This “In Their Own Words” is by Shelley Stolaroff Segal. Segal is a playwright, performer, and essayist living in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her latest play focused on autism and race and was performed at the Manhattan Repertory Theater and TEDxEast. Her fourteen-year-old autistic son, Josh, is her divine inspiration, as is his equally divine twin sister, Jordan.
This is the time of the season when I summon my gratitude, reflect on the past year, and count my blessings. I do this even though my son is going through puberty and I am going through my chocolate. Josh is low-functioning and non-verbal, but ridiculously cute. (Except when he’s practicing his latest obsession, snapping plastic items into shards. Cutlery, C.D.s, DVDs, hangers, you name it. His favorite two words now are “Bake it.”)
However, he’s still charming, and I want to recognize my blessings. So in the spirit of the holidays I have listed a few of my favorites:
*I’m grateful the cats pretend to enjoy it when Josh “plays” with them. They have as much fun as they can stand before fleeing.
*I’m grateful that when Josh drives me to drink I can grab a petite café mocha and it still packs enough punch to hold me until bedtime.
*I’m grateful for Josh’s laugh.
*I’m grateful that when Josh breaks a C.D. it’s usually one of my carefully planted decoys. I’d rather him snap a blank CDR into pieces than one of my Led Zeppelin albums. Most of our sacred, recorded material now lies in the safe. Including the wedding video he targeted three months ago.
*I’m grateful my son likes to hang out with me in coffee shops. And yes, I do cheat on the gluten thing sometimes.
*I’m grateful that Josh’s childlike, high-pitched shriek has been supplanted by a low, pubescent growl. However, that yucky in-between voice can be ear-itating as well.
*I’m grateful that Josh’s twin sister, Jordan, still loves to show him off even when he struggles to embarrass her. Her friends might not get the plastic fixation but they enjoy his sense of humor and his quirky new devil voice. The growl is even better.
*I’m grateful my family’s still happy, and that we’re learning to enjoy the holidays a bit more every year. We’re not half as dysfunctional as most families I know during this season. That’s the biggest blessing of all.