Charlie Gets His Groove (#305)

Today did not start very well.

Charlie was groggy after his super swim last night but still dragged himself out the door. The bus was a little late and Charlie said “b’ack car,” frowned when I said the bus was coming, and got onto it with a slight whimper.

“You must not park the car here,” said the bus driver, turning around as she pointed at a gray car in front of our house. It belonged to a neighbor, who had just parked it in front as Charlie and I were exiting the house.

Before I could think the bus driver and I were going back and forth at how the space in the house needs to be clear; how I can’t tell my neighbors where exactly to put their cars; how there was enough space for the driver to pull into, if a bit tightly; how, how, how, and all the while it was dawning on me that hearing such contention was the last thing Charlie needed to hear before driving off with driver and aide (both of whom have limited English). Charlie was already agitated; on Monday, the driver had requested a pillow because “sometimes he bangs his head.”

What! a wild voice inside me had said at 8am on Monday. “I’ll get one,” said my actual voice. As I handed the aide a pillow, I had turned to the driver and said, “Please just tell me if he does it.”


“For the doctor,” the driver had at last said.

“Yes, the doctor needs to know,” I had responded and then went to stand on the porch and wave off the bus.

I did the same today, with several ounces or quarts or liters of trepidation.

Charlie had another great day.

I should note that, while a “great day” can often involve no behavior squalls and head-banging, and a cheery note of programs mastered or that Charlie is making progress on, every day is a great day with Charlie. Every day is a great day when one can be the mother to such a great boy.

Some things point to Charlie’s getting into his groove.

Charlie’s got a friend at school, another boy a year younger than him. They have been working on “peer programs” for the past few months and playing together under the watchful eyes of his teachers and the speech therapist. Today, Charlie accompanied his friend to buy lunch in the cafeteria (Charlie’s autism school is very small–seven students–and it is housed in a much larger, private school).

After getting nowhere since he was five when we first tried to teach Charlie sight words, Charlie is getting the reading thing. The majority of his home Lovaas program involves reading, language, playing, and self-help teaching; the therapist who came today noted that he has been working on the Edmark Reading Program pre-reading lessons between doing programs with Charlie at his table, “and he loves it. He’s really fast!”
Almost as fast as Charlie was to grab his glasses, give Jim his helmet, leap onto his bike, and peddle off down the street. Or running ahead of both of us (still recovering from whatever illness Charlie passed on) to his favorite place to get “bwown noodohs”–rice noodles with peanut sauce and shrimp. Jim and I ate what we could (it’s a stomach virus) and watched Charlie keep his left hand on the table upon a napkin while poking up noodles, shrimp, bok choy, and broccoli with his fork. The waiter attempted to tease Charlie by taking away his unfinished salad; Charlie reached and grinned as the plate shimmied back and forth upon the table.

After a hot shower (while singing “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” without articulating the consonants too well–“Woooooo-offfffff duh weh nooooo aynneeer”) Charlie told me “quack quack, zero six!”

I figured out a few months ago that “zero six” is a reference to the numbers on a digital clock (Charlie used to say that while playing endlessly with the alarm clock I no longer have). But ducks saying quack?

“Do you mean black?” I asked Charlie, because part of my old clock was black.

“B’ack, quack,” said Charlie.

You can’t solve every mystery–figure out what to do with every conundrum–on the spot.

It’s something to look forward to thinking about tomorrow, on another great day with Charlie when the three of us get one more step forward in our good life together.

Disclaimer: The content and opinions expressed in this post are, as in all posts on, the original work of the author and, further, veritable “Chuck-lit” (rather than “chick lit“). (In case you have not been following the plagiarism controversy over Kaavya Viswanathan’s “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life,” here is one example of the uproar.)

4 Responses to “Charlie Gets His Groove (#305)”
  1. Bronwyn G says:

    Unfortunately I have just been following the plagiarism thing.

    Such a shame because she has the potential to be a really great writer.

    The story is a good one.

    I am a lot less innocent about packages.

    I guess lots of Asian Americans must be feeling ashamed.

    Back to the subject:
    Glad Charlie had a great day with his friend and the brown noodles. Feel better soon Christina and Jim!

  2. Mothersvox says:

    Don’t you just really dislike it when the bus driver and aide have neglected to mention something *really* significant? Headbanging for Charlie recently, and, last year for Sweet M, frequent taunting and spatial provocations from a couple of fellow riders who were sitting next to her when empty seats were available then squishing into her and pretending it was an accident, just to see if she would scream. It was going on almost all year and I learned about it in May.

    And then, within days of sharing this, they said that I’d “misunderstood” and that actually nothing had been going on.

    Your Chuck-lit neologism is pretty hilarious. I wish a serious book without a celebrity author could get a $500K advance in the US.

  3. Julia says:

    Helen Keller had a similar plagiarism incident, BTW – she’d come up with a story that was eerily similar to something someone else had written awhile back, and all she could figure was that someone had spelled the story once to her several years before she wrote. (That’s all I could think about when I read the Sepia Mutiny link.) But that one got caught before publication.

    I did something like that musically once, myself. Lifted a few measures from Handel’s Water Music without realizing it for a couple of months.

  4. I read that Viswanathan said she had a “photographic memory” and that was why she didn’t realize she was plagiaring the other writer’s novels. By chance, I’ve been teaching Oliver Sacks’s “Anthropologist on Mars” to a class and we were just talking about the painter with the “perfect” memory of his old home in Italy, a village named Pontito (that’s the chapter “The Landscape of His Dreams.” And I do think Charlie has a photographic memory for some things, and get very stuck on things being just that way.

    Yes, I’ve been following the “Opal Mehta plagiarism” case—it says something to me about the kinds of standards and expectations NT Asian American kids live with (I grew up with those). Apparently her parents spent $30,000 to an “Ivy-League” tutoring service to help her with her college applications. (My students, who are at a small and modest college, were shocked to hear about that.)

    MV, I want to make more of the Chuck-lit business—and the bus is one frustrations after another. They mean well, but there is a huge language and cultural barrier—a lot on top of the communication issues that Charlie himself has!

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