Emma does not get invited to many birthday parties. In fact I can count on one hand the number of times she’s been invited to a birthday party in the last year. Okay, make that one finger. Don’t misunderstand me, there is no resentment here. The children with whom Emma goes to school all have autism in varying degrees, food allergies are rampant, each kid has their own specific sensory issues, some have physical challenges as well, so for a parent to take on the idea, let alone put into action, the planning of a birthday party, is a major undertaking. The other children Emma knows or has any contact with are either her cousins or friends from before her diagnosis and most of them are Nic’s age, not Emma’s.
So when my cousin invited her to her daughter’s birthday party, Emma was so excited, she talked about it for at least a week prior to the actual party, which was this past Saturday afternoon. Richard was sick with some nasty bronchial sounding cold, lending him a – come hither – husky quality, opted to stay home and not risk infecting all the children and their families with his germ riddled body. (TMI – too much information – as Nic would say.) Emma insisted on wearing a black shirt, embellished with little beads at the neckline, leggings and a plaid skirt, all but the leggings were a size too small, despite my suggesting she wear something a size larger. “No! Please! I want to wear this one!” She pleaded.
When we arrived, Emma said hello to all her cousins and though I kept my eye on her the entire time, she did very well. There were some 30 children aged 5 – 12, mostly girls and mostly Emma’s age – 10. The family had hired a couple of clowns who did an hour long routine, with gags, pratfalls and “magic” such as the man pretending to eat a piece of kleenex while the woman demands that he spit it out, only to have her pull the kleenex from his mouth, but instead of kleenex coming out, yards of multi-colored tissue pour forth, leaving one to wonder how he managed to get all of that in his mouth in the first place. An hour is a long time for a child who may or may not understand all of what is being said and done, to sit. But sit she did. Right in the front with all the other girls, watching and though I don’t think she laughed at any of their antics, she did seem intrigued.
After the show ended, the other children ran around playing chase while Emma played with the string of a balloon. When it was time for us to leave, Emma put on her shoes and coat and said, “We went to Gaby’s birthday party at Gaby’s house.” And by the time the elevator let us out onto the street, Emma looked up at me and said, “We went to Gaby’s house a long time ago.”
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: Emma’s Hope Book