Dining out, as a family, is something we rarely do. Which is all the more incredible since we live in New York City, a city known for it’s fabulous and wide range of restaurants serving food from every place in the world. The few times we’ve eaten out, we would prepare and pack Emma’s meal and bring it with us. We have taken Emma to only a few restaurants in her life because the whole process of trying to keep her occupied while we tried our best to enjoy “dining out” wasn’t easy and frankly, took the pleasure out of it. But now, since Emma has become more willing to eat a few more foods, we told her we were thinking of going to a restaurant to eat. We gave her the choice of coming too or staying home.
“Go together!” Emma said.
There was a certain degree of finality to her voice when she said that, so I said, “Okay.” We decided to go to Boogies, the local diner and kid friendly restaurant here in Aspen. Boogies is upstairs from a clothing store, so it’s brightly lit, has loud rock and roll music playing and lots of families with little kids running around. I went over the outing with her, just so she understood we would not bring any food for her to eat, that she would have to find something from the menu. Having a vague idea of what Boogie’s menu offers, I told her some of the foods she could have – hot dog, hamburger, chicken fingers, mac and cheese, grilled cheese sandwich.
When we arrived at the restaurant, we were able to get a large table in the back. “Chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandwich?” Emma said, in her questioning way that isn’t really a question, but just sounds like one, while nodding her head.
“You want both?” I asked.
Joe, Richard and I looked at each other, shrugged and ordered her what she asked for.
“And apple juice?” Emma said.
Nic, meanwhile, ordered a hamburger and one of their famous chocolate milkshakes. They always bring their milk shakes in a tall glass lathered with whipped cream and a cherry on top. The metal container they make the milk shake in is brought too, holding the excess shake and a long handled spoon. Emma saw the whipped cream and immediately tried to scoop it off Nic’s drink with her fingers.
“Em! That’s Nic’s milk shake. You can have one too, if you want. But you can’t take his whipped cream,” I told her.
“It’s okay Mom. She can have some of the whipped cream.” Nic offered his sister a spoonful, which she greedily grabbed from him.
“Do you want your own, Emma?”
Emma vigorously shook her head no and took a sip of apple juice. Then she blew bubbles with her straw into the glass of apple juice, spraying herself before we could stop her. When the food arrived, Emma dug into her melted cheese sandwich, ate most of it and tried a tiny bite of the fried chicken. Each time she ate or drank anything Nic would look over at me with an expression of astonishment, while I nudged Richard, whispering, “Look! Look at Emma!”
It was wonderful, all the more so, because my mother was with us too, making it a truly fabulous dining experience together, with the whole family.
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: Emma’s Hope Book