Tag Archives: sewing

Obsessions: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

I loved tigers when I was a child. I collected tiger stickers and books about tigers; I lived for Wild Kingdom episodes about tigers. In fact, I still love tigers. In adulthood I’ve acquired two four-foot-long stuffed tigers, various tiger photographs and wall art, and even a tiger tattoo. It’s really the only obsession that’s stayed with me into adulthood. During childhood, I went through various flash-in-the-pan obsessions. I had my rainbow phase, my unicorn phase, my I-must-be-adopted-and-I’m-really-a-long-lost-princess phase. When I was interested in those things, I lived, ate, slept, and breathed them until they ran their course.  

Because of this, I completely understand my son’s Obsessions of the Week. Unlike his lifelong Lego obsession, the Obsessions of the Week don’t last too long and then fade into the background. They are often revived, and never completely abandoned, but they also never exist with the same intensity as their initial flare. Some are all-but abandoned, meaning that even though Nigel is no longer obsessed with them, he refuses to part with their physical manifestations. Take, for example, his popsicle stick obsession. I always thought that he was keeping them for one of his projects, and when he never made anything, I asked him if we could get rid of them. Noooo! He was saving them because he likes the riddles printed on them. Then there was his acorn obsession. Living in a suburban area and taking many camping and hiking trips on top of that, he accumulated an entire dresser drawer full of acorns over the course of about a year, thanks to a love of Scrat from Ice Age.

His other old Obsessions of the Week fall into various categories. He became obsessed with making things that (fortunately in most cases) never materialized: his own Rube Goldberg maze, his own Jurassic Park, a homemade spacecraft, a bomb shelter, and a covered wagon. Many of his obsessions are movie-related: The Goonies, The Terminator, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Dare Devil, Spiderman and Superman, King Kong, Back to the Future. And many others are history-related: World War I and II, the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, the Cold War, Vietnam, Titanic, the Oregon Trail, Clovis people, Ancient Greece, and various natural disasters, especially involving tornados and volcanoes.

But, like me with the tigers, Nigel also has obsessions – besides Lego – that have stayed with him a remarkably long time. He is a rock collector. We have baskets of rocks of diverse sizes and types all over the house. And sticks. Nigel has a fascination for sticks that I’ve never understood. That and the trash hoarding. He has drawer-fulls of trash in his room. Food wrappers, papers, pieces of plastic, bottles, lids, cans, packaging – the list goes on. I’m not sure how to deal with this situation. I think that it’s part of his OCD symptoms, but I’ll need to look into it further and discuss it with his doctor. In any case it falls outside of the cute and manageable Obsession of the Week criteria. He also exhibits other compulsions and rituals, like having to do some things in a certain order and needing to somersault down the hallways of the house to get from room to room. Those things don’t concern me too much, but the trash does.

And so I love the easy Obsessions of the Week. Aside from having to put up with a few one-sided, rapid-fire monologues and talk down some unrealistic notions, they are cute and manageable. This week’s obsession can easily be identified by walking through the house and noting things that Nigel has left out in various rooms – pincushion, scissors, thread. He has been sewing again. He had some leftover pelts from his Chimera project and turned one of them into a furry wallet. He also made a hat for Mrs. Brisby. I always thought she looked cold in that movie. Maybe Nigel thought that too, animal lover that he is. I just thank my lucky stars he’s not one of those kids that brings home all the strays!

Autism and Creativity

The night was winding down. Dishes were washed, showers were taken, lunches were made (we shower and pack lunches the night before), and homework was checked. I walked back through the house, ready to return to working in my office, and I did my nightly perimeter check, shutting off lights and checking doors. A bunch of Lego and string cheese wrappers greeted me in the living room.

“Nigel,” I said as I walked by his room, “why haven’t you picked up your stuff in the living room yet?”

His response: “Can’t you see I’m making a Chimera?”

Some of you may recall about two months ago when Nigel removed the stuffing of several of his stuffed animals and collected the stuffing in a bag with the plan of making something else at a later date. I figured that this bag of stuffing, like many of his well-intentioned projects, would sit around forever and nothing would actually ever come of it. Over Winter Break, while he was at his dad’s house, I considered getting rid of it before he spread it all over the floor. His room is messy enough already. But for some reason I didn’t throw out the bag of stuffing.

And as I entered his room that night to try to ascertain what the hell he was doing, I saw the bag of stuffing on the floor, and the stuffing was profusely billowing out of it. Nigel was on his bed with one of his stuffed animal carcasses in one hand and a threaded needle in the other. He was sewing.

Nigel has done some sewing before, since a few years ago I taught him how to sew his Boy Scout patches onto his uniform. He has also sewn “bear hands” (gloves made from a previously stuffed bear) of his own design, and a few other minor projects. But his Chimera was quite an undertaking. He combined the body of a lion with a wolf’s head coming out of the back and an eagle’s head coming out of the chest, sewed them together, and then restuffed the body. A close look at the finished creature:

 And the proud creator:

Maddy, I’m sending him your way.