Those big beautiful blue eyes….
I’ve written about them so many times in so many different contexts, but recently those baby blues were looking up at me as tears slowly filled them. He asked me again, “Are you sure mommy?”
“Yes baby, I am sure.”
“But mommy, I have believed for so long. What about the stockings mommy, maybe he does those?”
“Baby, the important part isn’t who puts the presents under the tree, the important part is that we believe. We need to believe in miracles like Santa…as long as we believe in our hearts he will be real.”
“Do you believe mommy?”
“Yes I do. Mommies and daddies just help Santa out, but the magic of Christmas, well, that is something so much bigger than anything mommy or daddy can do. And honestly pal we believe in a lot of things that we can’t see. Some things we see with our eyes, and that’s how we know they are true. Some things we believe with our hearts, and that’s how we know they are true. Most of the time, the things we have to see and believe with our hearts are the most important things in the whole wide world to hang onto.”
The conversation hurt so much more than I ever expected it to. As a kid, I didn’t want to stop thinking that Santa left the presents, so I just took what my head knew and let my heart run with what it wanted to believe. I think the same thing happened with my oldest child; as she is fond of saying she believes in believing. I guess I hoped the same thing would happen for Caden, but I should have known that the literal nature of his autism wouldn’t allow that to be the case. Friends recently told him that Santa didn’t visit their house, and so it was inevitable that I talk with him. I don’t think either of us expected how much of his innocence I would shatter when I said, “pal I need to talk to you for a few minutes.”
After a few minutes of silence, he asked if he could go upstairs. I assumed he wanted to go to his room; it is a coping mechanism that he learned in therapy…ask for a few minutes alone when you need to calm down or gather your thoughts. I sat downstairs and replayed the conversation in my mind, and wondered what would happen at bedtime. I don’t quite know what happens at bedtime, but it is something I’ve experienced with my anxiety issues. There is something about the sun going down; maybe the anxieties are more visible in the shadows of darkness, or maybe that’s just the point of the day when your mind and body can no longer cope. Maybe it is because in the silence of the night you can truly hear your own thoughts or maybe the night masks the tears that fall.
As is often the case though, I underestimated his ability, or maybe I underestimated the depths of his heart because tears didn’t fall again at bedtime. In fact, the subject didn’t come up again. Then yesterday, his sister asked what the Christmas tree represented, and as I consulted the all-knowing Google, I started to explain that the fir tree is used for the holidays because it never loses its leaves like other trees. Before I could explain what that symbolized, Caden responded “just like we never stop believing.” The tree doesn’t fall apart, and neither should the things in our hearts.
That isn’t exactly what Google stated, but I’m pretty sure it is the best answer I will ever hear for the tree, for our beliefs, and for our hearts. It never ceases to amaze me that for all the challenges autism presents for my son, it also provides him with this amazing filter to see the world through. The innocence of his mind and the purity of his heart allow him to see so much beauty in the world; beauty that most of us will either never see or have long since forgotten. As the numbers continue to grow, I wonder if the hope for our future lays within those who have the ability to truly see the world in a different light, in a different shape, and at a different angle. The challenges don’t cease and the frustrations don’t end, but just for today I’m going to allow myself to revel in the idea that our hearts, like fir trees, have the ability to stand fast throughout the seasons, and for this I must offer my whole-hearted thanks to my son for allowing me to see a sliver of the world through his beautiful blue eyes.