A few weeks ago the kids had the day off for Hurricane Sandy. Around here, the media dubbed it “Frankenstorm” because it coincided with Halloween. Normally it’s not a big deal when school is canceled, since I basically work from home and have a really flexible schedule. Except on this particular day, I was supposed to figure out the subtitle to my book and e-mail it to the publisher.
But, like any good mother, I put my own needs and wants and interests aside and focused wholeheartedly on my children. We spent the morning reviewing flashcards I made out of recycled paper and building wigwams with popsicle sticks. For lunch, I made a nice large pot of chicken noodle soup with whole grain noodles, organic chicken raised on only the choicest corn during their happy lives, and vegetables leftover from our summer garden.
After we ate I curled up on the couch with all five kids, our tummies round and tight and full from such a hearty meal, and we started a lively discussion about the role of church and spirituality in our daily lives.
If you believe anything I just wrote, then I have a bridge to sell you.
There are only two things true in the paragraphs above: school was canceled and I did need to figure out my subtitle.
So, I spent the morning scrambling back and forth to my computer, trying to spark my creative juices in between fixing snacks, Wii remotes, and playing Stack the States with my five-year old. (She wins every single time.)
I enlisted the help of nine-year old Joey; he’s always been very interested in the book and even wrote a chapter about having an autistic brother. He suggested, “What Color is Monday? One family’s struggle with autism.” I told him it sounded generic and bland, and to try harder.
“Well,” he said, turning back to the Wii. “That all I’ve got.”
Subtitle, subtitle, must think of subtitle. I wandered back to my desk and thought hard about my book, about how to describe it so people will know it’s about Jack and our family and autism. One family’s struggle with—“MOM! Can you make popcorn?”—A mother’s memoir—“Mo-om! Do we have any batteries?”—How Frankenstorm ruined one mother’s chance to make something of herself.
Around eleven o’clock I gave up and we all worked on our Gangman Dance. I don’t want to brag, but I rock at this dance. I mean, I’m way better than my kids. They seem to lack the coordination to move their wrists properly.
Oh, and I did make homemade chicken noodle soup for lunch, but when I set it down in front of Jack he bellowed, “This is the WRONG SOUP! I like soup from the BOX.” Plus I didn’t use anything organic, so it’s possible the chickens didn’t lead such happy lives and maybe the corn they ate wasn’t all that fresh. I’m not sure how you would even tell if a chicken is happy or not. They never smile.
Around 3:00 we broke into the stash of Halloween candy and gorged ourselves on Almond Joys and Kit Kats. Actually, the kids don’t like Almond Joys so I ate them all myself.
By 5:00 I started to panic. I tried an extortion tactic on Joey and told him there would be no dinner until he came up with at least three decent ideas for my subtitle. He smirked at me over his Legos and said, “That’s okay, I’m not really hungry anyway because I ate all that candy.”
On Tuesday we woke up to clearing skies and a warm rain. Aside from a few tree branches scattered across the lawn, we were unscathed from the storm. Although the kids were off from school again, the day had lost its magic. Instead of another morning lingering over coffee and pancakes, we all launched into the everyday topics of Halloween costumes and spelling lists. And just like that, our family was whisked from the hurricane of Frankenstorm back into the hurricane of life.
Joe left for work and I stood at the sink rinsing breakfast dishes, wishing for one more day on the couch, one more day of the wrong soup, one more day of Korean music. Just then Joey shouted down the stairs, “Mom! Maybe we shouldn’t wear our Halloween masks this year. You know how Jack doesn’t like masks, they scare him.”
And from behind him, Jack’s robotic voice, “I can do them. I can see a mask this year. Okay, it’s okay.”
And then at once it came to me. My subtitle: How autism changed one family for the better.