I suspect, but I'm not yet 100% sure, that blue is Charlie's favorite color. He insists on wearing his blue fleece vest and jacket and wore an expression of "something's off" when he once donned the black fleece my mom bought as a back-up. Then there's "Daddy bue bankett" which is blanket, sleeping bag, sensory break, and wizard's cape. And there's "ocean" which I only realized yesterday is a placemat with a photo of a lighthouse and an expanse of Jersey shore summer sky.
Then I saw Charlie heading out the door with "Buh'ee," the noseless green rabbit from his Aunty Jen; a green boomwhacker; and a green chew tube. Ever since the summer, Charlie has gotten into the habit of bringing his latest favorite things into the car. We were only going for an after-dinner swim: "We don't need those! Leave them in the house," I said. Easily--as if expecting me to say that--Charlie dumped everything on the living room floor and ran into the back seat.
He chose an orange swim noodle and hesitated, for five minutes, in the shallow end. I got in and gave him a few gentle pushes towards the deep end and then we stayed in for almost an hour, during which Charlie let himself sink to the very bottom, eight feet down, to push back up in a flurry of bubbles. After 15 minutes, he suddenly pulled himself out and ran to get a small multi-colored beach ball which, back in the water, he pulled under his stomach, just as he likes to sprawl on his big purple therapy ball at home. He swam on his back and face-in-the-water, shoulders pumping, and I knew why he says "ocean" when we are going to the swimming pool.
In both, Charlie's surrounded by all that rippling blue.
Colors were the first words that Charlie learned to identify receptively back in the fall of 1999. Then came shapes and numbers (letters have been a bigger struggle, both because of how they look and how they sound).
Before he started his ABA program, Charlie was obsessed with a certain red spot of paint on a St. Paul play structure. And, when told to get his socks, he only got a red pair until we started rotating them with blue and brown and white ones in his drawer.
In a world full of sensory stimuli--smells (pool chlorine, lemony soap, the spice-scent clinging to the sari of the South Asian bus aide), too many sounds, so many sights, tastes--it is colors that Charlie sees the world according to. There Stella's red car, Gramma Granpa's white car, our black car. There are the yallo chips and the green crackers (because of the box, not the cracker). There is Mommy gink s'irt, Daddy white s'irt, PoPo b'ack s'irt, GongGong bwown coat, orange doggy!. This last one is a tan stuffed dog, and I'm not sure if Charlie is straining his vocabulary, or sees the dog as orange as an orange.
I'm not sure if Charlie--who orders his world according to "red school buss!" and people's visits--"PoPo excawator!" (because of the escalator at the airport) "Mike here!" (announced so clear and eagerly, about his new ABA therapist with whom he worked superbly on his reading program and activity schedule)--I wonder, are blue and green the same for Charlie? Water--the Mississippi River, Lake Pepin, the Atlantic--can appear to be both.
And in Mandarin, ch'ing can both blue and green. It is moss; it is unripened plums. It is the blue sky; it is a frog, vegetables, and glaucoma. It is grass. It is to be an adolescent, or an unripe apricot. It is sapphire.
Ch'ing can also mean black--I guess, that is, the very dark blue of the bottom of the ocean or of Charlie's Daddy bue bankett. That blanket is no longer fleecey or soft, after multiple visits to the washing machine. But it is bluer-black than ever and maybe that's why, tonight, Charlie wound himself up in it, like a caterpillar in its cocoon. He had worked so hard all day--not wanting to leave the table at school (though his teacher thinks the occasional break is better, and I agree) and briefly mad when told to "clean up" a multicolored parquetry board puzzle. The blanket is one king-sized sheet of blue and it engulfs Charlie head to foot like the ocean waves of summer, and watching him I smell a clue into how he perceives the world.
It's one king-sized sheet of color, warm and the color of one of Charlie's favorite things, and his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow of a good day and a good week.