Church went well this morning. Martin had two toy trucks—with soft plastic wheels, which are quiet on the sanctuary’s stone floor—a board book, and a sippy-cup to keep him amused. I carried my mother’s ASD-recovery-compliant coconut macaroons, and deposited one into Martin’s mouth whenever he got too chatty. Martin was a vending machine of sorts: for payment of a macaroon, he dispensed several minutes’ silence.
During the hymn of the day I stood and held Martin in my arms. Martin, in turn, shoved his board book into my nose, blocking half my face and forcing me to bend backwards at the neck. It was terribly uncomfortable. I met Martin’s eyes and shook my head at him. Actually, I rolled my head slowly side-to-side, as best I could with my nose compressed against the book. In any event, I meant, No. Don’t do that.
My hopes were dim that such a simple gesture could stop the behavior.
To my surprise, Martin obeyed. He removed the book, glanced at my face, and turned his attention instead to the parishioners around us.
Thirty seconds later, we repeated the same sequence. Book into nose. Head-shake no. Martin understanding and complying.
This was nice, very nice. I checked off what Martin had achieved. He’d correctly interpreted a non-verbal gesture, even recognized that I was serious. (Most shakes of my head are greeted with his laughter.) He’d obeyed. I knew he wanted to continue shoving the book into my nose, because he’d done it again. But then he’d obeyed again. Hurray for Martin.
The closing hymn, appropriate for 9/11, was This Little Light of Mine. The congregation sang slowly at first, then gained speed until everyone fired up and clapping. Martin stood in front of me. I held his arms above his head, helped him sway and dance. He was ecstatic. He looked around himself and up at me (joint attention!), his face contorted in smile. He shouted, “I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine!”
We were on top of the world.
Of course, you can’t live in the real world and also be on top of it. At least not for very long. After church we needed to drive to Brooklyn. Fearing 9/11 street closures, we opted to take the Manhattan Bridge instead of the Brooklyn Bridge. This slight deviation from routine sent Martin into a frenzied tantrum, worse than we’d seen in months. I tried distracting him, making stern faces, ignoring, placating, hugging, to no avail. Martin was hanging out in that ASD place where every journey admits but one route.
When the tantrum was done, Martin returned to top form. We drove home and he accompanied Adrian to the park, charming and obedient. I resolved not to let a single blemish taint a magnificent day.
This little light of his, we’re gonna let it shine.