Sunday, February 7, 2016

Autism Answer: Story Snapshots from California

Story Snapshots from California 

Story One:
I'm in California, babysitting my nieces and feeling infinitely happy to finally see them!
I'm in California, babysitting my nieces and feeling a deep longing for my sons at home in Texas.
These are both completely true statements.

Loving so many people is a wonderful way to exercise your emotions! The more people we love the more flexible and strong our emotions grow.

Story Two: 

My six year old nieces (twins) love love love to listen to and read stories. A few nights ago they remembered that I am a writer with a book published. They asked if I'm writing another book, and I said you bet! Then they asked what it is about, and I told them. 

They love it! They wanted more!

So I told them about the movie I wrote, which is filled with stories. They love it!! 

I'm having such fun sharing my stories with them, friends! Keeping the stories sophisticated while being sure they're also age appropriate. It's surprisingly easy! Big concepts are equally interesting and valid at little ages.

Interesting Observation: Listening to my young nieces call me a writer gave me a new kind of joy. Feeling them hang on my every word while I spin a tale, periodically reminding each other that my stories are so good because I'm a writer, led me to realize that to them I've always been a writer. In their young lives, Aunt T is a writer and always has been. They're the only people in my family who know me as the person who has always been doing what she dreamed of doing. Neat!

Of course, my nieces hang on every word when pretty much anybody tells a story. As I said, they love love love to listen to and read stories! But there's a neat new dimension when they talk about it like I'm a professional storyteller. And it's fun to explore and incorporate new dimensions! 

I wonder what story we'll tell tonight?
Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Story Three:

I woke up before the sun to the sound of my six year old nieces yawning and scooting around in the crisp sheets of my sister's bed. I felt them snuggle into me from either side and wished for a moment I could have it all. Quiet times with my nieces, coffee times with my sister, rocking out to intense and often inappropriate songs with my sons, dancing alone in my dance room, snuggling my hubby and working side by side with my mom. Laughing all night with my best friend and chatting on the phone with my brothers. All of that, and more! 

Of course, I do have it all. I just wished for a moment I could have it all, all the time and all at once; incompatible or not! 

But then one of my nieces (the one that shares my name) rubbed my arm and said: "Aunt T, you should write a book about two little girls who love their mommy but when she goes to work for a long time their Aunt T comes to babysit and they have so much fun. But then they have to go to school, but it's okay because soon their Aunt T picks them up from school and they have so much fun again. You should write that book." 

That was the moment I knew that this was the moment I wanted to be in for the moment!

It was almost magically timed as well. I'd just been thinking about writing a story for them that was sort of about our week together, but I was  thinking I'd have to create a fancy and fun world with characters who were similar to us yet different, so that it wouldn't be so darn obvious that I was writing our story and trying to make them remember this week with the delight that I'll always remember it. 

It turns out, these girls are completely comfortable with obvious! 

Now I'm just left hoping the teenagers will feel similarly about me. My teen nieces are wonderful, brilliant, beautiful, talented, and delightful. I adore them with every inch of my soul. However, unlike how easy it is to show affection to the little ones, I have to pull back with the older girls. I love teenagers because you can really truly chat with them, but they are (appropriately) suspicious of overly cheesy consistent praise and affection. 

Last night, after the little ones had fallen asleep, we sat up a while chatting and laughing and I truly listened to them. And when I just couldn't take it and I had to hug them, I did so with permission. And when I just had to tell them how awesome they are, I did so with specificity. I hope they felt the affection in that. 

I know that for me, it felt fabulous and fun! 

Oh, boy, friends! I am having a fantastic week!!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Story Four: 
I was driving my teenage nieces home from various rehearsals and appointments yesterday, listening to their typical teenage observations and ruminations. 

Eventually I hear them both offer some playful variation of: "My life is the worst!" 

I quickly countered passionately: "Not a single person in this car has a bad life! Sure, we have bad moments, but only awesome lives."

Both my nieces nodded while the thirteen year old offered: "That was totally quotable, Aunt T." 

I was giddy and goofy with joy. My niece thinks I'm quotable!! I played it cool, though. Turning onto their street I gave her a quick sideways smile in the rear view mirror and purred: "Yes, well, I'm a famous writer, you know. I'm infinitely quotable darling!"

We had a giggle!

I suppose it's only fair for my nieces and my sons to quote me now and then. After all, I'm always quoting their awesomeness to you!

Story Five: 

My first flight to California was seriously delayed and by the time we were able to board I was already late for my connecting flight. Landing in Salt Lake City, Utah, a group of us were given hotel vouchers and cute little overnight packs with toothpaste, toothbrush, razor and much needed (in my case) deodorant. 

At first I tried to find a new flight so that I could get to my sister and her girls sooner. I made phone calls and checked flight availability. In the end, though, I went to the hotel with a lively and fun group of strangers. We bantered and I told a story about getting pulled over for rocking out too hard in my car, insisting that the police officer really just wanted to get a peek at my adorable children. I don't know why I told that story, it's a lie. A friend of mine was pulled over for rocking out too hard in her car, not me. Oh, well. Strangers are a fun way to discover these things about ourselves. I remember thinking that if I said it was my friend someone might challenge the validity of the story and truly, I just wanted the story to be a vehicle to bring up how adorable my sons are, I was uninterested in a discussion of the story's likelihood as a destination. 

Anyway, as we got to the hotel and climbing out of the van I was delighted to discover snow surrounding us! My heart soared and I craved the company of my children. They would love to see the snow! Breathing in the crisp night air I suddenly felt young. My teen years were spent in Toronto, Ontario, walking and busing many winter nights to comedy clubs and coffee shops. Smoking cigarette's and singing to myself. Lordy, that was long ago! 

We headed carefully up the steps into the hotel lobby.

One of my fellow travelers pulled out a guitar and played quietly as we took turns handing in our vouchers and discussing our temporarily stalled travel plans. I thought of how many times I'd stayed with my sister and my nieces in hotels that were as nice as this one. When left to me and my pocket book I'm inclined to sleep in the car or grab a terrifically cheap motel. Not my sister. She and her family have always stayed in venues with coffee shops and fancy lobbies and rooms that offer expensive extras. I missed my sister.

I climbed the stairs to my room and entered, alone and exhausted. The room was too large for only me and so I dropped my sweater and bag and purse in different places, trying to make it look full. There was a fireplace that turned on with a switch. I turned it on and missed my sons again. They would get a kick out of that! I was oddly happy to be alone and missing all of my loved ones. Walking over to the window I peeked out at the snow again and heard it call to me. Leaving my sweater tossed on the back of a chair I picked up the room key and headed out. 

The night air tickled my arms and chilled my lungs. I spun in a circle and looked out at the city, not entirely blanketed in white but boasting a comfortable amount of snow. It looked used to it. 

My soul was excited, young, old, alone, lonely, complete, overjoyed, and lost. In short: deliciously overwhelmed! 

I had a moment of clarity. I missed my family. All of them, everywhere. Everyone is growing wings and choosing their own trajectories, taking flight and choosing different winds. I find it easy to encourage them, after all, I can't wait to learn from the things they do and the places they go! Yet my own home feels like it's getting smaller and insignificant. If home is where the heart is, and my heart is where my family is, where do I go? Where is my home? 

Looking down at my feet in the snow and embracing the deliciously overwhelmed feeling completely, I knew my truth. Home is where I am. I am home when I am authentic and comfortably me. When I embrace my strength and my vulnerability and explore my possibilities. 

Oh, friends!
There's no place like home!
Hugs, smiles, and love!! 
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)