Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Autism Answer: Light My Fire

"Look it up on YouTube," mom suggested, tossing another useless match onto the pile of kindling. 

While my youngest sons grabbed their phones and searched "How do you light a match without the striker" I laughed at myself for having been so overly confident about this skill to begin with. In my own defense, who wouldn't assume that they - a competent grownup - could certainly find a way to light a match, even if it wasn't a "strike anywhere" match, and even if you were without a striker? I suppose I should have gotten a clue when the young State Park employee had been so apologetic about offering me only the matches. But I was a bit busy acting overly confident to compensate for the ridiculous camping mistake of arriving without matches to begin with. I'm not a newbie camper, so I knew better. But it had been a long time since my last camping trip, so I forgot what I knew.

So here we were, watching YouTube videos and trying tricks that weren't working for us; our first morning at the campsite and we were without a fire for coffee. Not okay!

"I'll head over to that RV over there and see if they won't mind lending us a lighter," I offered. Sure, it's been a while since I've gone camping but that doesn't mean I don't remember that one of the greatest joys is meeting new people. So, borrowing a lighter could be a conversation starter as well as a fire starter! (These are the things I tell myself as I justify my forgetfulness. In truth, I'm not much of a conversationalist before my morning coffee. tee hee!)

Well it turns out Jan and Gary, our neighboring campsite couple, were volunteering at the state park. And Jan was more than happy to lend me a lighter. Indeed, she was so friendly and open that even without coffee coursing through my veins we chatted. I learned that she and her husband were living in the RV, and were able to stay onsite free of charge by volunteering as Camp Hosts in the park. Well, I'll be!

"What a brilliant way to live! You know, I have plans to live in my car when all of my sons have moved out," I told her, peeking over at our campsite to see my family still struggling to start a fire. "I'll keep that in mind, volunteering at State Parks in order to have a place to stay. These are the sorts of things I haven't really worked out yet."

"Oh, ya," she added, "I was living in a tiny house when I met my husband. Now that we're retired we're living in our home on wheels. We registered our cars in South Dakota, we have our PO Box there, too...."

"Wait! So, you figured that stuff out too?!" I was amazed! So far all I had done was imagine myself and my computer driving or sleeping or writing in my car, and then showing up at different family members homes for coffee and chat time. Oh, and showers!

Jan told me quite a bit more about how to turn the dream into a reality, adding that she has a blog, Tiny House Times, where she shares a bit about the journey she and her husband are on. Not only that, but she offered me a pamphlet from Your Best Address in South Dakota that had all the info I needed to live on the road while keeping a legitimate address. (My mom, my brothers, my boys and I had lived in an RV for a year, traveling the country and loving life, but we thought we'd have to "finagle" paperwork and legitimacy if we were to live on the road much longer.)

I learned all this, and I still hadn't had coffee!!

I thanked Jan for the lighter and again for the info, truly appreciating her unique ability to let me see what my future could be. I gotta say, it looks kind and happy. And absolutely possible!

With a bounce in my step, one that is generally reserved for after my morning coffee, I excitedly joined my family, borrowed lighter in hand.

While my boys built the fire and my mom prepared the coffee for perking, I told them about Jan and Gary. As we waited for the coffee to darken deliciously I imagined my future again. Living in my car, writing my stories, visiting my family. But now it felt entirely possible and not even overly weird. Lots of people do it! Lots of people live on the road!

Later on that same day I took a quick trip to the nearest store, breathing in the Vermont views and fresh air while imagining my future. My sons pointed out vista and gazed off into themselves in awe, talking about their own futures as well. We knew, this trip was changing us. Well, no. Bringing us more to ourselves. Giving us to us.

We grabbed some simple foods and my son bought himself some Vermont maple syrup. 
And I made sure to pick up a few packages of matches.

Back at the campsite we built a fire, this time using our own tools. 
I soon headed back to the Camp Host site and chatted a bit more with Jan. Gary was there too, so I had the pleasure of meeting and chatting with him a bit as well. I could feel the pull of my family though, wanting to spend as much time as possible with them in this nourishing environment. So I returned the lighter and I thanked her. 
As evening fell and I walked back to my mom, my brother, and my sons, I silently thanked Jan for lighting my fire. Now, though, it was in my hands.

Now, I would light my own fire.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!! 

A view in Vermont.