I honestly thought she would cry but she didn’t.
No, instead she looked at me and said a quick goodbye. In fact, she seemed a little irritated that I wasn’t leaving.
“And you understand that I won’t be putting you to bed?” I questioned Natalie. I was dropping her off for her very first sleepover with my friend Amanda’s two girls.
“I know.” Was it my imagination or did Natalie roll her eyes at me.
“So if you get scared in the middle of the night, I’ll come get you,” I promised passionately. “No matter what the time.”
She wasn’t even listening. She rushed off to play with her friends.
I left soon after that and Natalie barely even noticed.
“Ready for our date?” I asked Tommy, who nodded enthusiastically. I was taking him out, just the two of us. I feel bad but sometimes a lot of my attention goes to Natalie because she’s the smallest and the loudest. Tommy never complains about it, just goes back to flipping through his weather books or creating something with his Legos.
We decided to go to Perkins. When the waitress came, I ordered what I wanted and started to order for Tommy. But then he cut in.
“I can order for myself. I’m going to be nine soon,” he said seriously.
I was taken aback. I suppose he was right, he is getting older, therefore he should order his own food. But I’ve just been doing it so long, it’s become a habit. I sat back and watched as he ordered his burger “with no cheese, because cheese makes me gag on burgers” and then followed it up with a “thank you so much.”
I felt a surge of pride towards my boy. He’s come so far. When he was little, we had so many struggles with him. He wouldn’t talk, he’d do this stimming thing where he’d walk back and forth, ignoring all the other kids his age, lost in his own world. And now look. Nearly nine and ordering for himself.
“So, what’s new with you?” I asked Tommy when the waitress left.
He shrugged. “I like division.”
Yes. He was able to move onto division in his math class since he finished all the multiplication that he needed to know.
“Um. What’s new with you?” Tommy continued, stilted. It’s hard for him to be social, seeing as he has Aspergers. But in school the counselor comes in and helps him with social situations. And one of the things she teaches him is to ask others questions.
“Well,” I began. “I’ve just been busy taking care of you guys. And also, and I know this is weird, but I was watching Gilmore Girls the other day, the very first season and I have to say that Lauren Graham looks exactly the same as she does now that she’s in that show Parenthood. It’s like she hasn’t aged. Is she some freak of nature or what? Or maybe she just has a fabulous plastic surgeon. Maybe it’s good genes. Who knows? Do you know what I mean?”
Tommy blinked at me. “I don’t.” Aspergers causes him to be blunt which is why I’m thinking it might be better if he dates a woman with Aspergers. If he dates a typical woman and she asks if she looks fat in something, I fear Tommy might give her the honest truth and when she hit him over the head with her purse he’d shriek, “I’m just being honest!”
“Never mind then. I was just being silly. I have silly thoughts in my head and—”
“I can’t wait till we get to Oklahoma and see all the tornados!” Tommy cut in. He noticed that he had interrupted me and sat back. “I’m sorry. You were talking. Go on.”
Again, I was floored.
“You have wonderful manners, I must say,” I said. I don’t always get to see them, because I’m dealing with his dramatic sister.
“Thank you,” Tommy said. “Now about those tornados…” And he proceeded to go on and on about them, using some words that I’m not sure I’ve ever heard before. We’re moving to Oklahoma during the summer and Tommy is thrilled about the prospect of tornados. I am not. But ask him anything about them, and he could probably tell you.
When our food came, we ate and made small talk. And then when that was done I suggested we get an ice cream sundae.
“I think I’m full,” Tommy said, rubbing his stomach.
“I have a secret,” I whispered and Tommy leaned forward. “There is always room for ice cream.”
He grinned as I ordered a sundae for us.
When it arrived, we dug in.
“I’m glad we’re on a date,” Tommy said. “My sister is kinda loud.”
I nodded. “That she is.”
“And sometimes she grosses me out.” Tommy made a face.
This is true. Natalie likes to chew her food and then open her mouth to show Tommy the contents inside of it. This seriously grosses Tommy out and makes him gag. Then he’ll screech, “She’s GROSSING me out!” and I’ll be like, “Knock it off, Natalie,” and she’ll chase after Tommy, mouth open, while he freaks out. It’s not fun.
“That isn’t very nice of her,” I said sympathetically. “You are a great big brother though.”
“Yeah,” Tommy agreed.
We left soon after that. When we got home, I kissed Tommy’s cheek outside the front door.
“Why did you do that?” Tommy asked.
“That’s usually what happens on the end of dates. Thank you for coming with me. So what lesson did you learn tonight?”
Tommy tapped his chin. “That Lauren Graham looks the same?”
I laughed. “No. That there is always room for ice cream.”
“Oh right. Yes. There is always room for ice cream.” Then Tommy tossed his arms around my waist and gave me a hug. “Thank you, Mommy.”
My heart melted. “You’re welcome, Tommy.”
And as for Natalie? She had a fantastic first sleepover. She didn’t cry once.