The other day, I got a comment on a post from a reader who identified herself as a young adult with Autism. She told me that she could relate to the post and shared a touching story in return. At the end of her comment she said, “I have a feeling if we lived closer, Brooke and I would get along great,” and she asked if we could e-mail.
I sent her a note and we began a conversation. Later in the day, I found my way to her blog and then to some of her other writing online. I read about her advocacy and about why she had made it her personal mission to change the way that people think about autism. The more I read, the more I wanted to hug her.
Eventually, she asked if it would be okay if she wrote to Brooke directly. My only suggestion was that she keep it relatively short as Brooke tends to get overwhelmed by too many words on a page. (Random side note: a great tip from school — cover the page with a blank piece of paper so that the only thing you can see is the line you’re reading. Helps immensely!) Anyway, she happily agreed and within minutes, this was in my inbox:
My name is Cammy. I have Autism too.
My favorite color is pink. What is your favorite color?
I am going to Disney Land soon. Do you like Disney?
My favorite Disney movies are Tangled and Toy Story 2. What are your favorite Disney movies?
I showed the e-mail to Brooke later that night, but she was minutes from bed and it just wasn’t happening. I wrote to Cammy to let her know that it might take a couple of days for us to respond.
Last night, we tried again. Before I could say, “Boo,” Brooke took the computer from me and began to type. I had expected to be prompting her to answer Cammy’s questions, but she made it pretty clear that she would do it her own way. I think it was when she said, “I would write whatever I want,” that I got the hint.
When I saw what she was writing, I laughed. And then I panicked. The first line of her e-mail read, “To Cammy, I was robbed.” Worried that Cammy might call the cops, I knew I had to do something. I grabbed my phone and shot off a quick e-mail.
Brooke is next to me working hard on her email to you. So far she’s written out the script of what Sally says to Linus in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. She’s added some silly stuff to it that is making her laugh. I hope you don’t mind that she might not answer your questions. We’ll get to that at some point, but for now she’s really enjoying writing to you so I hope it’s okay that it’s not exactly what one might expect in a traditional correspondence .
And then I sat back and enjoyed watching my kid type whatever she wanted. One little finger at a time, she put together exactly what she wanted to say. I sent it off to Cammy with just a couple more notes of explanation.
Notes from Mama: What follows is Brooke, unedited. Please don’t think she was actually robbed today .. I promise she’s fine. The beginning part is a script from It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Her question “Do you ever feel like a firework?” is from one her favorite songs, “Firework” by Katy Perry. There are no firemen here and no alarm to test. I think she brought that up because she’s worked very hard to get over her fear of fire alarms at school and it’s something that she thinks about a lot. And “baby Mama” is what she calls me when we pretend that I’m a kid and she’s the mom – a game she loves to play. With that, here’s Brooke….
I was robbed. I spent the whole night waiting for the great pumpkin but I couldn’t go out to trick or treat. Halloween is over and I missed it. You block head. You got me kept by a beagle and I couldn’t go out to trick or treat but it was all your fault I’ll sue wez a school I was* I could have had candy apples and gum. Or big cookies or all sorts of things. But no. I had to listen to you, you block head. Wez a school I was. Trick or treats come only once a year. And should of miss sitting in a pumpkin patch with a block head. You owe me restitution! It is nice to be with a friend of mine. My favorite color is pink. Do you ever feel like a firework? The firemen are gonna test the fire alarm. I love it when Mama is baby Mama.
I thought about it as I hit send. To whom else in this world could my kid send that e-mail? Who else would get it outside of our circle? I’d ‘known’ Cammy via online correspondence for two days. Two. And I knew that it was okay to send it to her exactly as it was. I even suspected that she wouldn’t really want it any other way.
Cammy wrote back and sealed the deal.
Halloween is so much fun! I like candy. It is yummy! I love the firework song. I do find that sometimes I do feel like a firework, like when I am overwhelmed and things around me are too much. I never thought about it as a firework before, but I like that description! Fire alarms can be loud. My room is pink. It sounds like you have fun playing with your Mama.
I know I sound like a broken record when I talk about how important I think it is for my kid – our kids – to find each other, to have a community of their own. But this, this right here, is why.
Because my kid can write out the damned script of a Charlie Brown movie and her new friend (You caught that right? When she said, “it’s nice to be with a friend of mine”?) responds with, “Halloween is so much fun!”
Because she gets it. Because she gets that it has meaning and she gets that it’s part of how my girl interacts and has fun and is her fabulous, sassy little “I would write whatever I want” self.
She GETS it.
And it’s not just okay. It’s not just tolerable. It’s not even odd. It’s just awesome.
Yes, it’s just awesome.
Ed note: It took me twenty minutes to figure out “wez a school I was.” I’m fairly certain it’s how she heard “What a fool I was.” I foresee myself using this a lot.
Ed other note: E-mails used with permission. Names changed to protect privacy.