PUZZLES & CAMO BY SHELLY HUHTANEN
He let me in his world for an entire 45 minutes. I asked Broden, “Is it time?” He looked at me and said, “Time for school.”
School has started so my taxi driving hours have significantly increased this past week. By the middle of last week, my son, Hayden, tried to convince me to paint my car yellow. I’m assuming he thought I might be able to pick up a few people along the way and charge them for the lift. I always said he was my kid that looked outside the box.
Two days a week, Broden and I have about an hour of time together, just the two of us. I try to give him choices in the morning whether it is a stroll through Target and Lowes, or to arrive at the clinic early so he can relax on his favorite couch. This morning I was relieved that he chose a relaxing hour on the couch at his ABA clinic because maybe, just maybe, I could get my darn column written. I already knew what I was going to write about because it was still fresh in my mind. I could still smell the sharp scent of Tide on my hands due to me scrubbing my less-than-a-year–old, cream-colored couch that Broden decided to paint with chocolate frosting.
My husband knows me all too well. As I hunched over our couch next to him scrubbing and yelling every profanity I could imagine, he giggled, “I guess you have your next column.” Boy, did I ever. I already had an idea for the title, “Don’t ever buy a cream couch… ever.” With my notebook in hand and my scribbled notes that described the entire cream couch debacle, I walked into Broden’s ABA clinic and wandered over to his favorite couch. I’ll have to admit, it’s also one of my favorite places in the clinic too. There is a separate room with windows all around and it is placed off to the side of a wide-open area where children learn and play. The couch is the type you can sink your body into and the cushions mold to your hips and back. The only other thing in the room is a bookshelf of children’s books. It is truly a place of calmness. Hence, a perfect place to write a column.
Broden plopped down and took up over half of the couch as he lay down and stretched his legs. I sat down and sunk my body into the cushion as I grabbed my notebook and started to write. I laid my hands on Broden’s leg and gently stroked his calf and knee. I stopped momentarily, but then heard his voice. “Tickle me some more.” I looked over at him. Broden had made eye contact and had a peaceful smile on his face. I continued to tickle him. He did not take his eyes off me as he proceeded to ask me over and over again where to tickle him and how lightly he wanted me to tickle.
As he pulled my hands closer to him, my notebook slid off of my leg and onto the floor. In that moment, I knew this wasn’t the time to write, but a time to live in the now because he was giving me a gift. He didn’t have a toy in his hand or an iPod. It was just the two of us and for the time being, he wanted me in his world. I didn’t know for how long I would get to be there so I soaked up every minute.
After letting me tickle him, he asked for my gum. I told him that my gum was in the car, but I would blow him bubbles. He kept his gaze on me while our noses were almost touching. “Blow a bubble for me,” he said. I would blow a bubble that would almost touch his face and he would giggle and pop it.
As we looked into each other’s eyes, it was as if we had transported ourselves to another place. I didn’t care what was going on in the other rooms of the clinic. People would walk by our room and I wouldn’t even glance in their direction. My eyes never left Broden’s. It seemed to end as abruptly as it started. Broden took my gum out of my mouth, put it in his and then said, “Bye.” He pushed me away from him and slid me to the other side of the couch. I looked down at my watch and I was stunned. He let me in his world for an entire 45 minutes. I asked Broden, “Is it time?” He looked at me and said, “Time for school.”
Still in a daze trying to process what had just happened for the last 45 minutes, I saw his tutor come into the room with his data sheets ready to work. Broden blew me a kiss and said bye to me again that followed with, “I love you.” As I left the room, my eyes followed him as I walked past the windows that allowed me to still see in to the room. I eventually came to the realization that the moment was over and it was time to relive it in my mind as something in the past instead of in the present.
Moments like this make it all worth it. 45 minutes with Broden is more than a cream couch staying its original color. It’s worth more than the hours of IEP meetings that will be on the horizon in the next few months and it’s definitely worth the taxi job I have inherited too. Melting into a comfortable couch gazing into Broden’s blue eyes while he smiles at me is, well, there’s just nothing like it.•
PUZZLES & CAMO
Shelley Huhtanen is an Army wife with two children, one with autism, whose husband is currently stationed at Fort Benning, GA. She is an autism advocate and currently the parent liaison for the Academy for Exceptional Learners.