Everyone of us has all we need, I thought from time to time today, though it was not exactly a life of ease. “Geddup, geddup,” Charlie said while Jim and I were still opening our eyes; he started to hum and groan when we were slow to move and then to tense his body, even after we were up and Charlie had gotten dressed and was putting on his boots to go with Jim to the post office. Jim went upstairs while Charlie stood, still making soft moaning sounds, in the hallway.
“Puzzle?” I asked.
“Puzzle,” said Charlie and pulled one of two horses out from under the bed. When Jim came down, the worry in Charlie had passed and he stomped off in the snow to the black car.
Reading, writing, ‘rithmetic: These skills come slow and hard-won to Charlie. He is, truly, learning so much in school these day. I do not measure his learning in numbers of sight words or flash cards mastered, in how precisely he can form his ABC’s. The skill that Charlie seems to have been picking up is something a little more foundational even than the 3 R’s. It’s his learning to tell us “I need break” before his ability to cope breaks away from him. A year ago, the anxiety Charlie woke up with today might have turned into an all-out tantrum, instead of being defused by Charlie himself when he knelt today on the carpet to do his puzzle.
And beginning-of-the-day tantrum overcome, Charlie had a fine Saturday. On a walk to the grocery store, he stamped and slid a bit on some ice, and I recalled how, not too long ago, I had been afraid that he would fall—but Charlie held his own and looked at the whitened lawned and the shining tree branches. He sighted a watermelon at the store, which I lugged home as he walked ahead. We were planning to go a to special swimming hour for autistic kids at 3.30; by 1.15, Charlie was saying “suit on!” and grinning. As he was also running up and down the wooden ramp that leads out to the garage (whose door was open), I suggested that he wait to don his suit, and he did. Once at the pool, while Charlie jumped in with Jim, I asked a ninth-grade volunteer to swim with Charlie in the deep end: Jim and I could have done this, but (as I reminded myself all the times that Charlie got to the shallow end and the student could be see requesting again, and again, for him to swim back to the deep end) it is always a good thing for Charlie to learn to interact with other people, and other people with him, and each time Charlie was to be seen backfloating or gliding through the water with the student nearby (eventually).
“He’s a really good swimmer,” said the student as I handed Charlie a towel.
Somehow it seems appropriate (if entirely coincidental) that Charlie referred to the fries he had with his hamburger at his favorite hot dog stand as “friend fries,” after that 45 minute swim. I knew I ought to correct his pronunciation, but the happy music in his voice was too good to listen to—and that Charlie’s affinity for music runs as deep as water was apparent as the evening continued.
Some of my students were performing in a Variety Show at the college I teach at tonight; Charlie had listened with rapt attention when we attended part of a previous show, and two of my students were going to be Simba and Pumbaa in a familiar song. Charlie started making loud, rhythmic noises soon as we got on the campus grounds. He made the same noises, more quietly, when we went in, then became much quieter during a rendition of “I Feel Pretty.” He did not catch the humor of the improv routines (“Movie Critics” was the title of one) but when that tune we had listened to so many a time on hot and cold days was being sung right before him with brio and plenty of hamming it up, Charlie was all eyes and ears on the edge of his seat at the words
Hakuna Matata! Ain’t no passing craze!
It means no worries for the rest of your days….
On the way home, Jim decided it was high time we try out the Beatles CD, Revolver that I had bought back in January and Charlie had objected to within one minute. “All done,” said Charlie during “Taxman” but Jim counseled him to wait and listen. “Eleanor Rigby” came on: “Just like on Sugarcane Harris,” Jim pointed out, in reference to a jazz violinist who is one of Charlie’s old favorites. Just as we made the final turn on before our street, we heard:
In the town where I was born lived a man who sailed to sea.
And he told us of his life in the land of submarines.
So we sailed up to the sun till we found the sea of green.
And we lived beneath the waves in our yellow submarine.
We all live in a yellow submarine,
Yellow submarine, yellow submarine
“It sounds like the W—-” I said as Charlie burst out,
“Hewoh evee buddy were dee Wiggles, I’m Greg I’mJeff IMurray Ant’ony, hewoh evee buddy were dee…..”
Jim tried to remember if the Beatles in the Yellow Submarine cartoon were wearing Wiggles-esque t-shirts. Charlie was grinning and laughing as Ringo’s voice sang “And the band begins to play……”
“Don’t forget the Teletubbies, four of them in those primary colors,” I said.
“Hewoh evee buddy were dee Wiggles, I’m Greg I’mJeff IMurray Ant’ony, hewoh!” Charlie called out. And, after he had piled an array of blankets, Jim’s socks, Jim’s shirts, pillows, a toy snowman, his calendar, and his picture schedule on his bed, “tuck inn!”. And, “hugg.”
And we live a life of ease. Everyone of us has all we need.