Last week Aaron went with his day group to City Arts, where he made a Halloween mask and also a necklace. He asked Misty, one of his staff, to send me a picture of them as he sat at the table. There he was in the picture, smiling and happy. Aaron, who really doesn’t like anything crafty very well, was having a great time that day. It made me happy, too…………and a little surprised to see him this way when he’s using his awkward fingers to make something. His lack of good manual dexterity usually causes anger, but on this day he was truly having a good time.
When he got home that day, he was very excited to show me the mask……….but his greatest animation came when he showed me what else he made. He had crafted a necklace – for me! I was touched as he handed it to me with a huge smile on his face, telling me that he had made a necklace for me!…………and would I wear it?
“Of course I’ll wear it!” I answered. I oohed and aahed over it as he stood there watching me slide it over my head. After he was gone, I just looked at his work of art. It was so elementary, so sweet, and I was taken back in time to my very young children as they stood looking up at me…….handing me their little creation that they had made for me, eyes wide with anticipation as they awaited my delighted response and my big hug. Now it was my nearly 29 year old grown son who had handed me a homemade necklace, but he valued my delighted response every bit as much as he and my other two had done when they were 6 years old.
I wore my necklace the next day. Aaron was pleased to see me wearing it as we went to his final annual meeting at his day group. It made me feel good to be able to affirm him in that simple way. I had it on when he came home and again he was pleased as I pointed out to him that I was still wearing his special gift to me.
But today, Sunday, was a little different. I was all dressed for church. I had set out my necklace and earrings, a matching set that went perfectly with the outfit that I was wearing. In walked Aaron to the bedroom, and there on my dresser he saw the necklace that he had made me. “Mom?” he asked. “Will you wear my necklace I made you today to church?” I paused for a second but I don’t think Aaron noticed it. I was thinking of how I really wanted to wear my perfectly matched necklace…….the one that went so well with my shirt and my jacket, and was a part of the earring/necklace set that I had planned to wear. But how could I say that to Aaron without making him feel like I really didn’t like his necklace?
So I told him of course I would wear it, and I reached for it instead of my perfect necklace and I slid it over my head. As I got my jacket on and looked in the mirror, I realized that my Aaron necklace actually matched my outfit very well………..but even if it hadn’t, I would still wear it. However, I must be honest and say that another thought went through my mind. It was one thing to wear this simple necklace with my shirt and jeans the other day, but to wear it with my nicer Sunday clothes was a different matter. How would it look? And would I be somewhat embarrassed to be wearing this childish necklace with my “grown-up” clothes? Then I had this thought, sad to say………..the thought that I could tell Aaron I was wearing the necklace, but on the way to church I could take it off and slip on my perfect necklace. Then before coming home I could change back into my Aaron necklace, I thought. But no, as quickly as that plan skittered across my brain, I tossed it aside and felt guilty for even entertaining it. The Aaron necklace it would be, and I would not be embarrassed but instead would hold my head up proudly as I wore my special keepsake necklace.
On the way to church I thought of that issue of embarrassment and I remembered yesterday, Saturday. I asked Aaron if he wanted to run down to Dillon’s with me, and of course he was very eager to go to the place where he knew he would surely see many interesting items and then get to buy a special treat. As we walked into the store we passed some boy scouts at the entrance. One of the boys asked if we wanted to buy some popcorn and I declined with a smile and a thank you as Aaron breezed on by, anxious to get in the store and start his exploring. I was looking at tomatoes when Aaron hurried up to me, an artichoke in his hand, a huge smile on his face, and water from the vegetable sprinkler dripping off his hand on to the floor. As usual, he was oblivious to the stares of those around me as he excitedly and rather loudly showed me his find……….and so we had our usual artichoke discussion before he put his first interesting find back in the artichoke pile.
Off we headed past the deli section, and as I turned to check on Aaron I saw that he had stopped at the deli counter, where he was intently staring at all the interesting food that was available. I just watched him as he stood there totally motionless, staring at all the yummy food, and then he turned to find me and he smiled broadly when he saw me. I reminded him that we would buy him some cereal today as we saw the display just ahead………and Aaron clapped.
“No clapping, Aaron,” I reminded him……..and I was aware of the looks from nearby shoppers who didn’t expect to hear a loud clap in the middle of the cereal display at Dillon’s.
Aaron chose his cereal and then followed me to the “cheese area,” as he would say. He was focused on Swiss cheese, unbeknownst to me as I looked for shredded Mexican……….and soon he spied the block of Swiss cheese on the shelf nearby. He was so focused on the Swiss cheese, in fact, that he whizzed right past the nice lady who offered him a sample of rotini. He barely grunted at her as he kept his eyes on the Swiss cheese, never looking at her as she offered her sample to him and certainly not saying a thank you or no thank you or even giving her a smile. She looked completely puzzled and Aaron looked completely happy as he held up his find…….a nice block of his favorite Swiss cheese. And I just smiled at the nice rotini lady and said no thank you as I followed Aaron to the treat aisle.
As we stood there looking at the candy, I heard it………..the noise Aaron makes that sounds like someone is passing gas. He makes the most authentic “passing gas” sound that I have ever heard aside from the real thing……..very impressive. But I am quite sure that people around us are equally impressed and are also wondering which of us is the guilty party.
“Aaron,” I say loudly enough for anyone nearby to hear, “I’ve told you not to make that noise with your mouth.” Emphasis on “with your mouth” as opposed to what I am sure they are thinking. I didn’t make eye contact with anyone and was relieved to walk away, where we paid for our items at the self-checkout and I kept Aaron busy loading the bags so that he wouldn’t wander away and end up over at Starbucks, where he would totally confuse the poor server there as he has done before. We took our bags, and as I placed our cart in the proper cart line in the entrance I turned and found Aaron examining all the fall gourds in the pretty display. We touched their bumps and ridges and laughed at how odd and grand they were, and then turned to exit the store.
That’s when I heard it again. “Aaron,” I reminded him, “I just told you about that noise.” That noise that for some reason echoes in the foyer of Dillon’s like nowhere else……….and I was so aware of all the boy scouts right outside the door.
Speaking of boy scouts, a different scout asked me once more if I wanted some popcorn and I said no thanks………..even as I heard Aaron mutter under his breath, “Go away, little kid.” I fussed at Aaron as we walked to the van and as I hoped that the boy hadn’t heard that remark. Aaron’s logic: “They asked us on the way in. They didn’t need to ask again.”
Oh Aaron. This makes all the sense in the world to Aaron in his world, but I explained things to him anyway and he seemed to understand………until the next time.
I thought of all these embarrassments yesterday in the short time that we were in Dillon’s as Gary and I drove to church this morning. I thought about these things as I wore my Aaron necklace around my neck as opposed to my perfect necklace that still lay back in my bedroom. Life with Aaron is usually lived Aaron’s way, do or die. There are many ways that life with Aaron is anything but perfect……….yet living this life is what we do. Through all the embarrassments and the frustrations, there is still a certain sweetness to our times with Aaron. We may have to swallow our pride and hide our red faces, but deep down we also have a lot of fun and a ton of joy……..on most days.
So I’ll lay aside the perfect and I’ll accept the unusual that is Aaron……..just like my unusual, slightly lopsided Aaron necklace that I wore this morning.
I wore it near my heart……..just like Aaron.