On the stage Elmo and Grover are dancing, singing a song about being kind and loving your friends, and beside me, in the balcony, my son is smiling. He is waving his hands wildly along with the beat, closing his eyes and rocking back and forth. He is the happiest I have seen him in months, overcome with joy, watching his favorite characters sing and dance. He is watching the lights make their way across the floor, across the walls, over his own hands.
It is his birthday, today. My oldest boy is twelve years old. He has autism and is disabled and differently-abled in so many strange and wonderful ways. And alone, together, we are making this special day with our annual tradition--a trip downtown, to the theatre to see Sesame Street Live, on stage.
This annual tradition has come to represent my son's birthday more than presents or cake or any celebration. Because he doesn't talk, I can't be sure if he knows it is his birthday. But it doesn't really matter much anymore. Every day for the last week, I have showed him the video of the show we would be seeing, every day for a week I have counted down on my fingers. Five days until the show, son. Four, Three, Two. It's today, my darling. Today we will go. This he understands. I can tell by the way he woke up early, by the way he is waiting wiht his shoes and coat, when I tell him it is nearly time to go.
Our row in the balcony is filled with babies and young mothers, with toddlers in Oscar the Grouch t-shirts, holding stuffed Elmo dolls. These families do not seem to notice us: me, a mom in her late thirties with the nearly teenage boy, sitting on the end. Or if they do notice, they are kind enough not to show it. But I know that we are different than them, not just because my son is a year or two away from shaving and sitting right here, dancing to the music of Elmo and his friends.
As my son aged, I struggled with how to handle the limited nature of his interests, which were not often considered "age appropriate."