I'm feel so privileged to introduce you to Heather this morning. She is a Rebel Soul, with a beautiful heart. A fellow twin mama of two boys, Max and Ty, who has encouraged me on numerous occasions when I wasn't sure which way was up.
Heather counts her gifts, pours out her thanksgiving, on her blog Raising Rebel Souls. You should stop by there---it's a beautiful place. You will leave there with a smile on your face, and maybe a tear in your eye. She calls these gifts she counts Indelible Lights. Isn't that lovely? Indelible lights are those moments, where Heather finds joy, not in spite of Autism, but because of Autism.
You see, both her sons are somewhere on the Autism spectrum. Don't you dare feel sorry for her or her boys though--her boys, Max and Ty are beautiful, intelligent, creative, creatures. And Autism, Heather believes, is her gift.
If you don't read anything else today---go read this breathtakingly beautiful post.
Heather, you are a woman I greatly admire and respect. You've taken Autism, this thing that people see as a sickness or a disability, and you've reframed it to be something beautiful; a blessing. Thank you for helping me to see the light.
The time has passed, but I am going back to Christmas this morning.
Someone once told me, while I was in this little peak of my young life, that I had better get a journal and write it all down, so I wouldn't forget what the highs feel like. This past Christmas, we were on top of the world.
It did not start that way, of course, it never does. It probably began 3 years earlier, with the boys' first holidays. I used to pride myself on being the host for any special gathering. I cooked my first turkey dinner at 12 years old, and no one else ever did it after that. Once the boys came though, things like that became extremely hard on me. I could barely juggle twin infants, let alone the cleaning, shopping, cooking and preparations needed to make a holiday happen. Even good stress was more than I could bare. It didn't get any easier their second Christmas, and it wasn't too long after when we started cluing in to Autism. By their third year, Ty was so afraid of wrapping paper, and opening gifts, and new toys, and everything that most kids relish on Christmas morning that before we got through present one, my heart was breaking. We were like a glass ornament, so fragile. Then came the late guests, and the missed nap, and the screaming melt-downs, and Christmas became, simply, no fun at all.
Fast forward through a year of hard work for all of us. There was this feeling of potential within us, and the boys had made a tremendous amount of painstaking progress. I had high hopes that this would be the year that they got to meet Santa! Well, not the traditional mall Santa, where you wait in lines, under harsh lighting, loud music, and near other sticky children all pushing and shoving their way to the front for just a second or two on the big guy's lap. That would not be fun for Max and Ty. Instead, I found a local group, a family in our shoes, who organize a wonderful program each year called Sensory Santa. A Sensory Santa is a Santa that lowers his voice, and the music, and the lights, and throws the lines and clock out the window, so that children who are overwhelmed by these things, can ease into meeting him. This Santa was going to be perfect for them, and us, because we all needed a moment of light to end our year. I signed us up, and made a very careless move, I told the boys they would meet Santa with no conformation yet received. Then I got the bad news. Apparently, there are more children with Autism in our area than Sensory Santa can possibly manage to see. Max and Ty had not made the list. They would not see Santa.
Now, I have this friend, who is a thousand miles away, and always has been. We've only been face to face twice, but she knows me. She has listened from the first fracture of my heart and ever since. She guided me through the dark by believing in me, even when I could not believe in myself. She is a good, good, friend, and I am very fortunate to have her. When I sent out a message of disappointment over Max and Ty missing the cut off for Sensory Santa, my friend went into action. She rallied her own family and support system to pull off a moment of true Christmas spirit. A few days and a long sleigh ride later Santa showed up at our very own front door. He brought an Elf assistant (good thinking Santa, there is power in numbers when you are dealing with the dynamic duo) and loads of gifts that we could never have provided. I am not even sure how many people were involved, but I do know that even my friend's nephew, who is but a child himself, contributed a month's worth of allowance without ever having been asked. These people are that kind of good.
For the boys, it was an introduction to Christmas that was just as gentle and comfortable as they deserved, and an opportunity to set up a safe association with Santa (and Elves). Max and Ty could not have been more thrilled, unless maybe they had been in on the secret of it all, as I was (mostly). All children should know that kind of magical joy. They were not disabled or disadvantaged in that moment. They were only gifted. We ate cookies, we opened presents, we took pictures, we played, and we laughed. We had fun at Christmas!
Rewinding now. It was proof that we could actually enjoy ourselves during a holiday, but it was still more. You see, I had just come home from battle. I had fought, with my sons' lives on the line, to overcome the stigma of Autism, but as I walked away from the fight, an ominous feeling overcame me. If it is not my sons that need fixing, if they have a right to live and breathe as they were created, it must be the rest of the world?! If the world cannot see their beauty, if they cannot appreciate their kind of intelligence, if they cannot let go of normal and allow my sons to carve a niche in this society where ever it is that they can contribute, then we are still in the fight of our lives. War against the the rest of the world. BUT, here is the kicker; Santa is already on our side! Ha ha! You hear that world? Friends and families with Mothers just like me, busy with their own celebrations a thousand miles away, are on our side. Grown men, willing to dress up in scratchy beards or pointy ears, just to humor us, are on our side. Young men, who are thoughtful enough to save instead of spend, are on our side. The brain power and heart of my amazing Autistic sons, is on our side. Good is on our side.
And that is how we got to the top of the world on Christmas.