Susan's Blog

Friday, November 7, 2008

Know Vember

It is the beginning
of your time
the end of fall
the start of your life
Your adulthood
Your childhood
mass together in the leaf pile on our lawn.
The death of the light
The Dementor weather, clammy and sucking

Are you feeling all of this
Has it sunk in yet that you are there
Not here
Do you understand “forever?”
It’s not forever
But I don’t know if you know
I still don’t know what you know
I only know that I wish
I wish I wish

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


I have a little boy.
What luck! Such a good idea, to wait 6 years.
I, surrounded by mountainous men.
still get
The slightly chubby hand
Dimples instead of knuckles
Regular use of bandaids
Farty noises
I still can
Make him happy with a surprise cookie
Kiss his head that smells like pencils
Tuck him in
But not in front of anyone
Only when he loses the prickly boy shell
And starts to soften with sleep.
Breath still sweet
Adorable small feet
About to burst into a pubescent terror
Pizza face, girl ambivalence
But until then
He’s just my Ben.

Hey, Nineteen

Nat’s birthday is Saturday, November 15. He will be 19. Dig it, 19. Okay, I am not going to get all emo on you right now; I have a head ache, a stomach ache, a hip ache, so I do not feel like talking about heart ache.

I am happy to have finally gotten my act together to formulate a plan for my darling. I have rented this for The Big Day. Nat and his friends love to bounce. So do many of their parents.

Of course the (edible) cake will also be fantastic. Stay tuned…

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

To Spaghettini — and Viande!

Family of five, family of five
That’s what gives me all my drive
I hate to cook
Rather write my book
But I’m happy to be alive.

I am in such a good mood. Probably because — well, I don’t want to jinx it so I won’t say it. But things look good.

But also I’m happy because of my family. And mostly because I had a good idea for dinner and everyone ate it! Ah, the power of meat. Max’s girlfriend, who is here pretty regularly, is a vegetarian, so I make her dinner in a separate pan with just the veggies. And I, who am once again on my much beloved-hated Atkins-Fatkins, have to have a separate pot for my low-carb pasta. It is, as my mother would say, a house full of kvetches.

But who cares? I am so used to it by now, veteran balabusta that I am. I can cook for four, five, and twelve. It’s the clean-up I hate. Anyway, it is a joy having Hannah here, too, not only because of her delightful sprite-like self, but also because she makes five at my table and five is what I am used to: Ned, Sue, Nat, Max, Ben.

Oh. There, my spirit plummets suddenly because I am thinking of Natty. On the phone tonight his voice was tiny. He repeated my questions without answering. Very little content. Finally I just felt that maybe what he needed was just to hang on the phone and listen to me talk. Maybe he just wanted to hear my voice. So, that is easy. I just talked and talked, and told him about all the upcoming Social Group events as well as the food I was going to make him when he was here. “Yes,” he said when I told him about the meat sauce and noodles that await him.

Truthfully the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach — and his arteries.

Monday, November 3, 2008

OnCall + Autism at ABC News

ABCNews.Com has launched a new website, OnCall+ Autism, full of resources and featuring several people/families’ stories. One such family should be pretty well known to you by now: The Batchelder/Senator family. You can click here and see all the stories. Ours starts out a little melancholy or wistful, which is not how I feel in general, but it is honestly recorded nevertheless. At any rate, the piece picks up and ends on a hopeful note. The reporter, Lara Salahi, was empathic and thorough. She visited us, got to know Nat, saw him at his Special Olympics swim practice, and pretty much wanted to be absolutely certain that she truly understood the spectrum of The Spectrum.

Could Have, Should Have, Would Have

At four in the morning, I woke up thinking about Nat. I had dropped him off yesterday at around 1, and it just did not feel good. Not the House: everything was the same; people happy to see him and he seemed happy enough to be there.

No, still, the problem is me. Well, that’s pretty simplistic and apparently self-hating. And I really do not hate myself; I just expect a lot out of me. I have a standard, written indelibly into my brain that guides me, for better or worse. Or maybe it resides in my heart, because it is kind of rigid and unseeing. I don’t know, I’ll try to figure it out before the end of this post.

I was remembering how it was when my cousin C died, and how her son — to whom I am pretty close — told me that because of the difficult, strained, and painful relationship they had had most of his life, it kind of made her death all the more devastating. I think he meant the unfulfilled potential, the untasted joy. The Could Have.

