A New Route For Walking

Charlie on a walk in a new direction As Charlie and I crossed an intersection to drive onto the street that leads to the state highway we take en route to his school, we spied a non-moving line of cars. The line extended into the intersection and I made a fast decision to turn right. That brought us into a shorter line of non-moving cars, giving me time to think about whether or not we'd be able to get onto the westbound lanes of the state highway. 

The line of cars moved and I realized, we could only go east, and soon were driving in the opposite direction we needed to go. A couple of years ago I would have felt my anxiety go up, with no immediate way to go in the right direction. But years of driving around New Jersey, and of driving Charlie in New Jersey, have taught me that this is not a problem due to something called "jug handles."

"Jug handles" of the roadway kind bear only a metaphoric resemblance to anything having to do with receptacles for liquids. If you want to turn around on certain roads here, you don't  do what seems so obvious, just turn in that direction. You instead get into the right lane and turn into a jug handle, which takes you around for almost 360 degrees so that you're perpendicular to the highway; you then turn back onto the highway, in the opposite direction. 

And so on Tuesday I suspected that there'd be a way to turn around on the highway if I went a little further up. After a few miles I saw a sign that said simply "U turn"; we veered to the right, we turned around and were soon driving west, and Charlie was only about 15 minutes late for school.

Sometimes you need to go in the opposite direction to go in the right way, no? Or at least a different one.

That happened on a walk with Charlie yesterday afternoon.

We do tend to follow the same route on these walks. We go down our street and then right. But yesterday afternoon Charlie went straight down the sidewalk rather than crossing over. He looked back at me before continuing in a straight line. We passed a park where children much smaller than him were lined up to kick soccer balls. Twice Charlie broke into a sudden run and as I proceeded down the sidewalk I could see why: He'd sighted a dog in a front yard. We passed a trio of girls about his age; one bid her friends farewell. A little later we saw her on a skateboard, the hot pink and dayglo green laces on her shoes prominently visible.

Ahead of us hovered a parking lot and, to the right, the local grocery store that had been the site of the incident of the red brownie box.

Frankly, I had been wondering if Charlie might ever try to walk to this grocery store, and now here we were. I wasn't prepared with a shopping list and, anyways, I wanted to let more time pass before Charlie and I attempt our re-entry into the store. So I told Charlie that we had to go home first as we didn't have any money (which was completely true). Charlie shuffled his feet and then we started walking. 

About two blocks down Charlie paused and looked across the street. I turned my head and saw a very large sign advertising $5.95 SUSHI. I had seen this little restaurant before and not been sure if Charlie had.

He certainly noticed it Tuesday and looked at me to cross the street and go in. Again I noted that we had no money and had to come home to get some, and then we could go back. Charlie started walking, me after him and we were home in a matter of minutes. Once there, I noted that we'd be walking back to get sushi, now that we had the money, and he went out the door.

The walk back was pleasant, with one encounter with a different dog (on a leash). We went into the restaurant and found it a bright and simple space. A group of teenagers (two male, two female) were sharing a large plate of sushi and talking about how someone's brother was 5' 9" and 19 years old. I glanced at the menu and ordered something for Charlie (for a price less than what some packages of sushi in the supermarket cost). The woman behind the counter prepared it with Charlie peering at her intently. I paid and handed the bag with a big yellow smiley face over to Charlie and we were homeward bound.

Charlie sat right down to eat once we were home; I finished up the rice he'd left and some edamame a bit later. A new direction; a new restaurant; a new, shared, experience.

And, too, a shared meal.

7 Responses to “A New Route For Walking”
  1. Barbara says:

    That’s a lot of nice ‘newness’.

  2. Jill says:

    Do you think Charlie read the word “sushi” or was there some other indicator that told him it was a sushi restaurant?
    If he read the sign and expressed the desire to go there and get dinner that would be real progress.

  3. Monica says:

    I find this “change of routine” very, very exciting! Charlie showed a real ability to negotiate, to transition, to re-think and re-organize, and to seek the new experience. That’s real learning! Much progress indeed! Congratulations!

  4. Louise says:

    Lovely narrative; you’re a really gifted writer, Kristina. There are certain beautiful spots in the story where you leave all the psychologizing out of what is occurring. Why did Charlie choose to change his walk – because he intended to go to the redbrowniebox store? Did Charlie read the “sushi” sign? Was Charlie’s hunger so strong that he felt comfortable going to the redbrownieboxstore again? How did Charlie react to the three girls of his own age?
    You leave the speculation up to the reader.
    It’s a riveting touch, one that keeps the reader moving through the narrative, hoping to find out the answers to the questions.
    And I imagine it must be like what moving through your own life is like.
    Thank you so much for sharing it.
    BTW, how many times has Charlie seen sushi prepared? Do you make it at home?

  5. Louise says:

    Post Script: I can see the day when Charlie will be able to walk to the grocery store or the sushi house on his own, safely maneuver the streets, and make a purchase. He’ll even get to be able to run errands for you.
    Does Charlie understand the concept of “around the block”? Does he always seem to know where he’s walking to? Because he’s obviously been intently following your directions as you drive for quite a while, and imagining them from a different perspective than in the back of the car. Is this walking route one he has done biking? He’s a natural topographist!

  6. Regina says:

    That’s all very interesting, esp. the sushi shop and the little bit of eloquent nonverbal communication. Neat.
    Take care.

  7. autismvox says:

    @Jill, I’d like to think he read the sign—but there’s a huge picture of sushi right next to it! But one never knows…..
    @Barbara and Monica, new is always good to us!
    @Louise, a topographist, yes!
    I’ve gotten the materials to make sushi but never actually got to making it. I used to make summer rolls for Charlie and he was very fascinated by the process at one point, think it may be time to try the sushi again. I’m quite sure he could walk to the store by himself, but as to what he’d do once in there, much more instruction needed. It would be lovely if he could go by himself but those safety concerns lurk; am hoping one day to teach Charlie to have a cell phone with him and he’d know to call us as needed. But that is someway off!

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