Our house is in shambles right now. We are moving across the country in 2 weeks. 2 WEEKS, my stomach flips over whenever I think about it. As I was mindlessly scrolling through Perez Hilton (shut up) last night I thought about my wedding video, it’s location to be exact. I haven’t seen it’s white box in a long, long time. I mentally searched through the all the boxes I’ve packed and couldn’t come up with it. The entertainment center has been packed and dismantled, the storage closet is almost packed, my office area is packed (minus my computer of course.) I came out onto the landing and asked GC if he knew where it was (dumb question to ask the man who cannot find things on a regular basis, sorry babe.) Of course, he had no idea. My face dropped and I felt sad. GC didn’t understand why I would feel that way, we only suffered through viewing it with his family after we got back, as we were married in St. Lucia and only my parents were physically present at our wedding. His question was “If you haven’t wanted to watch it all these years, does it really matter?” Well…no, I do have pictures, but I wanted to show it to the Roc one day, and it’s sweet to hear the tears in GC’s voice as he says his vows, and to see us dance with the ocean in the background. Then GC said, “What makes me sad is all the time that went by that we didn’t video the Roc.”
We bought a video camera when I was pregnant and used it sporadically until the Roc was about 2.5 years old. Then it stopped working and we didn’t get it fixed and don’t have any video of the time he was 2.5 to more recently when we started recording him with our iphones. I always feel a bit sad when I realize this too. “Did you pack the video camera?” he asked me, “go get it, let’s watch what we have of him as an infant.”
And so we sat down at 10 pm last night to watch the Roc as in infant, something we hadn’t done since he was diagnosed with autism, and I watched with new eyes. Eyes full of questions, eyes with knowledge I didn’t have 6 years ago. Was it there all ready? Did he have autism from the start? Was I going to see the signs I knew I missed back then? While watching GC and would turn to each other and comment on these snatches of frozen time. The Roc on his first day home from the hospital, after spending 5 days in the NICU with a last minute transfer to the children’s hospital. Sleeping in my arms, the camera turning off when he started to cry. I couldn’t believe how dark my hair was, or how much hair he had when he was born, or my boobs! Holy Moly! Then the Roc in his swing, the Roc in his bouncy chair. The Roc not looking at us, memorized by the dangling toys on the bouncer. Me wondering out loud if he should have been more engaged with us at 2 months, 3 months, 4 months. Remembering how my MIL commented that she had never seen a baby fight sleep like mine did, or how he was staring at the light coming through the mini blinds, making flickering patterns on the wall and ceiling. How cute he was in his exersaucer, how he laughed and threw his head back when GC stuck his finger up through a hole where a toy should have been. How the Roc squealed each time the finger appeared, but didn’t connect it to GC, and didn’t look at him when he stopped. Should he have? I still don’t know for sure…but probably.
We got to his first Christmas and marveled at the scenes with his cousin, a year and a half at that time, spending Christmas at our house. He was engaged, looked when you said his name, opened his presents, tried to talk…and I knew that the Roc didn’t do that the next year when he was a year and a half at Christmas. While watching his cousin we wondered a loud if we would see the Roc look when we called his name, if he would be engaged, I knew he didn’t open his presents when he was a year and a half, I slightly dreaded those scenes I knew were coming.
We watched snippets of his first spoonfuls of solid food, bath time (GC careful that no private parts made it into the video,) the Roc figuring out how to crawl – his motivation being the 2 kittens we had found the week before. He watched those cats all the time, I had forgotten about that. I was lucky to have the camera out when he started to walk. I knew it was coming, he was taking a few steps and sitting down. Watching the video I saw what I had forgotten, that day when he walked across the whole room, maneuvered around a laundry basket–he was again following a cat. I also saw him happy, smiley, and he did turn to us when we called his name. “See that?” GC and I said in unison as one of us called the Roc and he looked at the camera. GC and I watched him giggle and squeal as I pushed him in a baby swing at the park. We remembered how that’s all he wanted to do and how he started to label things around that time, when he turned one. We heard his little voice on the video say “doggy” and heard our past selves exclaim that “yes, a doggy!” We watched his first experience in the little blow up pool, how he repeatedly kicked and kicked and kicked his legs splashing the water. We commented on the serious look he so often had, and gosh he was a chub, all rolls and pudge, so cute.
We got to the Christmas when he was one and a half, watched how I prompted him to open his present, his detachment from the process, he disinterest in the toy. We saw how he laughed and squealed in delight as he swiped his favorite stuffed elephant into the Christmas tree, over and over and over again. He didn’t care about the gifts or the toys, but he loved the way that tree shook and the noise the elephant made when he hit the tree with it. It was such a stark contrast to the scenes of his cousin exactly a year before. I watched my blissfully ignorant self and wondered what I could have changed for the Roc had I known then what I know now.
Fast forward to the spring when he was around 20 months old and we watched my past self ask the Roc, “do you want to water the flowers?” and heard his little voice “wahhr flower, wahr flower, wahr flower” as he waited for me to give him the hose. He immediately grew impatient and started saying the then familiar phrase “hooooold eeet, hooooold eeet, hoooooold eet!!!” after I asked him, “do you want to hold it?” GC and I remembered how he loved to water the flowers, he would water them, the grass, the bushes and the air, we had to jump out of the way when he had the sprayer. We exclaimed at our then puny tree and compared it with the monster it has turned into out front. We watched me direct the Roc and him follow my command before doing exactly what he wanted. We remembered the echoalia, something we didn’t understand then.
I remembered the solo trip to took to Indiana for my grandmothers birthday party that summer the Roc turned 2. How the Roc would freak out if I tried to take him in the house where all the people were. How he didn’t even want to be under the covered porch and preferred to be out on the wet grass in the drizzling rain pushing a toy lawn mover back and forth across the yard all alone. How loudly he screeched when I tried to get him to come inside. The cold anger I felt in the pit of my stomach when my young cousin laughed at him, I was upset and didn’t know what to do. How I cried in a back room of my aunts house when they kept trying to get me to bring the Roc out to join in the prayer and to sing to my grandma. I eventually took him back to my grandma’s house alone and read him books in my grandfathers lazy boy chair, marveling at how he relaxed into me now that we were away from the party. What I wouldn’t give to go back and tell my younger self that it wasn’t my fault, I was doing a good job, I was a good mother. Because on that day, in front of my extended family, I felt like a failure.
The final scenes we had video taped were of Christmas when the Roc was 2.5 years old. Again I prompt him to open his presents, and I do it for him while he sits by me drinking from a sippy cup. The morning was filmed on a tripod and so we fast forward and watch as the Roc keeps his back or side to my in-laws and Grammy, all three lined up on our only couch. He moves closer and closer to me until he eventually turns himself around and backs onto my lap. We stopped the tape and looked at the clock.
We wished out loud that we had more. I would love to see video of the Roc at 3 and 4, after he started preschool and the language started to change and progress. I cannot remember exactly when he stopped calling himself “you,” and when he started to answer my questions. When exactly did he ask questions of his own? When did he stop telling me lines from Little Einsteins as a way of communicating?
One thing is for sure. The Roc’s personality was there from the beginning. He has always been who he is meant to be.
Autism or not.
Man do I love that boy.