This is a big day for me for a few reasons.
First, today is the official publication date for my book, What Color Is Monday?, which in very important literary circles is known as the book’s birthday. I just love the fact that the book was born on a Monday. (And that I don’t have to nurse it or get up in the middle of the night with it.)
Secondly, I’m guest-posting at Parents.com today. You can check out the piece I wrote here.
Thirdly, the book trailer is ready. For you. To watch.
(Also, it’s a big day because I’m making my famous chocolate-chip banana bread. This is not directly related to the book, but everyone in my family just loves this bread and they ask me to make it all the time. It’s really tasty.)
A few weeks ago, on a dreary Tuesday morning, a 20-something guy named Jeremy came over to film the book trailer. When he came to the door I looked past him to see if his boss was behind him, and then I tried to conceal my disappointment when he introduced himself as the owner of the production company. “Oh,” I said. “Come on in.”
Together we walked from room to room, trying to figure out the best place to set up. We decided on the small sitting area adjacent to the kitchen and, after rearranging some of the furniture, he started to unpack lights and cords and cameras. It seemed to take forever, and I kept watching the clock, mindful that I only had two hours before the big yellow school bus made its daily climb up the street and deposited my noisy children at our doorstep.
At one point I complained to Jeremy about how long this whole process was taking, and how I actually felt sorry for celebrities. “Don’t worry about celebrities,” he reassured me. “They have stand-ins who look like them. Those are the people who sit in their place.” I considered rushing up to to the elementary school and signing my daughter Rose out of kindergarten so she could be my stand-in while I took a nap. Then I realized she’s too short.
So there I sat, un-celebrity me with no stand-in, while Jeremy fussed and fidgeted with the lights and the curtains and the lamp behind me. (Note: nothing makes you feel old like having a 20-something single guy trying to adjust the lighting so you look your very best. His words, not mine.)
I looked down at the navy blue sweater I’d carefully selected for the interview and noticed it was all pilly because I basically wore it every single week for the entire winter. I untangled my necklaces for perhaps the thousandth time and made sure the clasps weren’t showing. I glanced over my notes and sighed. Loudly. At last he was ready.
“Relax,” Jeremy said. “Pretend the camera isn’t here. Just look at me, and tell your story.”
My story? What is my story?
I stared down at my stack of yellow index cards and saw what I’d written, phrases like sit up tall and autism spectrum disorder and developmental pediatrician and diagnosis. They didn’t look like much of a story. I took a deep breath and tossed the notes over the side of the chair, where they floated to the deep green carpet like the petals of a daffodil.
I looked back at Jeremy and started to talk. And as I talked, I made up new notes in my head. These notes had phrases like family and embrace and sweet little boy. They threaded a story about having a baby who never seemed quite right, who never smiled or babbled. Who was eventually diagnosed with autism. But, in spite of autism and the fear that gripped our hearts, Joe and I went on to have a family with four boys and a flowery girl.
It’s a story of how in the midst of the madness of five children, Joe and I find each other again and again. Through lime juicers and Fourth of July parades and epic trips to the barbershop, we are both still trying to be our best, even in our worst moments.
It’s a story about how time and time again I am surprised—astonished—by the kindness of the world around me. A world that has tentatively bridged autism’s seemingly wide gap through music and license plates and a dog in a hotel lobby.
A story about my going to IEP meetings and creating homework charts and worrying will he ever be normal, and then one day realizing that Tuesday had been orange the whole time. And if I stay very still and hold my breath and watch this boy carefully, he will, like a hummingbird alighting briefly on the tip of a flower, show me the rest of the colors that light up his world.
It’s a story of how I learned that autism does not mean broken.
It is our story, and yet at the same time it is everybody’s story—a story about the small triumphs and disappointments that make up marriage and parenting and life. How at the end of the day we all want the same thing; to sit around the dinner table and eat kale chips and chocolate-chip banana bread with a family who loves us for exactly who we are.
How perhaps my own family was not built in spite of autism, but because of it.
Check out the book trailer here.