He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.

This is James, and this is our story.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Road to Thanksgiving

My Grandparents lived 5 hours away from me growing up, and I only got to see them about twice a year.  We'd make the drive in our big old station wagon the day before Thanksgiving, sprawled out with sleeping bags in the "way way back", back when you had free roaming rights in the car and didn't even know how to use a seat belt.

The drive was not all "over the river and through the woods". It was NY State Thruway almost the whole way up.  Painfully boring. I hated the ride.  There was nothing to see, and on the odd chance something interesting was spotted, I was the one who ALWAYS missed it. I stopped bothering to look. It was worth it though to spend the weekend with my grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins.

When I went away to college, it was only about an hour away from Gram and Gramp's house. Still, my mom made me drive home to CT so we could drive to Gram's together, as a family. So I would make that 5 hour drive on four different days, each Thanksgiving weekend. It certainly wasn't the route I expected (or wanted) to travel to spend time with my family, but I did it because it was important to my mom.

The only saving grace was that I had a massive crush on the boy who would drive me and my friend to and from school, so we would wear sunglasses and pick seats strategically to be able to watch him in the rear view mirror the whole way.

He graduated a year before me, and without that, um, added incentive to comply with mom, I finally put my foot down about the drive. So Senior year, I went straight to their house from school, a day early, and got to spend a whole extra day with Gram and Gramp, before anyone else arrived. It was wonderful.

I felt like this:

After I graduated, I spent my first Thanksgiving away in Japan. I felt a little lost, but spent the weekend exploring. The active volcano I climbed and the wild monkey that jumped out at me on the side of the road and bit my arm gave me a lot to tell my family when I found an international phone booth and called home.

Gramp passed away while I was in Japan. Gram joined him not long after I got home. Without them, and with my parent's split around the same time, Thanksgiving pretty much lost all meaning for me.

If wasn't until Tony and I got engaged that Thanksgiving gave me new hope. His huge Italian family welcomed me, and my mom, with open arms. Dinner at Tony's cousin's house is something to look forward to every year. 30 - 40 family members (and any friends who might be without a family that year to dine with) just being together. No pretenses. Nothing but a lot of amazingly comforting food, wine, chatting, wine, laughing. Did I mention wine?

Still, the route we take is different than what I expected in the early years of our marriage. Autism and sensory issues make it very difficult for James to handle the day, especially so when he was younger, so I've always been slightly on edge and planning my next move to make sure that he is calm. Over the years we've learned what he can handle and how to help him if there is sensory overload. I don't put any pressure on him to sit at the table the whole time or eat anything he doesn't want, because I'd rather have him remember the day being about family instead of about rules and restrictions. And Tony's (now my) family gets that. Like I said, in this house, on this day, there are no pretenses. Everyone dotes on him and his brother and they make it an amazing day for them. One they will always remember and cherish.

We make this journey because we want to be with family we love, so we've changed the route a little to make it work for our family. We'll travel tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day, all 4 of us together. I now get to stare at the 3 boys I have ginormous crushes on and will for life. This time I don't need to hide behind sunglasses, fully aware that I wouldn't trade my life for anything, no matter where the road leads or how beautiful the scenery.

I hope your trip today has been safe and your day tomorrow is one filled with people you love, honoring those who have sat at the table with you and who always hold an important piece of your heart. Happy Thanksgiving.


Brenda said...

I love that. And I get it. No sitting at table too long and nothing he doesn't want to eat over here either. And the crushes. We love our boys.

Heather said...

Such a great post! I remember those drives all too well- don't forget all the tunes Dad would play along the way. It's funny the things you thought long and boring growing up are the things that make you wish you could go back for just another sliver of it in time again when we have grown up. This post did that for me, thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your boys- I love and miss you.

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