(Another) White Car
The car—as is the case for many a family, at least in the US—is pretty much an extension of our living space. Our old green stationwagon was the "green car," bought in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, when Charlie was just around 2 years old (and just around the time he was diagnosed with autism). That car brought us back from the midwest to New Jersey, until it was sold for not too much to the owner of a local gas station. We'd already said good-bye to the little white Toyota Camry ("white car") that had belonged to Jim's mother. She wasn't much of a driver and, while the car was an early 90s model, it had very few miles on it when we started driving it. That little white car was traded in when we bought the "black car," a stationwagon with a lot more oomph than the green on. And when the green car died, the black car became our only car.
This is to say, Charlie has spent a lot of time in every car and has strong memories of all of them (except for the forest green Saturn that he was driven home in from the hospital, after he was born). If he sees an old Toyota Camry, he runs up to it and, regardless of its color, gives it a good long inspection. He clocked in record hours in the black car and I did too, as the commute to my job in Jersey City from the central New Jersey town that we've been living in can take 45 minutes, give or take, in the morning (less on the return trip, but I usually come home around 1.30-2pm, when there is little traffic). Jim takes the train into Manhattan, so we've only needed one car.
Then the black car started needing Major Repairs and, for this and some other reasons (it always seemed to eat up gas), Jim and I came to the conclusion, time for another car. And so now there's another white car in our parking space, more compact than the big black stationwagon, though its back seat actually offers Charlie more legroom. I'd love a small car to scoot around in, but such isn't practical with our growing boy with his ever-longer legs.
On the one hand Charlie adapted right away to the new car. He can stretch out a bit more (for the time being) and the design of the windows offers him (and us) better views. The back seat of the black one was long ago inundated with crumbs and crumb-like substances (sand). Unfortunately the "no eating in the new car"rule lasted for about, oh, a day and a half and the car has lost its new car smell in possibly record time. Like I said, the car may as well just be part of our home!
On the other hand, the inevitable lag set in for Charlie. He's been asking for "green car, green car" and looking quizzically at the black car, now quietly parked and accumulating leaf piles round its wheels. (It's driveable, but not for long distances and not for me to bring to work on a snowy, icy day—and it's not for me to drive with a very tense and anxious Charlie, as he has been at times lately) We certainly spend a lot of time driving to various destinations and, too, sometimes just driving around. Doing so in a new car is quite the same as living in a new house; as being in a new school.
Intermixed with calling for the green car, Charlie's also been saying litanies of "bye bye Sean, bye bye Mr. Matt, bye bye Pete, bye bye JP, bye bye Jessica, bye bye Miriam, bye bye Danielle, bye bye Pete, bye bye Mr. Matt." Sean was a student in Charlie's classroom in our old town. Mr. Matt, Miriam, and Danielle were all his teachers in a class prior to that. Pete was Charlie's main aide in the class he was in before being in middle school, while Jessica was his teacher and JP was a favorite (but he was moved to work at the high school after a few months). But it's mostly Sean and Mr. Matt that Charlie has brought up, just as his thoughts are focused on the car we gave up prior to getting the black car. That's how long it takes Charlie, it seems, to process and to be able to talk about his memories.
In other words, we're anticipating one l-o-n-g transition to his new school.
And we know that—just as Charlie likes, needs, to take his time scanning the shelves at the grocery store to figure out what he wants, to take it all in—we won't be rushing him.