The Surfer Chef (#389)

Today I had two glimpses of what might be in store for Charlie in the future, as he grows from boyhood to adolescence and into adulthood.
The first glimpse occurred at lunchtime. We had had a nice Saturday morning: The three of us slept in; Charlie practiced the piano—he has started to read the letter names of the notes (“G, F, E, D”) and, when the notes are all in sequence (“E, F, G!”) he can read and then look down at the keyboard and play on his own, but when the notes go down and up (“F, E, D, E!”) or when there are intervals between notes (“E, E, C, E!”) he needs a tap at the wrist; Charlie and I went on a walk to the train station in muggy weather. After which, it was time for “wunsch! wunsstime.”

Charlie opened up Grandpa’s new gleaming black refrigerator and stared. I reeled off choices: “Apples? Strawberries? Hot dog? Hamburger?”

“Hamgerber,” said Charlie (reversing a few consonants). The next thing I knew, he had found a packet of ground beef, taken a small clump, and shaped it into a patty, which he placed into a frying pan on the stove—-a process which Charlie has learned entirely from watching me.

Do I have a cook—a chef—in the making?

The second glimpse came at the ocean. We had gone to our favorite place on the Jersey Shore. While we have been swimming in the ocean, the last time we had gone to this particular beach was on a certain day in November 2005, after which Charlie had a terrific tantrum in the car and then a long coda at home involving so many terrible bangs and cries if we mentioned “school tomorrow,” that Jim and I decided that Charlie would not be attending his former public school program on Monday—and, indeed, forever, as Charlie stayed at home and was homeschooled for the next month until early December, when he started to attend the private autism school where he learned to read and which (so sadly) closed at the end of June.
“Yallow school bus.” Charlie said that on and on and looked me in the eye all the way down to the ocean. “That’s on Monday,” Jim and I said. “And tomorrow, Sunday, we’ll do a bike ride and go to the pool, and today we’re going to the ocean.” “Bue ocean,” said Charlie, and looked at his picture schedule.

There were a few other boys about 8-10 years old in the water beside Charlie (who stripped off his shirt and ran and swam further and further into the waves) and Jim. The boys body-surfed, ducked under waves and emerged with eyes and hair dripping, aimed their boogie boards into an oncoming wave or maneuvered their bodies so as to catch a wave for a ride, got dunked with board flying and threw themselves back at the waves, went in for more.
Charlie, of course, was one of those boys. There were some quiet differences: Jim’s watchful presence, Charlie smelling the salt of the sea on his hands every once in a while, Charlie kneeling on his board as Jim towed him.

“He’s going to be a surfer, you can tell,” Jim proclaimed as we watched Charlie burying his feet in the sand and then walking back into the ocean.

A beach boy who fries up a good burger (make mine soy-based): Sounds like a pretty sweet future to me, with a dash of sour (Charlie loves pickles, though they are not good for his mouth) and salt from the ocean’s deep waters.

5 Responses to “The Surfer Chef (#389)”
  1. Ennis says:

    Being a chef might suit him – it sounds like he’s detail oriented and methodical – but hopefully somewhere less zoolike than a commercial kitchen. Perhaps a private chef or sommat …

  2. zilari says:

    This is very cool!

    One thing that seems important to point out is that, if I’m reading this properly, Charlie learned how to make a burger just from watching it happen. Seems like a great example of independent learning!

  3. Zilari, yes, that’s what happened—he would have tried to cook it on the stove but I had to step in there (he is showing a lot of interest in the gas controls—I have to be really careful there). I still remember your post about making spring rolls and I think Charlie would do well making those too, except it will be harder to convince him to wait to eat the results.

    Ennis, you’re right, a commercial kitchen could be a lot for him. But maybe if they gave him a few specific tasks?

  4. kyra says:

    i agree with zilari! woohoo to charlie for his keen observation and strong sense of competence! and i LOVE imagining charlie hanging ten! he is such a fish, i bet he will be an amazing surfer-dude!

  5. Julia says:

    A friend told me about working at a place where an autistic man did all the cooking, and he did very well, and my friend enjoyed spending time with him when they were both on break. I don’t know if Charlie would be able to manage a whole kitchen on his own, but if he can, and wants to, I’d tell him to go for it. 🙂

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