Outside this morning was completely white with "snow" (that's all that white stuff to those in south Louisiana--my California mom was astounded by how much "six inches" equals). For some a snow day " will turn its parents into kids." For Charlie--after his return to the careful structure of school--a "free" day was jarring. He lined up two waffles on a plate, screamed, knocked, threw everything into the air. With my hand on his, he helped clear the snow from the black car, ate too many Clementine oranges, and walked to the middle of town for a buzz cut (he did yelp at the barber as he brought out the buzzer). It was not until 4pm that Charlie wore the peaceful look, after an ABA session that started bumpily and ended with him trying out four new toys (including Pop Up Pirate).
It was worth the wait, to see Charlie's expression relaxing and smiling. My mother flies back to California tomorrow, after spending the past month with us and much of it with Charlie when he was not in school. I've been explaining this to Charlie and he always looks down and says "no." His anticipation of her leaving has been coloring his mercurial moods these past few days. At the suggestion of our autism consultant, I have been showing Charlie a picture schedule and moving a card with the word "PoPo" on it from a photo of our house to my parents' in California. This morning he regarded the photos somberly, got up, walked to the kitchen.
Charlie then spent a happy evening with my mom. She took him to the drive-thru at McDonalds and he helped himself to her burger besides his burger and fries, and snitched at her salad. He carried the cushions from the couch up to our bedroom and his room with a cheery grin. He grabbed the phone and pretended to talk to my dad, Aunty Jen, Grandma and Grandpa.
Before McDonalds, they dropped me off at the train station. I met Jim at Penn Station and proceeded to the Lower East Side to Webster Hall, where I gradually worked my way through an elbow-to-elbow crowd and ended up three people in from the stage. Jim, ever the historian, was curious about the age of the building: "Dorothy Day used to come here," he said in reference to the founder of the Catholic Worker. "For political meetings, not for concerts."
The snow in lower Manhattan was already going gray and sooty and freezing into black ice. Inside Webster Hall, the lights zoomed blue and green, yellow, red white illiminating a background of twinkling green star-like sparks. I didn't realize how loud a trombone can be, or what noises you can make with a bass, but I've always loved the slap of palms on conga drums after watching Jim and our friend go at it one evening long ago at the shore (they were actually using pots and pans).
Thanks to all those afternoons dancing to Wiggles, Barney, and Disney tunes with Charlie, I can't hear music--especially when it's live--without dancing, moving, feeling the drum beats in my stomach. And especially when the singer has been playing in my cassette and CD players since I was nineteen. After an hour of standing on my toes and straining my neck around those who were five and a half feet and taller, I responded to someone else's command of "move up!" and crept into the tiniest of spaces between couples and ecstatic dancers until I was not twenty feet away from the stage.
Her face was thinner around the chin and eyes, like mine in the mirror when I was getting ready for work the other day. She fussed with the sound system, talked very fast in her Irish accent, laughed and hugged every band member, and sang beautiful and loud, with and without her microphone. She was far from the potential pop star of my twenties, and she sang every note--especially the gorgeously beautiful and sad "Untold Stories"--to say, she meant it. When she called the audience to sing
I sang the way I do for Charlie. I thought of Charlie, and of how the words from his mouth do bring to us those meditations in his heart. They are the untold story I hope I can keep on singing.
As the sign of a Chinese restaurant across the street from Ray's (where we had a very late, very well worth it, dinner of 11pm pizza) spelled it out for me, I'm Charlie Mom and--though it's taken thirty-something years to figure this out--that's what I do. That's what I am and it's how I get through each day.