Winter break is over and the Nest is empty again. I dropped Sonny at the dorm a week ago, after a lengthy stretch at home.
“Five weeks!” I said to Dave. We were airing out Sonny’s room, making the bed, that kind of thing. I found a fuzzy orange mouse and a plastic ball that Capone would be glad to see again. “When I went to college we were on trimesters. I had two weeks. How are we going to keep him busy for five weeks?”
Dave tucked the sheet corner tight. He’s good; the bed looked ready for inspection by the strictest sergeant. “Sonny can handle all those little errands that eat away at your time. Send him for milk at the grocery store. Have him pick up the dry cleaning. Now there’ll be nothing to keep you from working on your French.” (see French Fried)
Unfortunately cat toys don’t make good projectiles, and they bounced harmlessly off Dave’s sweater.
The break had me worried about regression, a word that hung over kids on the autism spectrum like a storm cloud. Every year it seemed like the neurotypical kids took the summer off, but the Special Ed folks always wanted Sonny to do a summer program so that he wouldn’t backslide. Sonny’d made the big adjustment to college: working, attending class, doing his homework, practicing his instruments, making and socializing with friends. Managing his time. But five weeks was half a summer: was it long enough to regress?
Sonny spent the first few days watching TV, Skyping, and napping on the living room couch with a blanked pulled over his head like a dropcloth, Capone stretched out across his legs. Not in the mood for conversation. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I’d send him to the store or have him churn laundry upstairs and downstairs. We settled back into our late summer routine: Friday dinners out and occasional day trips to the bookstore and mall.
And then after a few days, Sonny pepped up. He went back to work on the novel that he started writing last spring. It’s a Norse mythology/space opera. He’d finished the first two sections of four chapters each before September and planned to get the third section done by the end of the break. Now whenever I walked through the living room, Sonny was composing on the Air Mac. He still wasn’t much interested in talking.
“How’s it going?”
“Fine,” he would mutter, two-finger-typing away.
“Am I still kidnapped?”
A sigh. “You’ll have to wait and see.”
“How about Boston? Are the aliens going to blow it up?”
“Mom. Go away.”
Yes, I’m in the novel. I’m the mother of the heroine, who starts out as an ordinary high school student and finds she has to save the universe. The heroine lives near Boston, just like us, and she has a computer programmer father, just like Dave, and a musician mother who is always asking her family to come to her concerts. (This made me a little embarrassed because it sounds a little nerdy or pathetic. Yes, Sonny attended his first orchestra concert at three weeks of age, and he’s done plenty of time at rehearsals and concert halls, but that’s mostly because babysitters are expensive…) At any rate, it’s interesting and a little weird to be fictional. It’s reassuring, too. Sonny writes kindly about us. His heroine enjoys being with her parents, and she rescues us in the end and saves Boston, which becomes a very important city in the Nine Worlds universe.
Sonny printed out the whole book (plus illustrations!!) three days before break’s end. Then it was back to long naps on the couch. That didn’t bother me anymore. I’d stopped fearing regression. Sometimes Sonny’s sitting on the river bank, relaxing near that flowing current of energy and inspiratio. Sometimes he’s just dipping a toe in the water, but when he chooses to, he’s swimming with that current, going with the flow.