the world through rainbow eyes

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The Herd of Gazelles at the Bus Stop

Pi and Phi are 5 now. They attend Kindergarten (two different classes so they can both shine their stars individually as bright as possible). They both insisted that they are old enough to ride the bus to school, and because the bus is actually available to them now that they are in Kinder, I agreed. So they ride the bus to school every school day morning. 

I drop them off and watch them interact at the bus stop with the other kids. They’re the only Kinder kids in our little neighborhood, so mostly the big kids are leaving them alone and letting them run around like animals waiting for the bus. 

Run around they do, too. Every single day, they drop their packs in the bus shelter and then have races from one sign to the other. About 200 feet of a race they do over and over until the bus gets there. Squealing, rambunctious, and overall dorky. Phi runs with his hands clutched high to his sides, a bit like a T-Rex. A smile of pure happiness. His feet hit the ground with the strange, awkward, delicate gait so familiar to other parents who have children on the spectrum. Toes pointed down, still somewhat clompy somehow. Like an elephant doing ballet. So happy.

Pi’s arms are thrown back and her clomping hits whole foot down, her face also has the same smile. So happy. She is a gazelle. 

The other kids are mostly silent while Pi and Phi enact these daily races. Pi and Phi encircle them, run between them, around them, near them. You can see the other kids pull back, stare at them. I want to tell Pi and Phi to chill. Be cool. The kids are judging them. I keep my mouth shut. One kid does a mock tiptoe of Phi to his other friends, and they cover their mouths to smile behind their hands. They know better than to laugh where parents can see them. Phi doesn’t notice, just keeps running. Keeps being happy. 

I want to scream at these kids. You think it’s awesome that you can run better than him? Running is hard for him. He’s a different animal. You are gazelles, and he is an elephant. His squealing trumpet of glee comes from a differently shaped throat than your own. Is it such a point of pride that yours was shaped different? Do you work for hours to make your gazelle throat shape the sounds that all the other gazelles make? 

No he does not have grace. What he has, instead, is hard work. He has perseverance. Thank goodness that’s part of the package with Autism. The same thing that makes him line up puzzles for hours is what makes it possible for him to make words that others understand. He works past the point of wanting to stop. I am furiously proud of his words. 

I remember his testing, and them asking us for a list of his words. For a week we tried to put together even ten words that he said at the age of 18 months. Duck. Ball. … Umm.. Daddy? We struggled to find any words that he had actually said. Now, at age 5, his vocabulary is huge. He inherits the wide breadth of spoken word that his father and I use daily, and it shows. 

But the kids at the bus stop don’t see that he is a hard working elephant stuck in the land of the graceful gazelles. They see that he is not part of their herd. They close ranks. 

So he runs with Pi. Pi who doesn’t care, yet, about gazelles and elephants. All animals are different to her. She takes it in stride. 

I want the other kids at the bus stop to see what she sees. I want them to feel the pure joy that he feels. 

I’m proud of my mismatched animals, and so furious at the herd that closes them both out. I know that in their classes there are other mismatched animals, and they find them and befriend them. The herd at the bus stop is not their whole world of experience, but only a small window onto it. 

I also know that the herd at the bus stop is going to grow. That as they get bigger, it will become more and more evident how different they both are to the herds they encounter. Him for his everything, and her for her acceptance of these things and for her own differences. That the ruthlessness of peers will run their world for the next fifteen some odd years. There is not a thing I can do to change it. 

I know that they are going to spend their lives collecting their own herds of mismatched animals. I hope they do not spend too long trying to assimilate into herds that are not their own and do not accept them. I also feel sad for the limited scope of the herd of gazelles at the bus stop. They have not yet learned the value of the different animals. I hope they learn it someday. 

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What It Means To Be Me

We all have unique voices. Each of us has a unique perspective and collection of experiences of life. It’s not that the experiences themselves are necessarily unique, it’s that the particular collection that makes us each unique. Each snowflake different than the next.

That’s wonderful, but it also makes the unique ubiquitous. If everything and everybody is unique, one stops caring so much about all that is unique around one. Instead, one starts to look for the similar, not to flatten out the experiences of life, but to understand them better. Or at least I do.

That’s probably my first point that I want to make.

Or at least I do.

I don’t know you. Or, to be even more clear, I might know you, but that doesn’t mean that I am living your life with your unique expression of what it is to be a human being.

I’m living mine. The only real commentary or expressions or points of view or anything that I can ever do or see or understand are ones that been shown to me, or that I discovered, or that I searched for, or that I lived through. I only speak for me. I can only ever speak from my center because I will never be you.

So, as I write, take that into account. Inform me of different if you think I might not know it (and please, let me know! just because something is obvious to you does not mean it’s obvious to me).

I firmly believe that a life that is shared is infinitely expanded. When you share with me, I become more. To facilitate that I must share with you. A person is made up of concrete facts and experiences, but how that expresses itself is abstract. So, I’ll start with the easiest parts that I can.

I am a 40 years old. I am a wife (for the 2nd time), a mother to twins (a boy and a girl, they will be 4 in October), an artist (who has not been able to find meaningful time to create art in the last 4 years, coincidentally), a sometimes writer (not very good), a bookseller (I quit to have the children), a daughter (definitely not very good at that), a sister (I’m getting better there), a 7th generational Californian from the East Bay that got uprooted to the outskirts of Atlanta, Georgia when I turned 20 (so, not very good at being Californian, either), a geek (I do this okay), a reader (so-so on this, my mind wanders a lot since I had the children), a lover of science and technology (in a generalist sort of way), and someone who appreciates herself far more than seems healthy (whatever).

My husband, let’s call him R for brevity sake, is a native New Orleanean that I met in the wilds of Atlanta about 5 years ago. He was a codemonkey then, and manages codemonkeys now. He spends his spare time homebrewing beer. This is also his second marriage.

My son, we’ll call him P, is the first born of the duo. He is delightful and cuddly, and also speech delayed with major anxiety issues. Were it a few years ago, it might have been possible to put his issues within the PDD-NOS category. Maybe not, though. He’s a strange little mixed bag.

My daughter, we’ll call her Pie after her most common nickname, is the second born. She is tempestuous, wild, sweet, competitive, and moody. She is, herself, a strange little mixed bag.

R and I would have been amazed had we found them to be anything less than strange mixed bags, as that’s pretty much what we both are.

So, those are some of the concretes. The meaningless little author blurb that tells you very little of the actual author.