bringing my girl

Luau had planned to come with me to the Authors’ Tea at which I was reading on Sunday. It would have been a rare treat to have had him there given that by necessity I pretty much always end up doing this kind of stuff solo.

A half an hour before the event, the Universe laughed and our plans went the way that plans in our world so often do. He said he’d try to make it for the tail end of the talk, but chances weren’t good.

Katie was perched on the edge of the tub in my bathroom, chatting away as I got ready to go.

“Want to come with me?” I asked.

It was an impulse. I had no idea if we could make that work either.

“Sure,” she said. Then added, “Wait. To what?”

“To a tea,” I said, laughing.

She stared at me. Then blinked.

“Um, what is a “tea” … like … really?” she asked.

“It’s a casual gathering, “I said. “Will likely be about 30-35 people, mostly moms, some autistic advocates. I’m reading a post that I wrote a long time ago. Susan Senator will be reading from her new book, and  Scott Lentine will read some of his poetry. You remember them, right?”

I reminded her where she’d met each of them before. Her face lit up with recognition.

“Will Alysia be there?” she asked.

I told her she would.

“Awesome,” she said. “I’m in.”

I told her we had ten minutes – like, ten actual minutes – rather than her (or her mother’s) half-hour long version of ‘ten minutes’ – to get out the door.

She made it four steps toward her room, then pivoted back toward me. “Um, what are you all talking ABOUT?” she asked.

“Autism stuff,” I said. “It’s for the MAC Autism Center.”

“Cool,” she said, “I want to learn more.”

And with that, she was off, her ponytail bouncing behind her.

The event was amazing. Truth be told, it far surpassed my expectations. Scott’s and Susan’s readings were so moving and relatable, so real and so, so important.

I cried in the middle of my own reading, Lost my stuffing right in front of the crowd. Susan’s pages were stuck together with the syrup from Nat’s waffles that morning and one of the host’s family dogs had relieved himself on the rug of their grand and pristine home in which the event was held. Had there been any pretense left among us, sticky pages, tears, and dog poop efficiently escorted it to the door on wave after wave of loving, supportive laughter.  Frankly, it could not have been more perfect.

But as beautiful as the setting was, as fantastic as the other speakers were, and as honored as I was to be in their company, the absolutely, positively, hands-down best part of the day was that I got to experience it with my girl.

She was a wonder to watch. She immediately found people she knew — or they found her — and she chatted with them and hugged them and then chatted some more. When there was no one left to chat with, she crouched down on the dining room floor to pet a dog. She created her own comfort zone in a place where she was the only one under the age of twenty-five. It just felt right. Like she was the one who was supposed to be there all along.

She wrote my name tag for me. It said, “Mom.” At my urging, she added, “Jess Wilson” in parenthesis underneath.

When I lost it during my reading, she snaked a path to the reader’s chair with a box of tissues, delivering it along with a perfectly timed kiss on her mama’s cheek. When, as she deftly made her way back to her seat I said, “I seriously have the best kids ever,” to the delight of the crowd she said, “She really does.”

When an attendee asked about my girls’ relationship with one another and I asked if she’d like to take the question, she said, “I’ll be the first to admit that we annoy each other on purpose, but, yeah, I’d say we’re close. I love her.”

She was poised and generous and came, as she always does, with an open mind and an open heart.

It was odd talking about her with her right there in the audience. When I told a story about when Brooke was three and she was five, I asked her to come join me in front of the group. Having her next to me just felt right.

Once she was there, I talked about the benefits that come with growing up in a family like ours. About emotional intelligence and sensitivity and the facility for putting language to so many things that others never think to discuss – don’t have to discuss.

I’ve talked about it all before – how she has a life that is so much richer, deeper, more layered than so many of her peers. And how much she benefits from the relationships she forges with people who simply might not otherwise have been part of her world. How she is not only accepting but actively seeks the kids (and the adults) on the fringes, drawing her circle so much wider than she otherwise might have. “She thinks about the needs of others,” I said, “in a way that most of us don’t. She sees the world from others’ perspectives because that’s what we do at home .. all the time.”

It wasn’t until we were driving home that I thought of what I wished I had told them.

Just before we left for the tea, we were standing at the vanity in my bathroom. I hadn’t yet sprayed my perfume – the last thing I do, without thinking, before leaving the house. “Mama,” she said, “we probably shouldn’t wear perfume, right? Cause there will be people there that have trouble with chemicals and stuff, right?”

There’s a lot of hand-wringing about the siblings of kids with different needs than the average bear. We hear talk about the “burden” they carry, about the attention of which they are supposedly deprived, about all of the things on which they theoretically miss out.

But what about what they learn, the lives they lead, the human beings they are? The kind who think about not wearing perfume in a space to be shared with those who are likely to have sensitivities. The kind who want to spend a Sunday afternoon hearing about autism because they want to learn more. The kind who come with an open mind and open heart and just seem to belong wherever they are.

They can wring their hands all they want. There are some pretty incredible benefits that come with growing up in a family like ours.


{image is a close up photo of Katie, smiling}

8 thoughts on “bringing my girl

  1. Katie has always been the most wonderfully sensitive being I have ever met. That is not only a proud Grammy saying this; it is also pure fact.

    Love you,

  2. Oh, I love this. She is a beautiful soul…and our other children really do grow up with some amazing benefits of being in a slightly-left-of-typical family.

  3. This was so nice to read today. My 8 year old is struggling right now with her 5 year old Autistic sister. I have a lot of guilt about what she misses out on or has to deal with but deep down I do know that it will make her more aware of others needs in the long run. It’s just sometimes hard to watch. xx

  4. That’s a great story. I’m so glad you have Katie to share these events with. She’s learning and maturing way beyond her peers. She will go far! Yesterday, I was sitting at the table, papers strewn everywhere, pouring over IEPs and evaluations for my son. Yup, it was an IEP kinda day! My “Katie” was quietly doing her homework. I was in my own world, til she gently said “Mum, I have to call the driving school so can you please stop swearing for just a minute?”! Then, when her call was done, she jumped in and helped me organize the info. She’s amazing!

  5. I am thanks at Katie. I read the stories. I thank you at Katie for helping understand speaking. I thank you at Katie for no perfumes. I thank you at Katie for being supportive.

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