Sunday, October 11, 2009


Martin's outfit for church: red sweater with a white snowflake, khaki shorts that he has sorta outgrown, and purple rain boots. If he had donned either a tool belt or an Indian headdress, he would certainly be mistaken for a member of the Village People. Instead, he wore his boots (on a day with no rain in sight) to Sunday School.

I sometimes wonder if we should bring up our autistic child in New York City. Martin's outfit would hardly register in a place where I've seen a guy with a snake wrapped around his neck on the subway and a woman transporting a chicken on the bus. I imagine him walking down the streets of New York, presidential flash cards in hand, with the blissful experience of no one really caring that he is weird.

But we live in the Midwest, in the rural Midwest. The kind of place that artists escape from only to write about the crushing experience of conformity-driven communities. An environs where things are done a certain way because they have always been done that way. So why make adjustments for a disorder that few people even heard of before 10 years ago?

The thing about the Midwest, though, is that it's pretty easy to establish community. I'm not saying you can't do it in New York, but that it takes longer and you have to try harder there. Further, community here is never perfect, the intolerance of difference being a prime example. So people at church might find Martin pretty weird, but they have brought me casseroles on several occasions. They pray that our lives will get easier, that Martin will progress and be happy.

Because I took a job here before Martin was diagnosed, the decision was already made for us. But it is something we'll have to consider in the future. It will definitely face Martin as he develops independence from us. But I wish I could whisper in his ear along the way: "There are places where no one will look twice at your funny outfit. And there are others places where people will show you they love by bringing jello. Neither is perfect. You'll just have to choose."


  1. that last makes me think of julia kasdorf. great writing, jen. -- rebecca

  2. I am so glad he is getting good use of the purple rainboots...I personally think they are very stylin'! :-) - Love, Aunt Jeanine

  3. Funny, I thought of Julia Kasdorf too!

  4. We have those outfits in our repotoire as well. My son can dress with the best of them. He and Martin could be clothing comrades. I used to be embarassed, now I look at it differently. He knows how to choose an item he wants. He can then physically put it on. He can manuever the clothes. Who cares if it's last year's camo rain boots with this years, halloween costume body, and his Spiderman winter cap. He dressed himself and thinks he looks incredible. So do I!

  5. You know...everyone in California is weird! We have jello here too ;).

    -Jen from funky California