Like every other student in the state of New Jersey, Charlie had no school this Thursday and also this Friday due to the annual convention of the New Jersey Education Association. I took Thursday off from work to stay home with Charlie, and Jim is taking today off. Charlie's often been very anxious to have any days off from school (this is a holdover from a couple of years ago when he was briefly homeschooled; Charlie has tended to think that something is dreadfully unright with the universe when he's not in school and it's not a weekend day). Keeping his imminent change of schools in mind, Jim and I kept reminding each other, potentially extra anxious boy.So we stuck to the quiet, familiar, and comforting. Trips to the store (ok, stores). The Golden Arches for lunch. Me saying yes to Charlie getting a certain CD by four Australian guys (first time we ever saw them was as a trailer to a Barney video)---a CD that Charlie has owned at least a few times before (the CD got scratched, scuffed, sticky-fingered-up, discarded by Charlie himself). Not that it was a day of "no demands." We really, really needed to go to Whole Foods because it's the one place that I know has the brand of melatonin that's been helping Charlie sleep. While a couple years ago Charlie liked going to that mega-food-emporium, he's since been adamant about not getting near it. Perhaps his increasing sensitivity to all things---sounds certainly, but also lights, smells, and more---has made that particular store "too much"? Thursday, after he's gotten that CD, he assented to go in "real fast" (I promised). (And on seeing the apples for $3.69 a pound I was reminded of why it's been fine not to go.) I led Charlie into the Supplements section and found the melatonin, after which Charlie said "this way" and pointed to the far side of the store, where the salad and food bars are, and the sushi. Pleased that he'd been so willing to walk around the store, I said sure. Charlie only looked at the sushi and then was drawn to the dessert bar. He got a plastic container and after giving me a look and saying "I want," he spooned in some tiny marshmallows that were meant as extra adornments for the cakes and other rich creamy things. Charlie snapped the plastic container shut and put it in our reusable shopping bag (I may sigh over the varieties of biomedical and alternative "treatments" for autism and the "quest for a cure," but one can still be eco-minded and green). We got in line behind a woman who was informed that, because she'd bought over $100 of Whole Foods items, she got a free shopping bag. I waited to buy the most expensive container of small marshmallows in all of New Jersey and the New York metropolitan area. On the one hand, thinking frugally, I thought I should try to persuade Charlie into returning the plastic container and waiting till we got to our usual (normal) supermarket where we could buy A WHOLE BAG of tiny marshmallows for probably $1.99, give or take. The other side of me thought of my conversation with Jim about a boy more likely to be anxious than usual, and the need to just let things be. So onto the conveyor belt the marshmallows went.
(Yes, maybe Charlie and I have discovered how to eat cheap at Whole Foods.)We put the bag in the trunk of the new white car. "I want, white," Charlie told me, his arm reaching for the marshmallows; another sure from me. As we pulled out of the parking lot, I (it's not just Charlie who is getting used to a new car) accidentally hit a curb and the car jerked and rattled, and Charlie's eating of 5 cents of Whole Foods marshmallows was jarringly disrupted. I managed not to do what I've always done in the past---say some expression of woe or worry in a high-pitched voice---and while Charlie did squint up his eyes for a minute and keep his head down, the unexpected bump passed by otherwise without incident. The rest of the morning and afternoon, when Jim returned for a bike ride, and the evening, passed peaceably.
There's something about these days with Charlie at home that I myself find comforting. They remind me of when Charlie was a baby and I stayed home with him, and also when he was 3 years old and I'd taken a leave from my job and we lived in a tiny house in Glendale, Missouri. They remind me of days when he was sick and lay on our bed or the couch, dozing on and off, poking with increasing frustration at a runny nose, and his brown eyes getting bigger as he wasn't eating. And, too, of long days when Jim had to go out of town for his work, for his book, and I felt myself straining to fill the days with activities. Those days were sometimes tedious, certainly full of worries (about our sick child; about what I was missing at work; about things in general with Charlie, who's always had numerous challenges in school and elsewhere). Nonetheless, I did always feel a lot closer to my boy after those days and Thursday, despite everything going on, felt just easy.We did end up at the (normal) grocery store one more time, just before dinner. After the clerk had rung up our purchases and I'd paid, I asked Charlie to get two of the three bags. He looked down and scooped up all three, and out to the parking lot we went. Sometimes things just do get better.