Image is a photo of Brooke with me and Luau, the two founding members of Team Brooke.
Photo by Connerton Photography – all rights reserved.
Brooke and I are at lunch together. It’s just the two of us, since we left Katie and Luau at home, she knee-deep in cleaning her toxic waste dump of a room and he knee-deep in what sounded like a toxic waste dump of a conversation with Apple customer service. I thought we’d be making a quick trip to the mall. I explained to Brooke that I just had to make a quick return at Ann Taylor and then I promised we’d make a run for it. As a general rule, she is not a fan of the mall so we tend to plan our trips like surgical strikes.
But she had another idea.
“Is this where the place is that we went?” she asked.
Hmm, I thought. Ya gotta give me just a little more to go on, kiddo.
“Which place?” I asked in return.
“The place that you were proud of me because I tried it,” she said.
I wanted so badly to get it.
“Can you tell me more about the place?” I asked. “Was it a store?”
“It was sushi,” she said.
So here we now sit at the sushi place. The one where I was indeed proud of her for trying (and eating!) the food, slightly different as it was from our one and only Brooke-approved sushi place.
She is making “soup,” stirring rice and freshly shucked edamame into a soy cup with a single chopstick. This is what we do at sushi. The soup is not meant to be eaten, but made. As is so often the case for Brooke, the process is the purpose.
I watch quietly, reverently. I feel honored to have a front row seat to my daughter.
She speaks for the first time in a long while.
“I like my Team Brooke,” she says.
“What do you mean by Team Brooke?” I ask.
“My Team Brooke at school,” she says. “My teachers and everyone.”
I had so hoped that was what she meant.
“Oh, baby,” I say, “I am so happy to hear you say that. So you like your new school?”
It was such a hard decision to make. Years of conversation, exploration, observation, negotiation, introspection. It was hard. No answer, no place, was perfect.
“Yeah,” she says. “I like my Team Brooke.”
I can’t stop smiling.
“Are they autistic?” she asks.
“Who?” I say.
“My teachers,” she says. “Are they autistic?”
“I don’t think so,” I say, “but I don’t know for sure.”
“They’re not,” she says.
“Did you ask them?” I say.
“I did,” she says.”They said they’re not.”
She quiet for a moment, then adds, “But they’d like to be sometimes.”
“Did they tell you that?” I ask.
“Yup yup yup yup yup yup,” she says.
Her teachers told her that they’re not autistic, but sometimes they wish they were. I think of this. I still can’t stop smiling.
“Are you autistic?” she asks.
“Nope,” I say.
We fall into the script.
“I’m the only autistic Wilson!” she shouts.
She is grinning as the waitress comes by to fill her water.
I smile up at the waitress, then return my gaze to my grinning kid. “That’s right,” I say. “you are.”
“Do you wish you were autistic too?” she asks.
“Sometimes,” I say, “but I’m glad I’m not because not being autistic is part of who I am and I like being me. Just like being autistic is part of who you are and you like being you. We’re both exactly who we’re supposed to be, right?”
“Right,” she says, picking a stray bean off the table and plopping it into the soy soup. She picks up her chopstick and pushes it into place.
“You’re on Team Brooke too,” she says.
I am, I tell her.
I am indeed.