And then there was the time when Ned, Max, and I were watching baby videos of Benj. Oh my God, Baby Benji was just insanely cute. There was this fat, innocent, bouncing baby, wearing tiny Gap clothes and Ben’s face. You could see Ben in him somehow, but — Jeez I’m getting flooded with Mommy hormones just thinking about it. (Like the other day at the gym, I’m just sitting there, or really standing there, doing the Stairmaster at full blast, barely able to speak, when this young mom walks by with her toddler boy, and he is wearing a bumblebee costume. He had a square-round head tightly fitted into his Bee hood. Big blue eyes, huge unknowing baby smile. The mom scoops him up right in front of me, like a little beach ball, and he — cruel cruel creature — rests his head against her shoulder and looks up coyly. Max. Max, Max, Max Max… I just pushed my legs up and down, my heart bursting, remembering him — and he was even cuter than that baby! I mean breathtakingly, head-turning cute. Yes, you know what I mean. Just like yours. And I filled up with that baby juice, that I thought I had allowed to evaporate with my new mature Working Woman of the World self. But there it was.)

So when Max was watching that Baby Ben video, and he said longingly, “Oh! I should have hugged him more!” I knew exactly how he felt: Should Have.

And I, if I could have it to do all over again with Nat, I just would have enjoyed him more.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The ‘Hood, A Fad, and the Uglis

I awoke with a cand-over. This is worse than a hangover: it is, of course, a backformation invented this morning to describe a candy hangover (nausea, sore neck, headache, disgust for sugared food). This makes me want to write about Ben, who went out trick-or-treating with a band of ten boys, and a few weakly-costumed moms.

Ben is the most creative person I have ever met. It is typical for us to find piles of paper with creatures drawn on them and elaborately-fonted text explaining all about them. He invents whole cultures, languages, and even planets populated with his people. He makes them into Lego people. He talks about them as if they exist.

Recently in our home little slips of paper — the post-its I bought for work — have been turning up here and there with tiny creatures drawn on them. Ben’s work, of course. The post-its then appeared on a sheet of paper, stacked up one on top of the other. Ben explained it to me: something that began as an assignment, as part of an intro to economics (yes, in fifth grade!), the kids were to come up with items they would like to sell if they were to own shops. Ben teamed up with M and thus the Uglis were born.

Ben was quite willing to hang out with The Ten. He didn’t even know some of them. He is not really friends with most of them. But most were in his class, and lived around here.

This is not like the Ben of old, my little darling who was shy of large groups his whole life. Last night Ben just donned his “Keton” mask and costume and temporarily dyed blue hair, and became Kafei, and joined up with the ninjas and the grim reapers, collecting tiny candybars and running from house to house. He has become, in fifth grade, a looser, bouncier, happier version of himself, and he seems to be unfolding by the week.

I think one reason is the Uglis, the guys on the little post-its. The Uglis are Pokemon-like beings that Ben and M — and then also Ben’s best friend I — designed for their store. The Uglis “evolve” the way Pokemon do: one starts out kind of innocent, with fairly benign powers, and eventually morphs into its most powerful form. The Pokemon, as many of you know, have clever names. Squirtle, for instance, is a turtle-like Pokemon who evolves into War Tortle. (Squirtle was also the name of Ned’s beloved ’94 Civic, may he rest in peace. Ned actually donated Squirtle to one of our favorite charities, WBUR, which is the Boston branch of NPR, so you could say that Squirtle is not dead at all, but rather, has morphed into a new evolution, perhaps something like “Yertl,” for the famous hubris-filled turtle of Seussian fame.) In Ugli world, there is, for example, “Serafight,” an angel-like being who fights. Serafight evolves into Cheruboom, an angel-like thing with a cannon. And so on.

[break for coffee]

Ahhh, where was I? The Uglis. Well, Ben’s little shop of Uglis became a real-world meme of sorts throughout the fifth grade. Everyone started designing and trading their Uglis, with Ben pretty much in charge. Even girls were making Uglis.

Yesterday in the car Ben said to me, “You know how you get a whole bunch of people to play with you? You start a game where you draw creatures that you have to buy and sell to each other.”

“Oh, like the Uglis?” I asked, astute Mommy that I am.

“Yeah,” he said.

Maybe I should start drawing Uglis. I wonder if you can make them Pretties?

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