My youngest daughter flounced back against the seat of the booth at the restaurant with an odd scowl on her face, crossed her arms, and announced loudly, “I want to talk about my birth mother.”
You’re waiting to hear about my momentary panic stemming from being unprepared to deal with these hard truths, especially at her young age. You thought I had planned on having a few more years before having to deal with this subject, but you’re not worried. You know how utterly brilliant I am so you know that I can make this conversation work. You are completely confident that I will be loving but honest as I describe a bittersweet tale of a selfless woman who was too young to raise a child, who tearfully handed her over to us and never looked back only because it was the very best thing for her baby, the only gift she could ever give her that would matter.
Bullshit. “Sweetie,” I sighed without even having to put down my fork, “we’ve been over this before. I am your birth mother. I have the photos and stretch marks to prove it.” I don’t know where my daughter keeps hearing this crap and it’s even more confusing because I know she’s not doing this in a fit of anger. She isn’t under the influence of teen angst, deciding that I am such a monster that any genetic link is impossible. Nope. She’s autistic and she picks up the strangest things to say at the absolute weirdest moments.
The oddest thing about her verbal quirks is that at times she can barely utter one or two comprehensible words, but when she really wants to get me good she can announce with perfect clarity, volume, and diction, “Why were you and Daddy making all that noise after I went to bed?” This is usually yelled in a crowded grocery store for maximum impact. Sometimes I think back fondly to the good old days when she couldn’t talk.
Unfortunately, this is all my fault. I carried that ungrateful creature to speech therapy sessions to the tune of about five hundred dollars a month worth. I replastered our kitchen walls with hundreds of homemade index cards with words printed on them, letting her touch the words as she tried them out in her little mouth. I learned rudimentary American Sign Language when it looked like this child just could not make the connection between the spoken word and life around her. I won’t even begin to complain about all the time I spent on other treatments, like physical and occupational therapy visits every month, as well as the special ed teacher she met with regularly from before she could even sit up. Is it too much to ask that she not embarrass me? At least any more than any other child?
Many people confuse a diagnosis like autism with some sort of mental or intellectual deficiency, but that is far from true. That little pip knows exactly what she’s saying and doing and is plotting for the most extreme impact she can get. And the problem is she knows I’m a sucker for it. Of course she won’t be in trouble for blurting out rude or humiliating comments because Mommy’s just so freakin’ pleased that she talks that she is bulletproof. She can have her snark and eat it too.
Oh, but you will rue the day, my child. I am even now plotting your downfall, furtively rubbing my hands in demonic glee because I know your demise is coming. You may have the gift of words, my pretty, but I have the eight-by-ten glossies of you playing naked in the sprinkler, of you sharing food with the dog, of you as a toddler kissing the cherubic boy who is even now growing up to be called The Aroma-nator in high school. Revenge is a dish best served cold and can’t nobody cook it like Mamma. Mark my words.