Susan's Blog

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Renaissance Rebirth

People ask me where do I get the energy to do this and that. I truly do not understand this question and it makes me feel like I’m a little bit of a freak. But you know what? I am! That’s the answer. I am not normal. And like the bumper sticker says, it is genetic. I inherited it from my kids.

But — yay. Because my children really set me free. From Nat I learned how weird and utterly unlike everyone else a person can be. (My therapist would not like my word choice, “weird,” but I calls ’em as I sees ’em. Weird doesn’t have to mean undesirable or bad. I just like it better than “quirky.” It is stronger than quirky.) There is no one I know who is as (outwardly) weird as Nat. He just is his own Nat self all the time and I am very envious of that. It took me years to be comfortable with who I am and I don’t know if I will ever be as out-there-myself as Nat is. Sometimes I cringe for him, sometimes I worry so much about his oddness, his eccentricity, his mannerisms and how people will stare at him but by and large the world has treated him very well. People who see him love him. I think they know his sweet nature almost immediately and perhaps they, too, admire his openness to the world. While the stereotype tells us that people with autism are closed, I find with Nat the opposite is true. There is no one who is more openly him than him. He doesn’t hide from the world, he is right in the world’s face. The rest of the world — including me — don’t always get what it is he’s showing but nevertheless, there he is.

Ben, the youngest, is the toughest nut to crack. It may be that I feel the most like Ben, of all my children. I understand his shyness and his dark wonder at the world. He wants to understand everything very deeply, even if it is difficult to face. He has a sharp bullshit detector. With Ben you have to be at your most authentic or he has no use for you. He may not express that in words, but he draws it, he paints it. His art will break your heart but will also make you glad you are alive. Ben is chiarascuro impersonated. He teaches me how to not be afraid to go there, for the beauty he finds is indescribable.

And Max. Well, Max I think has set me free above all others. Like his father, he has learned how to be in the world comfortably. He takes people as they are and merely adds them onto his gigantic entourage and makes them feel lucky to be a part of his life. When you look at the world from Max’s point of view, you feel like anything’s possible and you don’t feel burdened by that possibility. The other day I got to see how this works.

Max had come home for my birthday weekend. We were planning to go to King Richard’s Faire as part of my birthday celebration. He and I decided to go to The Garment District, a vintage clothing-costume shop in Cambridge. We wanted to get a few things to embellish our costumes. I was still uneasy about dressing up in Renaissance garb — I didn’t want to feel silly. But on the other hand, I’ve wanted to do that my entire life. I do not come from a family who knows much about dress-up; I had to teach them. And from that I learned that it was hard to just go ahead and have costume fun. But as an adult I have learned slowly. Starting with dressing up for Halloween to take the kids trick-or-treating, and then when I became a bellydancer and collected costumes, I have really become someone who does dress in costume. But never much in public.

Inside The Garment District, I pulled out costume after costume, pleasure warming my face, but then reality would come down like rain and I would put the stuff back, thinking, “Yeah, but I’d look ridiculous. I’m too old.” Then we got to the Fairy Corner.  There were flowered, beribboned headbands, wings of every color, floral combs, angel fluff stuff and I just could not leave. I gently touched the sparkly stuff, and I muttered, “But aren’t I too old?”

Max suddenly said, with only the faintest trace of exasperation, “You think that too much.” And I felt the rain just lift. Max had brought in the sunlight and I realized I could do just what I want. It was completely okay.

Next morning we all woke up and got to work on our costumes. Well, not Nat. He was going to the circus with his social group — a perfect alternate activity for this family. Anyway, Ben had elf ears and a long brown cape. Max wore a leather aviator’s cap and the black cape he’d bought at Garment District. Ned did not dress up, and that is his right. I pulled out sparkly gauntlets from my pink and red bellydance costume and drew them on over a deep blue velvet Laura Ashley dress. I slipped a magenta bellydance skirt over the skirt of the dress and put on long hair extensions. Perfect.

When we got out of the car at King Richard’s Faire, I saw droves of kindred spirits: adults and children dressed as knights, fair ladies, elves, monks, strange magical beasts, kings. We all marched through the gates into the old fashioned village, swaggering, laughing. Everywhere I looked, happy faces. Grown ups leading their children, and in my case, children leading the adult, showing her how to let go and just be. Everyone around us had that light in their eyes, the shine of people being who they are. Even if it meant being entirely disguised in Renaissance garb.

1 comment

Both boys bring in the sunlight for me all the time, and force me to just stop and “be”. One of the many reasons I love them so. Love that your boys do that for you too!

— added by kim mccafferty on Thursday, October 24, 2013 at 1:28 pm

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