Last year Jack had a friend. It was a really big deal because she was someone he would be excited to see every day and would run up to and give hugs to. Even though he didn’t play and interact with her as much as I would have liked, it was a connection with a peer. And, like I say, for Jack, that’s a really big deal.
I was fortunate in that his friend was the daughter of one of my best friends, so it made it easy to get them together. And, perhaps not coincidentally, the two of them had been in a weekly playgroup together since they were one year old. It just took Jack three and a half years to notice her.
The thing that was so wonderful about this girl, A, was that she was a terrifically caring, fun, and joyous girl. And she looooooved Jack. She would seek him out and talk to him and encourage him to play with her, and she didn’t seem to mind that he didn’t respond the way other kids did.
I knew that this friendship was not going to continue in the same manner once Jack started kindergarten, because Jack and A go to different schools now.
So I was delighted to find that there is a girl with similar interests in Jack who sits at his table in his class. She is E. And E is the new A. (Sorry, A’s mom.) I don’t know what kind of benevolent force is looking down on us, but this girl lives four houses away from us.
Both of her parents work full time, so they aren’t usually home when we’re out and about. Therefore we didn’t really know them. Before kindergarten started and I found out that the fates had placed a lovely, friendly, adorable little girl who loves Jack in both our neighborhood and Jack’s class, the only thing I really knew about them is that they were nice and that they were Scientologists.
I had made a mental note to myself to never mention my frequent and longstanding use of antidepressants in front of the family, and had continued my existence of Scientology-free living.
When Jack and E started hanging out, I told E’s mom that Jack was autistic. She nodded and didn’t say much and it hasn’t come up since except once when we were talking about our kids and she told me how proud she is of E, that she doesn’t see or isn’t bothered by differences in other people, including Jack. Which I agree is wonderful.
Then a couple weeks ago, I found out that Scientologists don’t acknowledge autism. Such a thing would never have occurred to me—that people could dismiss something like autism, which is a very real thing my family lives every day.
Of course, I believe that antidepressants keep me from murdering Alex in his sleep, so, you know, I’m probably not destined to join the Scientology religion anytime soon.
To their credit, neither parent has said anything about their beliefs as they relate to autism, and frankly, it is possible that they don’t toe that particular party line. Even though I am not religious, I acknowledge that there are individuals with different beliefs in every religion. Or maybe they do hold that belief and are just tactful enough to keep it to themselves. Either way, it’s cool by me.
See, while I’m not a huge fan of organized religion, I pretty much apply that across the board to all religions, so rock on, Scientologists, and rock on, Lutherans, and rock on, Catholics! And all the rest of you. There’s room for all of us. At least I think so.
Also: Rock on, Stimeyologists! (There are five of us.)
I’m just glad that the fates have brought a friend for Jack and friends for the rest of my family as well.
So, while I admire the sense of humor of the universe that made this particular child Jack’s friend, I am glad that even with very different beliefs, both of our families can create a happy, open-minded friendship.
Because no matter who you are, friendship is a big deal.