Why I Can’t Wrap Charlie’s Christmas Presents (#179)

Smiling, Charlie put on his fleece hat and jacket and his shoes and I followed. He was headed east to the center of our town and ran ahead of me laughing and looking over his shoulder. “School bus, school bus!”
“Where are we going?” I asked, grabbing Charlie’s coat sleeve when the sidewalk ended. “Wait for Mom!”

We proceeded past the shops with Santas and tinsel decking their windows and a friendly traffic cop or two, till we came to a major avenue. I believe I will know this intersection in my dreams: Straight ahead past the traffic light is the road to the public school Charlie attended for 2 1/2 years and how many times did I race up and down this road, Charlie groggy or growling or worried in the back seat.

Charlie turned left.

We walked north a block. “Charlie, where are we going?” Kept walking. “Where do you want to go?” Walking. “Wait for Mom, stop….” I touched his left shoulder.

“School bus!” Charlie’s face was freezing, his shoulders slumping, his eyes aimed north up the avenue. Charlie was walking the route the “red schoolbus” with the South Asian driver and the sari-clad aide have been taking him these past three weeks. He wanted–the truth hit me– to walk to school (which is now a forty minute drive away). He wanted to go to the new school where he had just finished another good week, asking “so nicely” for a sip of someone’s soda, smiling as he worked at his table in the morning and in the afternoon.

And here comes a week plus off from school for winter break.
The walk home was on leaden feet, with tears. Charlie wept and holiday shoppers in cars and on foot turned their heads. Boys nearly as tall as their mothers don’t cry that wail. Charlie stamped on the tiny snow piles and poked at the dirt with a stick.

“School bus!” We were two blocks from our house and no child yearning for that new bike, that Game Boy, that puppy under the Christmas tree ever had brown eyes so big with wanting as Charlie. At home, an ABA therapist soon arrived and Charlie got right to work on his reading program and tried out the laptop, my parent’s Christmas present. At Target for a quick few items, Charlie walked easily and confidently right past the DVD aisles where he used to loiter, poking at the Barney selections. He never looked back.

It’s a good thing our Christmas tree is a live one growing a bit askew in the backyard. Because what Charlie wants–the gift of learning, of a place to belong and to grow–is big as the sky or at least as our backyard and a bit of the neighbor’s, and I can’t find wrapping paper to contain such big wishes, so much hope.

2 Responses to “Why I Can’t Wrap Charlie’s Christmas Presents (#179)”
  1. kcsmom says:

    Hi Kristina,
    This post got me teary eyed :*)
    It really says it all, I am sure my little guy would wish for the same things as Charlie.
    Great post Kristina:)


  2. Eileen says:

    Wow, he must really love his new school. That is both really neat and scary how he wanted to walk the bus route.

    The gift that you & Jim have given to your amazing son is the better than any other present wrapped under the Christmas tree. A place for him to really belong and to learn the best he can.

    I wish You, Jim and sweet Charlie the Merriest Christmas ever!!!

    Thank you for your friendship!

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