This evening Charlie rediscovered what was once one of his favorite items when we lived in our old house: A bucket of photos. We had set these aside---not exactly hidden but not exactly just "out there."
It has often been the case that what Charlie likes and loves---such as the ocean, for one---has been the source of incredible anxiety that has turned into a severe behavior squall. Gradually we figured out that the reason for the anxiety was Charlie's fear of losing some desired object---of leaving the ocean, or an amusement park ride ending, or there being no more cake.
We struggle, or muddle, through helping Charlie transition through leaving the ocean or California. (Of late, a calendar with photographs of the various houses he will be at with a photo of himself to velcro on each day has helped.) When once you leave the ocean, you're not there, and no matter what behaviors/tantrums/obsessive speech ("beach house beach house beeeeaaach house") Charlie might say, it would be clear to him that we were home, the ride was done, the cake was finished. But when it comes to favorite objects----then there is the possibility of misplacing, of losing them, and Charlie, with his limited speech, has rarely been able to indicate where something might be.
And then, while we still living at our old house, Charlie started to put his absolute favorite photos (him on a merry-go-round, the swings, his most beloved ride of all----the ferris wheel) into a crack at the top of the hardwood stairs.
At first it was a small crack and the photos would stick and I, overjoyed at Charlie's cries for "hepp hepp help," ran over with a pair of scissors and then a paring knife to pry out his objects of desire. Alas, too often they were simply stuck, or my efforts to secure them resulted in the photos falling into the dark depths beneath the stairs.
Then we had a real problem.
The crack had swallowed up a portable photo album's worth of pictures by the time Jim sealed the crack (in the dark hours of the night, or Charlie would have picked the stuff out).
When we moved into my in-laws' house back in June, the photos in their ghost-faced trick or treat bucket were set to the side and Charlie, in his new surroundings, simply did not ask or look for them. Until today: Something in our recent California trip having spurred his memory? Or maybe he has been thinking about them---as his recent talk might suggest---because the first photos he ferreted out were the Polaroids we took of his ABA therapists back in 1999-2000 in Minnesota and then in 2000-2001 in Missouri.
"Stella! Stella red car, Stellas red car!"
"Beth! Beth green car."
"Kristy, Kristy b'own car, Kristy white car......"
"Hey wait a moment, Kristy hadda blue car?" I said.
"Kristy b'owb car, Kristy white."
Aha. Charlie was talking about Christie #2, whose brown car disappeared after she got a used white car, not Kristy #1.
Charlie spread out the photos on our bed, three Polaroids on top, and went under the covers. After a half-hour, he got up and ran to his own bed. I asked him if he would like his photos?.
I toted some back via the ghost bucket and carefully carried in the remaining pile, careful to keep those three favorites on top.
I'm thinking we'll be able to hang on to them---to hold on---more securely this time around.