Friday, May 16, 2014

Ethan wants to tell you about Playing with Autism

Ethan, recently
A while ago, Ethan wrote a lovely essay for school and I published it here: Ethan takes over my blog today (the world tomorrow).  Ethan loved that I shared his writing with you all, and I promised I'd let him take over my blog again.

Well, it's been two years, but he has once again written a beautiful essay for school (6th grade) and he is happy to have me share it with you here, today.  The assignment was to write a personal essay, and start with the words "I believe":

Playing With Autism
by Ethan

I believe that when you help someone or cheer them up, it makes you feel good. That is what I do with my twin brother Jacob, who has autism. Autism means his mind works differently, especially around words. It’s not really like having a twin. He is more like a little brother, even though he is bigger than me.

Play fighting is my brother’s favorite game. His favorite place to play fight is in my bed. To him, a play fight is actually reenacting part of his favorite tv show, Dragonball Z-Kai. In mid-fight Jacob started quoting an episode from the show. Then he started making weird motions with his body then got right back into the fight.

Jacob doesn’t know his own strength. I had to tell him to go easy, when he hit me so hard I could see the whole Milky Way spinning around my head!

It isn’t easy having a brother so strong, who acts so young. It’s like playing with Superman. He kept asking me to smack him harder, but I can’t stand striking him. I did it anyway. He’s not made of ceramic, after all.

During one of our battles, I ended up riding on his back like a cowboy busting a bronco, tearing through the entire house. I got pretty good at it. Maybe I should take riding lessons on a dude ranch.

Jacob needs me to play with him because he doesn’t really have any other friends. There is one girl from his school that plays on his special needs basketball and baseball teams, and sometimes they go to the movies on weekends, but that’s it.

Jacob says “Ethan, you’re my best friend!” and that makes me sad. I have lots of friends who come over to my house and we do all kinds of things together, but Jacob just has me. Jacob knows the names of all my friends and is always asking for them to come over. Most of the time they ignore him, but some of them will be nice and try to play with him a little, or answer some of his funny questions like “Who is your favorite engine?"

He is always asking me to play with him. “Play with me, Ethan. Play with me, now!” Sometimes I feel like it, but a lot of times I really don’t. When I say “no” he keeps talking to me. “Hi, Ethan” he will say, over and over again, even though we’re still in the same room. So I put down my book and play with him for five minutes.

When Jacob is grinning like a hyena, he looks so happy and I feel great. It is like his joy flows right into me. When I see him happy or just cute it makes me the happiest man on earth. Cheering him up cheers me up. There is only one thing better than seeing my brother, Jacob, happy, and that is making him happy.


Pretty heady stuff for an 11 and a 1/2 year old, no?

Also, in the name of full disclosure, I have to tell you that this is written from, shall we say, Ethan's best, most idealized self.  There are still plenty of "I wish I didn't have a brother" days, but there IS this kindness and empathy too, all mixed in.

Thank you, Ethan, my lovely son, for your wise and loving contribution to my blog today. I can't wait to see what you will come up with next!

Monday, May 12, 2014

The day after Mother's Day

Me and Mom on Mother's Day, 2012, her last

I couldn't write on Mothers Day, the feelings too raw, the wounds still unclosed. Yes, even here, more than a year out and counting. So I gave myself the day to muddle through.

I shined at breakfast - lox and bagels produced by my offspring and husband - but then faded midday. In spite of abundant sunshine beaming in through our windows, the winter's accumulation of grime rendering them near opaque white in the brilliance, I took to my bed in the early afternoon.

"Mom gets to nap on Mothers Day!" I declared, making it sound fun. But really it was a retreat from the empty space my mother should have occupied.

Ethan was mad that I had slept though our potential stroll through the park. Instead we had a rushed half jog along Riverside to Jake's playing field, peeling off as we got there, me to accompany Jake to his weekly baseball game, Dan joining Ethan on the basketball courts nearby.

I love my son dearly, but must admit, watching special needs sports is simultaneously like watching paint dry and having your heart ripped open repeatedly. The pace is glacial, the triumphs beautiful and painful. I sat on my blanket in the sun and baked myself into a semblance of peace.

Afterwards, waiting outside the boat basin cafe for our table to come up and Ethan and Dan to appear (hopefully somewhat concurrently, and in the right order) Jacob befriended a dog named Sophie and talked to me about classical music. He picked up a stick and wanted to conduct violins "like Squidward" so I lazily googled "violin concerto" planning to let YouTube entertain my boy. I had forgotten the landmine there.

My mother loved music. My childhood home had been filled with it, from classical to folk to jazz and then rock as her musical taste evolved through the 60s and 70s.

My mother's amethyst and glass beads moved with a sweet heaviness around my neck as I swayed to the tinny Tchaikovsky pouring out of my iPhone. My mother also loved sunshine and the water, flowering trees and children. I was surrounded by the things she loved, as I often am, she who took such joyous bites of out the scrumptious world.

The rest of my boys arrived with perfect timing and we were seated at an outer table overlooking the sunset river, just as I had desired. Ethan was a bit grumpy surveying the menu, declaring nothing to be quite to his liking and questioning why we had to eat there.

"Because I love it here. It makes me happy to eat outdoors and by the water, and it's Mother's Day so I get to choose." I was trying not to whine. I really didn't want a scene.

For once he took my answer without a fight and resigned himself to a dinner of calamari and fries, supplemented with bites of everyone else's dishes.

I then did something I rarely do, I ordered a "Mommy drink" something silly and frozen and alcoholic, because dammit it was Mother's Day. It came with three maraschino cherries on top which Ethan devoured with abandon, his first time encountering such beasts. 

"Is this what they mean when they say 'and a cherry on top?'" he asked. Yup.

We walked back home through the park as the twilight thickened, the air heavy with the promise of a soon-coming summer. Up ahead the the George Washington Bridge's majestic sway cut through the haze, spanned over to the other shore.

"Look, Grandma's favorite bridge"  I pointed out. But I didn't have to. They knew.

They all knew.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Listen to Your Mother in NYC today!!!!!

It's here!!! It's today!!!!!

The third annual NYC Listen to Your Mother show will be presented TODAY at Symphony Space (on Manhattan's Upper West Side) at 5 PM. All info HERE.

Don't have your tickets yet? What are you waiting for?  Ok, yes, you CAN just walk up to the box office at showtime and buy them (it's a BIG theater).

And it's going to be a GREAT SHOW again this year - more wonderful stories, more wonderful storytellers. And I can say that without sounding too self-serving because this year I'm "just" a producer, not also a reader.

I read two years in a row. It was a moving and fulfilling experience, but time to make room for new faces.

The best part about not reading?  No angst over what to wear, the spanx or breathe dilemma. Also, as I am working the front of the house - box office and business issues - I can sit IN the house and watch the show with the audience, which is a fabulous experience I am looking forward to.

And, as always, part of our box office goes to a charity that helps women and families. This year it's the wonderful Women's Prison Association, represented by Alysia Reiner of our 2012 cast and the TV show Orange is the New Black.

I hope you can come see our show, or, if you're not local here, that there is a show near you to go to -- because we're in 32 cities around the country this year!!!!

Thanks for all the well wishes and leg breaking already received. And now... lets DO this thing!