her little girl’s life. She was determined to raise the money to get her daughter what she needed.
Michelle’s story was our story. We are all in this together. When one of us needs help, the village rallies.
My role in all of this started innocently enough. I asked my dear friend, John Elder Robison for his help. He generously offered to sign a copy of his best selling book, Look Me in the Eye that I could raffle off to help raise money for Riley’s dog. That would have been the end of the story. Book raffled, couple of bucks in the coffers toward the dog. But no, not with this crowd.
The next thing I knew, I was all but pimping out poor John (not literally, Martha, I promise!) as you all raised the ante. John was a great sport and suddenly we were planning a group ‘date’. A couple of weeks later I found myself booking a reservation for fifteen in the North End and making beds for six.
You are converging on my city from all over the country. From Oregon and Wisconsin to Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut. You are arriving by planes, trains and automobiles. You are carpooling and you are meeting at the airport for lunch.
I am thrilled seven ways to Sunday that you are coming.
I can’t wait to see you, to hug you, to raise my glass to you, to tell you face to face how much your love, guidance, support and compassion have meant and continue to mean to me.
I can’t wait to share stories, to laugh together, no doubt to cry together. I can’t wait to put a voice to your words and a three-dimensional face to the warm smiles you send over the ether.
I can’t wait to invite you into my home, to introduce you to my family, to share my beautiful girls. I know you will appreciate them for everything that they are. I know you will see them through eyes that reflect the pride of mothers who know.
I can’t wait to see the real you. The you without the glossy edits, without the perfectly chosen turns of phrase. The you without the carefully culled pictures. I can’t wait to see what doesn’t make it into the confines of your carefully constructed posts.
There are some of you who will be sorely missed. We will raise our glasses to Drama Mama, NiksMom, Kristen, Carrie, Joy Mama and so very many others. I can’t begin to name you all. Your absence will be palpable. And to you – who may be quietly lurking on these pages. We will raise a glass to you too.
I’m nervous, of course. What if you don’t like me? What if I’m not what you expected or hoped I’d be? What if I’m not funny? What if I’m not charming? What if I come off as too brash or too loud? What if my home is not .. I don’t know, something enough or if it’s too much of something else? What if my kid’s not autistic enough? Yes, I actually said that. I thought it.
But I will cast my insecurities out the door and I beseech you to do the same. No filters, no pretense. I won’t think twice about the ten pounds I’ve gained or the new outfit that I won’t be able to buy for the occasion. Instead I will remember that we are connected by things so far beneath the surface that the surface itself is rendered irrelevant.
Because what all of this is really about, at its core, is community. We are desperate to connect with those who understand our experience. Those who prove to us that our individual brands of crazy are not entirely unique. Those who remind us that we are not alone on this dizzying ride. Those who share our challenges and understand why our triumphs are so huge. We cling to those who speak our native tongue. We fly across the country for the indescribable relief of speaking without the need for translation or explanation.
Some of us take vastly different approaches to our journey as parents of children with autism. We walk different roads and sometimes envision dramatically different destinations for ourselves and our incredible children. But as a group, we support one another unconditionally in our travels. We offer each other love, respite, empathy and care.
There’s much ado in the media about the so-called Autism Wars. The press loves to hone in on stories about advocates whose ideologies are so sharply divided that they seem to have no common ground left. Hate makes headlines.
You may not see us in the news. But maybe you should. We are moms who help and support and love each other. We lift each other’s spirits, we celebrate each other’s successes and we commiserate with one another when things are toughest. We offer prayers and hugs and love and we make each other laugh when we didn’t think we could. When one of us is at the end of her rope, we help her tie a knot and hold on for dear life.
I am so grateful to have found this incredible community. Believe me when I tell you that I haven’t even scratched the surface of what you mean to me.
I am in awe of all of you. Your strength, your humor, your compassion. Each and every one of you is changing the world with your love for your children. You certainly have changed mine.
I can’t wait to meet you.