We were driving his friend Luca to the pool last summer and James was obsessing about traffic lights, as always, when Luca leaned over and punched him. "Punch buggy Red! No Punch backs!" he yelled.
James whined "Mom, Luca punched me!" Then immediately curious, he forgot all about the punch and asked "What's a Punch buggy?"
We explained the game, but he still didn't get it. Then all of a sudden he noticed the VW symbol on the car. "Mom! What's THAT?" he squealed, like he was seeing something incredible. I started to explain that each car company had a symbol, but before I could finish, he had noticed 4 other symbols and was asking me what they were in rapid fire succession.
He. Was. Hooked.
Within days, he knew each symbol and could identify cars before I could even make out whether they were sedans or hatchbacks. And the obsession grew as quickly as his expertise. He catalogued each car he saw, mentally keeping track of which ones were a dime a dozen (Priuses and Civics) or ones that he only saw a few times (Cubes and Corvettes).
Soon it was only "Fancy Cars" he wanted to find, although he still kept an internal list of every car he saw. I watched him scan the roads tirelessly, the same way I used to look on the side of the highway for bags of abandoned puppies I could rescue. I know. I have issues.
I wrote a blog post about his new love (click here if you want to read it), and within 5 minutes of hitting publish I received an email list of the 10 fanciest cars in the world from our friend Robbie. It made my day. James was overjoyed and kept a copy of it for reference (of course, he wouldn't bring it in the car because he was afraid someone would take it).
Then it snowballed.
His Uncle Steve started sharing pictures of a friend's Lambo and giving James books about muscle cars. His Aunt Heather regularly pins exotic cars to a special Pinterest board we made for him.
Tony's coworkers gave James both a Ferrari and Maserati hat. One of them has some connections she is going to tap into for James to see some fun cars, and a few actually have fancy cars and have made them accessible to James.
I posted on Facebook last month that I needed to find James a Bugatti and a DeLorean in Boston. Within minutes, Michelle posted a recent, local DeLorean sighting and Alysia sent me a link for Herb Chamber's Cars and Coffee (which just happened to be the upcoming weekend, and would feature his newly purchased Bugatti). James and Tony went on their first significant father/ son adventure together, and James still talks breathlessly about it more than a month later.
|Herb Chambers' Bugatti - 1 of only 300 ever made.|
James and Tony drove an hour at the crack of dawn to see it. TOTALLY worth it...
Cars are now entwined in everything that James is involved with, and they are actually helping him communicate. Everyone around us is now versed in "Fancy Cars". From our friend down the road who tagged a photo of a lambo he saw and "thought of James", to the friend across the street who talks to James about exotic cars daily and compares which ones are worthy, to the man we saw at an ice cream stand in CT with a 1960 Porsche when James made a beeline for his car and started asking a ton of questions (and since he was on a roll, he then went on to spend 20 minutes teaching his Uncle Mike everything he needed to know about Fancy Cars).
I love to ride with James and see him spot a Lotus on the other side of the Mass Pike when all I see is a streak of yellow, or hear him scream "LAMBORGHINI" from the playground as a black blur speeds down the road off in the distance. But I'm his mom and this is my life. I never expected everyone around us to rally around this obsession and I definitely never anticipated what the cars would do for his social skills and his confidence. James has always struggled so hard and so intensely to try to interact with other people. It has been heartbreaking and frustrating for me to watch him try to have a conversation by repeating the same questions over and over, so it is profoundly amazing to me that he is now actually creating specific connections with everyone around him. Purely by being himself and talking about what he loves.
He draws us in. It's in his nature. And as much as I am enjoying this obsession and am curious to see where it might take us, it makes me realize something much more significant. No matter what James' interest, he is going to be able to draw us all in.
And I know that we are all going to be happier for being part of whatever he uses to connect with us, and in doing so, being part of HIM.
Note: In fact, I have a handwritten note that I carry in my bag to the owner of the DeLorean, just in case I see it parked while I'm "casually" driving through his town center on the long way home from James' school, scanning, like James does, for a glimpse of silver. The note tells James' story, and asks if we can come visit his car so James can add it to his mental collection. I know he is going to love James' story and then fall in love with him. Just like we all have.
OH, one last very important note - the next Herb Chambers Cars and Coffee event is coming up June 9. James WILL absolutely be there. He just made us promise to take him. Click the link for details if you want to meet up with us and see the Bugatti!