Something . . . strange, but amazing, happened today. I am still in a sort of daze about it.
I took the boys to see a movie this afternoon, as promised for cleaning their rooms. They wanted to see Ironman, and I wanted to see Prince Caspian, so I decided to try letting them be by themselves. Another exercise for me in trusting and letting go. There have been previous times when we’ve gone to see a movie together and the boys have sat on the opposite side of the theater from me, and there had been no problems, so I thought they would be okay this time with me in a different movie. I bought them a few snacks, walked them into their theater, instructed them not to leave the theater unless they had to go to the bathroom, told them to wait for me in the arcade if their movie finished first, gave them a few dollars for the arcade, and told them I’d be in theater 2 if there was an emergency.
About half-way through Prince Caspian, I became aware of two people standing at the foot of the theater stairs, looking up into the audience for someone. One of them, I realized as my heart jumped into my throat, was Nigel. The other appeared to be a theater manager. Adrenaline coursed through me and I began to shake, thinking that either something had happened to Aidan, or Nigel had done something to cause a problem. Why me? Why now? Why? I dreaded whatever that manager had to tell me.
I don’t know what my face must have looked like as we stepped into the foyer and I tried to ascertain the mood of the manager. I was full of fear. The manager introduced himself as Mr. Bitteck (I believe) and told me that Nigel had requested a tour of the theater, and that it was fine, but that he needed a parent to come with him. I was in shock. I had braced myself for either horrible news about Aidan or a confrontation about something Nigel had done. I felt a bizarre combination of relief that no one was hurt or causing problems and exasperation that Nigel had not followed my instructions about staying in the theater with Aidan. I asked the manager if we could do the tour after the movies were over, and he said of course. So I thanked him, told Nigel to go back to Ironman and to stay with Aidan, and I wobbled on rubbery legs back to my seat.
I am glad that I had the remainder of a movie to sit through to be able to sort out my thoughts and feelings. If I didn’t, I might have chastised Nigel for not following my instructions, and I can see now that it would not have been the right time to make an issue out of it. I realized, as tears formed in my eyes during a battle scene of Prince Caspian, that Nigel had actually done something amazing. He went after a dream. He thought of something that he really wanted to do, and on his own he asked around to find someone who could help him. He has always loved movies. I just didn’t realize how much.
After the movie ended, I came out to the lobby and found the boys waiting for me. We asked the ticket taker to page the manager, and he came out and led us on an incredible tour of the projection rooms of the 15-screen movie theater (Cinemark Tinseltown). It was phenomenal. Apparently they only do this when certain individuals request it, and it had been a while since the last time anyone had. I was so impressed by Mr. Bitteck’s professionalism and his acceptance of Nigel as Nigel interjected the tour with trivia about film history involving Thomas Edison and the kinetoscope, the Lumiere brothers, and even the role of Nichola Tesla‘s work. Occasionally I would gently remind him, discreetly near his ear, “Let’s listen to Mr. Bitteck,” and he did. Nigel commented that he was excited to see a “piece of history,” and Mr. Bitteck confirmed that it was indeed just that. Within two years, the theater would be going completely digital. He also took us to an area where they splice the film and, at Nigel’s request, demonstrated how the machine worked. Nigel asked for a sample of the film and Mr. Bitteck offered to give him the spool of film for an entire trailer!! Nigel said, “I feel like I won the Kentucky Derby!” I tried not to cry.
We came out of the theater to a gorgeous sunset of purple, orange, and pink. Like the heavens were smiling with us. I drove home almost in a trance. I reveled in the wonder of what my son had accomplished, and what I had experienced because of him. I wished I could remember all the things I learned and all the things Mr. Bitteck had told us. Later, after dinner, I told Nigel that I was proud of him for doing something that was important to him. But then I quietly described to him how afraid I was in the middle of the movie when I saw him with the manager and I didn’t know what it was about. I think Nigel understood. He looked at me, and in the most sincere voice said, “Sorry.” And I hugged him and thanked him. Then he gave me a five-inch length of the film from his trailer. I will keep it forever, probably even frame it.
Last weekend I saw a really good local R & B band called Annie Mac, and in one of their songs, the vocalist sings, “If you want something, you gotta ask.” Nigel asked for something that he wanted. At one point during the tour, he turned to Mr. Bitteck and said, “This is the greatest moment of my life!” I hadn’t told Mr. Bitteck that Nigel had autism because I didn’t think it needed to be mentioned. But I believe he knew that he was in the presence of an exceptional kid. I couldn’t thank him enough.