The Lights Are On

“Mom!” Nigel calls from inside the house. “Don’t forget we have to go to the animal shelter!”

“I won’t – I’ll be in in a minute!” I am hanging up the last strand of Christmas lights around the front roofline of our home and can barely feel my fingers. It is late afternoon, and there is still frost from this morning on all of the vegetation in our neighborhood. Baby, it’s cold outside. Cold and dry.

I climb down from the ladder, put it away, and plug in the lights. Then I step back a bit to view my handiwork. Hmm. Strange how those eight bulbs worked just fine when I tested the lights forty-five minutes earlier, before stringing them up. Oh, for crying out loud. Sometimes I wonder why I bother.

I run in the house and wash up, calling out to Nigel to see if he’s ready to go. Every Sunday afternoon for the past several weeks, we’ve volunteered at our local animal shelter as part of a community service requirement for his next level of Boy Scouts. The animal shelter welcomes under-18 volunteers as long as their parents accompany them. And so, we both go.

Initially, I resisted this time taken out of my much-needed and usually full weekends. How could we – I – possibly fit it yet another activity? How could I possibly get everything done? When was I going to squeeze in some down time? I already volunteer for the Autism Society of Oregon and various other Scout activities. Furthermore, we have pets at home to take care of! I didn’t have time to volunteer to take care of more animals! I did realize, of course, that this was the perfect opportunity for Nigel to get in his community service time for Scouts. The animal shelter is only a five-minute drive away, and Nigel loves animals. I decided to grin and bear it.

We get in the car and drive to the shelter. I laid down the law before we even started there four weeks ago: no new pets. No matter how cute they are, no matter how much you love them, no matter how long they’ve been at the shelter. Nigel had agreed. But after a month of being surrounded by cute kitties in need, Nigel starts saying things like, “I wish we could afford to take you home with us” when he’s holding a cat and I’m in earshot. I remind him of his irritation with cleaning the cat litter for the cats that we already have. He considers this a moment.

“I know!” Nigel exclaims. “I want to start my own animal shelter! That way, I can have lots of cats and have employees and volunteers to help take care of them.”

 So. We’ll just add that to the list of potential careers for my son, right up there with inventor and astronaut.  But then I realize that he’s absolutely right. He loves animals and wants to help those in need. And that’s exactly what he told me when I asked him why he wanted to start an animal shelter. I said that we could certainly look into it.

Meanwhile, my grin-and-bear-it time has turned out differently than I thought it would. I find that while I’m holding and petting the adult cats and playing with the kittens, I’m not thinking about anything else. I’m not stressing about the things that I’m not getting done and the time that I’m losing. I know! Can you believe it?! I just sit there and relax! There’s no computer, no phone, no calendar, no errands. It’s actually just what I needed.

The hour passes quickly, and we sign out and go home. When we pull up to the house, Nigel comments in a dry tone, “It seems like some bulbs aren’t working.”

And the best part is that it doesn’t even bother me.

14 thoughts on “The Lights Are On

  1. mama edge

    The Zen of petting kitties — sounds divine.

    Last year, a friend of mine got up on her icy roof to hang letter-lights that spelled out the words PEACE ON EARTH. Halfway through the season, some of the letters burned out, leaving behind the message PE E ON EARTH. She took it as a sign to lighten up.

  2. Carrie N

    “my grin-and-bear-it time has turned out differently than I thought it would”

    Funny how some things we initially resist turn out to be blessings.

    I was braced for hearing that you were going home with a new family member. Better to be leaving with renewed calm and peace!

  3. Michelle S

    Wonderful. On my Emma and Joe blog link they just adopted a kitty from the shelter here! There is a theme going on. I wish we could have a kitty. We are all SO allergic. It would be a great pet for us. Sigh. Daniel LOVES animals too.

  4. Brenda

    HOW PERFECT! Nigel’s idea is stunning! “It’s actually just what I needed.” – Wow, hon. I can SO relate. An afternoon of cuddling with kitties who need it … my idea of heaven. You both are amazing.

  5. M

    “We’ll just add that to the list of potential careers for my son, right up there with inventor and astronaut”

    He could combine all three and invent the first space shelter. One that hooks right in to the International Space station. I just like the thought of tiny kittens in little four-pawed astronaut uniforms.

    It’s great that he’s volunteering. I think this isn’t discussed enough: the fact that people on the spectrum are often worried about how they’ll do in job settings…and volunteering is a great way to test the waters, a perfect transitional step. i went through a long phase of isolating…was very nervous about re-integrating into social settings. the doctor pushed and pushed for me to volunteers. grudgingly, i did it. and it’s been a very positive experience. it’s something i’d like to write more about, advocate for with regards to spectrum issues.

  6. Kim

    I was totally thinking you had brought home an animal while reading this! Then it wouldn’t just be me that’s crazy enough to add animals to the family in the winter, just before Christmas no less!

    I volunteered at a no-kill cat shelter during college every Sunday morning for 2 years. I felt the SAME way while there. I didn’t think about anything else. It was so relaxing. I used to sit in the “shy room” and wait for the really fearful cats to come out and sit with me.

    It’s wonderful that he is volunteering. I think volunteering with animals is a great first step towards a job. When I was younger I thought that it would be best to work with animals – animals are nicer than most people!

  7. corrie

    I applaud you for even going outside and putting lights up!!!! Yeah! You are a better person than I.

    I’m glad that you and Nigel have found something in which you both enjoy.

    I’m with ‘M’ I was thinking Nigel should do all three, but M beat me to the punchline.

  8. rhemashope

    Like Kim, I was thinking oh no, she’s bringing home a kitten! Nigel’s idea is a good one. And I’m glad volunteering has turned out to be just what you needed!

  9. Nicki

    That is awesome that you and Nigel are doing this! I’ve thought about volunteering at the animal shelter because I love animals so much, but I’m afraid it would make me TOO sad… I’m extremely emotionally reactive about animals! But tell Nigel if he starts his own animal shelter someday, I’ll be one of his first volunteers!

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