A Great Bond by Jennifer Rose
Note: I’m very excited to share this post from Jennifer Rose, author of It’s Not a Perfect World, but I’m taking it.
From Jennifer Rose
Growing up autistic wasn’t always easy for me. Not only did my disability make it difficult for me to make friends, but there weren’t many girls “like me” at my old school. So my mother, God bless her, took me to other families with special needs, often with varying degrees of success. One friendship that stands out from all others is my friendship with Olivia.
Now Olivia is significantly more disabled than me or even my younger sister – the contrast between the two of us is incredible. It’s a lot easier for me to go out and make friends than it is for McKenna. And yet, when we meet, it is as if a beautiful connection has been made between us.
We have literally known each other since elementary school. She was one of the first families Mom met on her autism journey, and she was known as a kind of “cool mom”. She and Olivia always wore very stylish clothes when they went out, and Olivia was best known in Morristown, New Jersey for singing with her therapist Jammin Jenn. We got even closer when she moved to my elementary school for a while as we could see each other more often. Likewise, her mother and my mother had a fantastic bond that came about through similar circumstances.
A few years ago my mother planned to have pizza with her mother. She asked me if I would like to come and I was ambivalent at first. Not that I don’t want to see her, but honestly I wasn’t sure I would care. At one point I thought to myself, “Ah, what the hell, it would be nice to get out of the house” – I was bored at home and often spent my time watching movies or playing video games – so I agreed to their offer. And who does without a nice, warm piece of pizza?
When we met in the restaurant, her mother was there to greet us happily.
“Oh hello!” my mother told her mother. “We haven’t seen each other in ages!”
Olivia didn’t talk much, but I knew that she valued me and my company deep down
“I know right?” said her mother. “I’m so happy to see you! You know, Olivia was going to a party at her school and a group of boys came up to her and offered to dance!”
“Oh wow, Olivia!” I said in a delightful tone. “That is amazing!”
Eventually the chatter turned into the typical chatter of mothers with special needs.
“It seems like we ‘need’ an Autism Awareness Month, otherwise we wouldn’t know that there is autism!” Said Mom.
“What do you think about it?” I asked her.
“I honestly don’t think it’s going to do much,” Mom said.
“Yes, the other ‘awareness’ months tend to be more effective, like Lyme Disease Month,” I said.
“Soon everyone will be autistic,” said mom. “I mean, Asperger’s no longer exists!”
“Sometimes when I’m on the train taking Olivia to school, sometimes I sniff a gossip magazine but I don’t read it. I don’t care about Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. “
“Isn’t Angelina Jolie doing a lot of charity work?” I said. “She went to Africa to do some charity work to help a few starving children.”
“Of course, a lot of celebrities usually do it for attention, or at least get a lot of attention for it,” I continued. “That makes stars like Jenny McCarthy unique.”
“Is correct!” said McKenna’s mother.
And so they started talking about a number of things that autistic mothers talk about, such as how school was going for their children. While I was chewing on her pizza, even though she couldn’t put it well, I knew McKenna really appreciated my company with her, as she always does.
When it was all over I went happily with my mom, happy to meet an old friend after being trapped at home.
Since the pandemic makes it difficult, if not impossible, to go out and see people, it can be difficult for people to “connect” with one another. The only silver lining in all of this is that it makes opportunities like the one I had with Mckenna all the more extraordinary. My own mother says I have a lovely gift for being in contact with children with special needs and of course my friendship with Olivia is one of the greatest indicators of that. I really can’t thank Olivia and her mom enough for giving me such a beautiful, amazing bond that was brought closer through a disability. Namasté.