Brooke is on her third trip back to our table from the restaurant's tiny toy room. A pattern has emerged. She carries a giraffe figurine in one hand and two puzzle pieces in the other. The puzzle pieces fit together -- a small giraffe and a bigger one. "Look, Mom," she says as she sets the three objects down on the table. "It's a family."
She will do this three more times. A cow family, a rhino family and a pig family will all grace the table in due time. She will herald each one's arrival with the same sentence, delivered with the EXACT same intonation each time -- "Look, Mom. It's a family."
Later that morning, we are at the pool. Brooke is diving for the butterfly sinkers that I bought for her when we arrived here. "Mom, watch this," she says. When she hears me say that I'm watching, she dives first for the pink one, Isla; then the yellow one, Ruby. Once together, they will look for Tophie, the orange one. The routine never changes.
I sit next to another mom by the side of the pool. Her son is 3, as he happily tells anyone within earshot. He's edible -- all boy -- a dense, round-tummied bundle of raw energy stuffed into a floatie. He jumps off the ledge again and again. "Mom, watch me!" he says. "Are you watching me, Mom? Mom, I'm gonna make a HUGE splash this time. Watch, Mom! Are you watching?"
She smiles at me. I smile back. Her son climbs out of the pool and immediately crouches down to jump again. "Mom, did you see that one? It was HUGE! OK, look, Mom! Don't stop looking!"
In the water nearby, Brooke, Isla and Ruby are getting ready to find Tophie. "Mom, watch this," she says. I tell her I'm watching and she disappears into the water.
The little boy's mom looks at me and rolls her eyes. "Oh my God," she says, "is this enough to make us crazy or what?"
I smile, but I don't answer.
I don't tell her that I will never forget the first time that I heard, "Look, Mama." I don't tell her that my baby girl was just three weeks shy of her 6th birthday when she pointed to the blue house -- the one I'll never forget -- and said those words. I don't tell her that it never really became a regular occurrence after that, but now that my girl is 8 -- yes, 8 -- it's just beginning to emerge in earnest.
I don't tell her about the first neuropsych report -- the one that said Autistic Disorder. The one that read, Child presents with a marked lack of joint attention. There is no attempt to share enjoyment or engage with others. I don't tell her about the doctor that wrote that report -- the jackass who had the audacity to look at a 3-year-old and say, She will likely live a very solitary life. She will not be comfortable around people and will most likely live alone. I don't tell her how long those words haunted my dreams.
I don't grab her by the shoulders and shake her and tell her to be grateful that her son is driving her crazy. I don't tell her how long I waited to hear my daughter call me, "Mom" or how I live for the WAY that she says it. How she clips the last "M" and I can't even imitate it if I try, but how it's so uniquely hers that it fills my heart EVERY SINGLE TIME that I hear it. I don't tell her how many of my friends still wait for the day that their babies say, "Mom." I don't tell her that some of those babies are 22.
I don't tell her to relish every single crazifying, annoying moment. I just don't have it in me. I'm too busy watching my girl disappear under the water. Because I promised her I would.
Jess can be found at Diary of a Mom where she writes about life with her husband, Luau and their two daughters, Brooke who is 9 and has autism along with an incurable sense of humor, and Katie, 11, who has been diagnosed by her Mama as having a heart the size of Montana. She also runs the Diary of a Mom Facebook page, a warm and welcoming community of people with autism and those who love them. The post above was originally published on Diary in April, 2011 when she was on vacation with her girls.