Brooke as Boots, March 2008
It started with pink.
Although it may seem innocent enough, when Brooke came home from camp one day a couple of weeks ago and declared that her favorite color was now pink, we were nothing less than stunned.
You see, ever since this child had the ability to make the declaration, her favorite color has been red.
On April 7, 2008, I wrote the following in a post by way of explaining a few of Brooke’s favorite things:
Now here’s the thing. Brooke has some very consistent favorites, and, as is typical of a child with autism, she can be pretty particular* about them. (* ed note, I meant ‘rigid’, but wouldn’t have said it.)
Color = Red, Shape = Star, Number = Two, Letter = Y, Animal = Monkey.
For years, that list remained unperturbed. There would never have been a question about a single one of Brooke’s choices under any circumstances. (No matter how much we may have tried to cajole her out of them expand her repertoire.)
Until the day a couple of weeks ago that she came home and decided that her favorite color was pink.
Since then, a whole slew of changes have emerged. Her favorite shapes are now stars AND hearts. Her favorite numbers are five and thirteen. Her favorite animals are monkeys AND mice.
And during the same time period, a curious thing has been happening. Boots the Monkey has been fading from view. He’s even – gasp – been taken out of the bedtime rotation. Rather than ruling the elite class of untouchables on her bed as he always had, he’s been quietly relegated to the bins with the masses. After all of these years of Boots, I never would have believed this possible.
For as long as I can remember, Brooke has been enamored with – one might even say fixated on – Boots the Monkey from Dora the Explorer. Her love affair with Boots has been well documented throughout the life of the blog. From Halloween costumes (above) to Bat Mitzvah speeches; from birthday gifts to the incident in which that indecisive little monkey that damn near killed me, Boots was always around. He’s been on every vacation we’ve ever taken as a family.
And well, if you’re really up on your Dora trivia, (or, let’s say you’ve seen every show, read every book and trolled the Nick Jr site with your kid oh, say 4,682 times) you might have noticed some not-so-subtle similarities between Boots and Brooke.
The very boots from which he derives his name are red. It is therefore, he loves to tell us, his very favorite color in all the world. His favorite shape is the star – just like his buddy Little Star from the show. You catching on? His favorite number was the one on his soccer jersey when he played for the Golden Explorers. Uh huh – Two. And well, he IS a monkey.
My girl took on Boots’s favorites. They were the easy answers to the questions that grown-ups tended to ask. They were the script that she knew.
So as she has started to express all of these new opinions, I’ve begun to wonder if they’re really new at all.
I wonder if the things that we knew and accepted as her favorites were ever really the things that SHE loved? That SHE wanted? That SHE would have chosen unbidden? Or whether they were simply pulled from the limited list to which she had (verbal) access.
Katie came to talk with me last week. She was decidedly out of sorts. It was bugging her, she said, that Brooke had all these new favorites. She was afraid that she was just bowing to peer pressure. That she only liked pink now because ‘the little girls at camp probably all say they like pink, Mama, so maybe she thinks that she should too.’ She felt like Brooke was selling out to the crowd and losing her individuality.
I had to laugh at the irony of Katie’s concerns. Firstly because quite frankly the idea of Brooke being aware of and bowing to ‘the crowd’ is well .. yeah. But mostly because while she’s worried about her sister losing herself, I am pretty convinced that we are at the very beginning of finding out just who she really is.