He moves in secret ways (#321)

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all the great moms I’ve met through the ‘Net!

Jim and I were talking to a neighbor in our front yard when Charlie appeared, his own and Jim’s bike helmets in his hands. “Dad get the bikes?” asked Jim.
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“Bike ride, yes!” said Charlie and ran up and down the lawn with a happy smile that went sullen when I reminded him (yes, I am ever the mother) about using the bathroom. We could hear Charlie making a wordless whine sound from the second floor and then clop back down. He emitted several screech-yelps at the start of the ride and then it was one glorious, hour-plus bike ride to the north side of our town and under a train bridge, Charlie leading the way.

Charlie loves being in motion. As a baby and into his toddlerhood, long car rides were sure to relax Charlie into sleep; we carried Charlie in our arms and on our backs for countless hours, rocked him in his cradle, and pushed him on mega-long stroller walks (some of which turned into stroller runs, as the time he and Jim encountered a pack of mean dogs). Much as Charlie enjoys swimming in a swimming pool, there is nothing like the ocean, where he can move in moving water. And, living right next to New York City, Charlie can ride his share of trains, subways, light rails, and other forms of public transportation.

And, of course, that essential feature of New Jersey–of American–life: the car.

We went to visit Jim’s mother in the hospital this afternoon, in a formerly rural and rapidly surburbanizing part of central New Jersey. Jim drove his father’s white car (which we sometimes keep at our house; my father-in-law can no longer drive) with Charlie buckled up in the middle of the back seat with me following a rather complicated route down the Garden State Parkway to Route 27 to various county roads in a town called Zarephath and further on through a town we used to live in (we in fact passed a school Charlie used to attend).

From the black car, I could see Charlie’s head bobbing about and occasionally turning back to look at me, often with a big grin. And why not? Here we were, Dad in one car and Mom in another, traveling on somewhat recognizable but not overly familiar roads. We were all three in motion,


and Charlie could look front (at Jim) and back (at me) and know precisely where we all were.

My mother-in-law was immobile in her low hospital bed and answered some of my questions with rather puzzling answers. I crouched down by her head to hear her better. She talked about eating “green peppers in Chinese food” and wanting to get the taste out of her mouth; I got her a Kleenex and she swabbed her mouth. She used always to request we get her Chinese take-out “with NO green peppers” and I suspected that she had not really eaten any–that she was talking about eating green peppers but really meaning something else.

What exactly, I am not sure. But living with Charlie has taught me that anything he says is gold and must be taken seriously. Perhaps my mother-in-law had eaten something she did not like and could not get the taste out of hImg_0242_1er mouth?

Charlie had fewer than ten tough minutes all day, and both occurred when (I think) he was wanting to “get in motion,” before the bike ride, before we left for our white car-black car “caravan” (Charlie was standing in the driveway and climbing into and out of one of the cars, and then knocking his head on the window). Getting him inside, sitting on the couch, and me reading a book (Go Dog Go!) calmed him down in seconds.

After we got back home from the hospital and from visiting Charlie’s grandfather (now back in his house), Charlie found a videotape and requested “put it.” The tape was unlabelled and turned out to be a documentary Jim had recorded for a class on American Studies he had taught a few months ago. And so we all ended up watching the painter Jackson Pollock in action, dipping his brush into a can of paint and splaying the tip across a giant canvas. Charlie watched with big eyes until–when I asked–he responded “bedtime.”

Pollock’s paintings are overloaded with splattered spiralings of paint: Days in Autismland may often seem like such dripping confusion, but there is method to the apparent mess. There is meaning in every splatted drop of paint, in every puzzling utterance. If there is a secret to Charlie’s love of motion, bit by bit he is clueing us into it.

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Comments
2 Responses to “He moves in secret ways (#321)”
  1. Happy Mother’s Day to you, my dear. You are an inspiration to me. Sometimes I think, What Would Kristina Say (WWKS)?

  2. Julia says:

    Oh, beautiful! What a wonderful day! (And what a good book for calming the child who wants to GO!)

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