Monday, October 3, 2011

Social skills?

Our neighborhood had it's fall picnic over the weekend. Unlike the weekend before, the weather was perfect, and the turnout was good! My son went with me for the very first time. He used his best social skills, shook hands with the people I introduced him to, enjoyed the hamburgers and hot dogs, stayed much longer than I thought he would, and chose to leave when he felt uncomfortable. I was very, very proud of him. His social skills get better all of the time.

This story isn't about my 26 year old autistic child, however. This story is about neighbors.Like  the 2 year old I met at the picnic. His behaviors were the spitting image of my son at that age. He was a beautiful little boy, the MOST interesting grey eyes, and to this MOM, exhibited many characteristics of autism. His parents had their hands full keeping up with him!

I attempted to open conversation with his parents a couple of times. After all, if he is indeed autistic, I have a lot of experience. I could offer support and encouragement. But, they are fairly new to the neighborhood, and seemed a bit wary. Now that may or may not have anything to do with their son, who may or may not be autistic. It could have just been the nerves of meeting all of us old folks, many for the first time.

Our neighborhood is a throwback to a different time. The 100 homes in our subdivision are inhabited by mostly older folks who have lived together for decades, raised families together, become family for many. I can remember the address of the Southern California house I grew up in, if pressed I might be able to figure out the addresses of the rest of the houses on our street. But in my mind, and my memories they will always be remembered by the names of the families that were living there. Our house was the Jones house, William E to be specific, and we had to be because directly across the street was the William H Jones family-no relation. There were 6 original families, families who built their homes themselves, upgrading over the years. Then in the late 1950's a new subdivision replaced the fields across the street creating a new neighborhood. A very interesting neighborhood, a mix of ethnicity's and family styles moved into the really nice 3 bedroom houses-2 floor plans available-that were affordable for working class families.

The homes were built on the same floor plans, but every house had it's own color and landscaping as the families made them their own. As we children grew up together we knew all of the houses by the names of the families. We knew that we were safe on our way to school as we walked past the Bartletts, the Martinez, eventually past the Bachelor's house. As an adult I know that the bachelors were a same sex couple. As a child, they were just the Bachelors, a very important part of our community. They were always there to lend a helping hand when needed.

I thought about the Bachelors today. I was reading some really hate-filled comments on facebook, and I felt so blessed that I grew up in a diverse neighborhood. A neighborhood where you were not judged by anything other than your being part of our lives. I don't know when it dawned on me that the Bachelors were a 'same sex' couple, because it just didn't matter. What mattered was that they were neighbors. Good neighbors. It can be so easy to get jaded in this day and age, but then I think about our neighborhood and the neighborhood I grew up in. When I see people saying ugly things, I need to remember that there are places in the world where you can grow up to believe that all people are just your neighbors and it doesn't really matter whether you have much in common with them other than the most important thing, they are part of the weft and weave that makes up the tapestry of your life. Just like this neighborhood has been for my unique son, and hopefully will be for the little guy with the grey eyes.

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