by Mary Lou Accetta
Reading Heather’s blog about “The Emperor’s New Clothes” resulted in a trip down memory lane for me. It is with laughter (and yes, fellow parents/guardians, sometimes it takes a few days, or even weeks, before I can laugh!) that I share a few “incidents” with you, with explicit permission from my son Mel to do so.
The Bank Incident:
As Mel and I were in line, not-so-patiently waiting for our turn with the teller, one of Mel’s former teachers walked up to him, and began saying in a very loud, slow, simplistic way:
“Mel, remember me? Mrs. ______, Drury High School!”
“Mel, think! ______ class. Drury High School…..who am I ?”
Mel remained stoically silent.
After a few more attempts, each one louder and slower, it became apparent to me that she would not go away until he answered. So I prompted:
“Mel, I know you remember Mrs. ______, answer her, please!”
And so he did ….
“Yes! Worst teacher Drury High School. Bad, bad teacher!!”
At which point she quickly huffed away. For different reasons, both her face and mine were quite red! The young bank teller, who had been in that same English class with Mel three years earlier, was doubled over laughing, and a young man behind us exclaimed,
“He’s right! I had her too, and she was the worst!”
The crowded lobby was filled with laughter…..as Mel reproachfully said to me,
“Why you made me say that?!”
I indignantly refuted the idea that I had made him say something so rude, but he replied,
“You told me, not say something nice, not say anything at all. Why you made me talk?”
When he’s right, he’s right!
The Skirt Incident:
Mel was a drummer in the Clarksburg Community Band, where he was well supported by not only the director, but many friends. At age 14, he was very into girls wearing skirts, and would often ask them to “twirl, spin!” for him. During a break at rehearsal one night, as his friend Collette patiently twirled for about the 10th time, Mel suddenly grabbed the belt of her wrap-around skirt, which began to unwrap. She quickly got the situation under control, and without missing a beat told him firmly,
“The rule for girls in skirts is look, but don’t touch!”
Throughout the evening, she would yell back to him from the clarinet section:
“What’s the rule??”
and he would yell back
“Look but don’t touch!”
and, amid good-natured laughter and a drum roll from his fellow drummers, they’d give each other a thumbs-up.
End of story? Not quite! The next day, as Mel and I were walking down Main Street, a beautiful young blonde with high heels and a mini-skirt passed us. Mel yelled with great enthusiasm,
“Oh, my God! Look but don’t touch!”
As you can imagine, her steps quickened considerably. As my face again turned that familiar shade of red, two men near us laughingly said,
“We wouldn’t have said it, but couldn’t agree more!”
The Supermarket Incident:
Mel is closer to 40 rather than 14 now, but yes, we still have our moments. This one occurred just a few months ago. We were shopping when we passed a young mother screaming at her two year old, who was whining and begging for a cookie. Knowing all too well Mel’s anxiety about young children not being cared for appropriately, I was trying to steer him down the aisle away from her, when she suddenly slapped the boy across the face. Mel immediately froze, then started loudly yelling
“Call DSS! Call the police! Help! 911! Child Abuse! Child Abuse!”
The woman responded “F ---- You!”, which didn’t improve things. As I tried in vain to move him away, my own anxiety extremely high, an angel in the form of an elderly lady came up next to us and took Mel’s other arm.
“You are a wonderful young man! You are absolutely right! Come outside with your mom and me, and I will personally call DSS and the police for you. Come on, now...”
Mel left the store with us. As I tried to thank this woman, who had averted a potentially much bigger disaster, she quietly replied,
“Not only is he right, he was the only one with the courage to speak up.”
This situation left me in tears rather than laughter.
Heather, I couldn’t agree more…. children and adults with autism need to be seen and valued for who they are, and we need to look beyond “rude behavior” to intention and truth. Another truism that Mel’s stories bring to mind: It really does take a village!