Just submitted “Love in the Time of Corona” to The Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest. I originally wrote this as a memoir for my independent study at university and decided to convert it into a short story (not that my life isn’t awesome, but I wanted to use a little creative license). Each section is separated with a little poem; here is the first:
A wife, a widow, & a divorcee walk into a bar,
or, more likely, a restaurant,
because the wife isn’t looking,
the widow isn’t interested,
& the divorcee isn’t impressed.
As a mother of a child with autism, I have realized how broad the spectrum is. I was in elementary school the first time I heard of autism. I was reading The Baby-Sitter’s Club series (back in the eighties), where one of the girls babysat an autistic girl—a piano prodigy. Though some autistic children have special abilities, keeping in mind that not all do (nor should they have to, as if they need to justify their autism) is vital to not only accept them but appreciate them.
Ultimately, autistic children are just children who want to be loved, have fun, and may know more than they can communicate.
As a homeschooling mom, I’ve learned that part of teaching is not to make my daughter learn how I learned or teach how I was taught but to learn how she learns and then teach accordingly. I’ve learned that autistic children often express themselves differently, even from other autistic children. My daughter may not always tell me she loves me (at least without prompting), but I have recognized that when she asks for a hug, that, to me, is her way of telling me she loves me. I’ve learned to be more precise when asking questions. For example, when we were studying Galileo, and I asked her what Jupiter had four of, instead of moons, she said, “Consonants.” (She might have outsmarted me there!) I’ve learned that I need to understand that she sometimes has reasons for doing what she does. For example, as soon as we entered the accessible stall in a library bathroom, she tried to elope by crawling under the door; it took some strength to keep her with me. At the time, I just thought she was being disobedient. It wasn’t until weeks later, when we visited another public bathroom, that I figured out the hand dryer terrified her due to her sensory issues.
When you have a child with autism, you learn to be more intuitive and know when to extend that extra grace. We learn from them as much as they learn from us.
Learning about autism (and the terminology surrounding it) is ongoing. Some children don’t want to be labeled autistic, while others see their autism as making them unique, but one thing is for certain: We don’t need to fix autistic children because they are not broken.
When Sydney Cahill’s father died
& left a hole,
she went through that hole,
discovering a door to another dimension—
where she could revisit her childhood:
when her father had written
the Wacky Wildlife series
that had delighted his “little women,”
before her mother, the illustrator,
had lost the gift of capturing those characters
in earthy & metallic hues,
before her hometown had become
a ghost town.
Like a backdoor poet,
she crossed over that threshold—
not as an observer,
but as a participant.
When the memories of her childhood
during those moments
began to disappear,
replaced with her adult memories of them,
she realized that she had to leave her past,
for she was stealing the memories
from the little girl she had once been.
Evan Trotter’s Alma Mater
He had been known as the Big Mac on Campus,
always quoting himself
& speaking of himself in the third person,
of literature & philosophy,
& being both a public & private nuisance,
But when he met the humble scholar
who didn’t give him the time of day—
unless it was a.m. or p.m.—
in her shiny little clock face,
his sizeable width & lack of depth,
his attitude that had been one of latitude
& the tiny town he had thought
would someday be his
that could not be found on any map,
treasure or otherwise.
It was then that he knew
that the little magna cum laude
with the mechanical pencil
piercing her messy bun—
whose I.Q. equaled her E.I.—
was not the woman he wanted
but the woman he wished had wanted him.
The little stranger who lived with her,
who spoke not her mind
but to it,
the little stranger who lived inside her,
whose name was predestined
to be Evan or Emma,
& the tallish, lightish, & unconventionally handsome stranger
who lay beside her,
comprised the strangeness that had become her life.
She stared at the shiny face in the fogged-up bathroom mirror,
whose gray-dawn hair smelled of strawberry shampoo.
Through the mist,
she saw the face of the person she was now
but who would be a stranger ten years from now.
It was like looking into the past
from the future,
for this woman who stared strangely back at her
would be gone then;
every cell in her body would be different.
When she looked at pictures from ten years ago—
before the two little strangers
& the stranger who had given them to her—
I created these BINGO cards to teach my daughter coordinates (in the context of columns and rows rather than x and y axes). Unlike Geography BINGO, where we use coins to combine money math with state “geometry,” for Coordinates BINGO, we use Bananagrams. Whenever I call a “coordinate” (C#, R#), she places a Bananagram tile facedown. Once she gets a BINGO, we flip all the tiles over, which she uses to create as many words as possible. (I usually let her get BINGO at the 11th or 12th tile). Canva is an excellent homeschooling graphic design program for those who prefer (and need) to create their child’s curriculum. My daughter loves emojis, so she enjoyed helping me create these cards.
When nearly all the world had become infertile
from the measures taken to prevent overpopulation,
children became more precious than saffron,
rarer than the Sumatran rhino & Darwin’s fox,
for what did it mean to save the planet
when there would be no one left to inhabit it?
For the postmodern world began to suppose
that mothers & fathers were interchangeable.
Yet it was proven that one person
could never be both father & mother,
the best parent for what has always been a 2-parent family.
For to lose a mom
to lose a dad
or vice versa.
their flesh had become one,
but in the eyes of their children,
Mom & Dad were separate entities
that had merged their sacred powers of procreation
to create flesh of their flesh,
& to imbue that flesh with the spirit
they would send out into the world–
not to seek their fortune,
but to make the world more fortunate
for them having been in it.
For the world
became such a place,
that only the experts
on certain subjects.
One had to be an artist
to talk about art,
an activist to discuss politics,
a chef to critique food.
Such was The State’s way
the flow of
& so any talk of morality
was the first to go.
Just received another addition to my daughter’s time capsule: a collection of nursery rhymes I wrote after bringing her home from the hospital. When I put together a PowerPoint presentation on Transcendentalism incorporating the pastoral, the picturesque, and the sublime, I used this close-up of my daughter smelling a daisy (my favorite flower) to epitomize the childlike wonder of discovery. @mixbook does such a beautiful job. Unlike another service, my em dashes (and all other punctuation) are preserved in transferring text from Word to the app. As a grammarian, this feature is essential.