One of Nigel’s favorite conversation-starting scripts (when “What’s your favorite natural disaster?” doesn’t go over too well) is “What’s your favorite Disney movie?” He loves to ask people this and has asked me many times over the years, even though I’ve told him the same thing each time – The Rescuers. I think I was seven or eight years old when it was released in theaters, and I just loved it. The story intrigued me, and I found the characters both touching and funny. When we got the LP record, I listened to it so much that I memorized many of the lines (um…I guess it runs in the family). Nigel always seemed to forget after I told him that it was my favorite, but I didn’t think too much of it. It could be that it was just a comforting script for him, and the repeated asking (fortunately not daily!) didn’t bother me too much.
Several years ago, on one of my occasional trips to the bookstore to hunt for autism books (this was back in the days when Barnes & Noble did not have an autism section; the entire special needs category, in a large bookstore, encompassed a single shelf with maybe only one or two books on autism, if I was lucky), I happily discovered Exiting Nirvana by Clara Claiborne Park (who also wrote The Siege). Nigel was seven or eight at the time, and this was the first book I’d read on autism that not only gave me hope, it was actually helpful. I highlighted many passages throughout the book (on almost every page!) because so much of what I read of the author’s daughter reminded me of my son.
One of the sections that really stood out to me was about her daughter’s development in thinking of others and doing thoughtful things for other people, keeping in mind their needs or preferences. The most memorable part of the book for me was an anecdote that illustrated how, in adulthood, she had finally mastered this. While walking on the beach with her father on a cold and windy day, she decided to go back to the house for a sweatshirt. When she returned, not only did she have her sweatshirt, she had also brought her father’s jacket, unasked. My heart soared just reading about it, thinking that someday my son might do the same.
My sons are 700 miles away, visiting their father as they do every summer, and I haven’t seen them for six weeks. We talk on the phone and occasionally exchange little emails, a new development since last year. A month ago, after they had been gone two weeks, Nigel asked me to email him pictures of our cats, so I took some new ones and sent them. The next time we talked on the phone, I asked him if he received them, and he said yes and thanked me for them (!), and I thought that was the end of it. I was just happy about the unprompted thank you (a recent milestone for him)!
A few days ago, I received the following email from Nigel. It might have taken four weeks for a response, but it was worth it. Imagine my complete delight.
Hi mom, thanks for the photos. So I thought of a photo to send to you in return. It’s of two of the characters from your favorite Disney movie: The Rescuers.
I love and miss you and I hope to talk to you again sometime.
From your son, Nigel