Thursday, April 28, 2011

B is for Best Friend

B is for Best Friend

Jake doesn't have one.

Not a bestie, not a buddy, not even a one.

Not. one. friend.

Ethan? Has a flock of friends; plays elaborate imaginary games with them, involving 10,000 characters with names like "Flareon" or on screens in parallel universes vanquishing foes with, and acquiring goodies for, their associated avatars.

And Jake? Wants desperately to play, to interact with other kids; but has no one who will give him the time of day.

And this breaks my heart.

This is who Jake now talks to and plays with all day long:

Yes, it's George, Curious George. George is Jake's best and only friend. He's stuffed. Very accommodating. And completely non-judgmental.

In the playroom Jake sits him in the little red car (that he no longer fits in himself), and pushes him all around. George is who shoots baskets with Jake, and slides down the big slide with him.

Seated next to him at the table, George is who Jake's dinnertime conversation is mostly directed at. Better than nothing I suppose. But still, I can feel how he longs, how he yearns for a human kind of companionship.

The other day in the playground there was a child who kindly responded to Jacob's awkward overtures for a while, and it made his day.

It was the first glorious spring day, come late into our interminably long and grueling school "break."  I had hauled Jake and Ethan out of their electronic boy-cave, blinking into the sunlight, to meet up with a friend of Ethan's in the park.

We'd ended up in the Hippo Playground, where there are large fiberglass hippos that can be climbed upon and most importantly in, too.  Jake was inside of one, his head sticking out between the hippo's gaping jaws, roaring at all who passed by, and this one boy, about Jake's own age, thought that was funny, roared back at him.

Jake was thrilled to find someone willing to speak his language. And since these were, after all, sculptures of wild animals, this was not way too odd, too beyond the pale.

There was no screaming going on, so I parked myself on a bench, allowed myself a distracted moment of Twitter, looked up when Jacob appeared in front of me with a question: "Where's Daniel?"

I was confused "You mean Daddy?"  "No," Jacob answered "boy Daniel." And then I understood, Jacob had actually managed to extract a name, all on his own. "You mean the boy in the blue shirt that you were playing with?"

"Yes!" beamed Jacob. "Where's he at, boy Daniel?" and together we scanned the crowded playground for this now familiar person. Spotted on a jungle gym in the distance, Jacob bounded off as I waited on tenterhooks, cringing, hoping, prepared to spring into mother-bearly action should there be rejection, a need for intercession, explanations.

But the gods of autism were smiling upon Jake once again, and this boy surely had a kind and generous nature.  For he roared at and chased Jacob a few steps, laughing, happy to go along with the odd request.

And when Jacob roared at him he obligingly shrieked, aped mock fear, ran a few paces then spun back to smile at Jake, before returning to his other friends, playing other, bigger-boy games.

And, nearly unbelievably? Was willing to give it a go again, and again, and again as Jacob returned for round upon round of "growl and chase." This boy, Daniel, never turned mean, never turned on him, just cheerfully went along with the program.

And so, for one day, Jake was just another kid on the playground taking up with a found friend for a while, as kids, regular kids, are wont to do.

And my faith in the goodness of humanity, the kindness of strangers was restored.

It appears that B is also for Best. Day. Ever.

This post has been inspired by and linked up to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday writing meme. And aren't there so many nice words that begin with "B"? Like: Beauty and Butterfly. But were my kids to choose? Probably: Burp and Buttocks at the top of the list. I have mentioned they are eight year-old boys, yes?

I'm also linking this post up to Maxabella's I'm grateful for...  because I am truly, deeply grateful for kind children like boy Daniel.

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