I have never looked forward to Christmas as much as I do this year.
There’s a Wal-Mart commercial that runs every year. The children awaken before the sun is up, anticipating the presents that await them. They tip-toe in their pajamas down a dimly-lit hallway, revealing a festive living room, sparkling with lights, and a Christmas tree surrounded with gifts. Excitedly, they tumble down the stairs as their parents emerge with smiles on their faces.
This Saturday, many parents will wake up to a similar scene at their home, but for the parents of a uniquely designed child, the scenario can be quite different. This precious scene is all I want for Christmas.
I am frequently asked during the holiday season, “Is Luke looking forward to Christmas?” I usually just fake a smile and say, “Well, he doesn’t really understand yet.” I know that they don’t ask to be cruel. They just don’t realize how every aspect of a spectrum parent’s life is touched by autism.
Last Christmas we had a difficult time even keeping Luke in the room during our morning festivities. He was completely uninterested in the presents, and preferred to play with the familiar toys that he played with every day, rather than the brand new ones we were encouraging him to try. We had to open all of his presents for him. He had no idea that it was Christmas or what that means. There was no excitement or anticipation of this special day, and of course, it gave me that all-too-familiar twinge of sadness.
Thankfully, this Christmas story has a happy ending. This Christmas, I’m expecting a much brighter scene. I can’t stop imagining myself guiding Luke out to the living room this weekend, revealing a sparkling Christmas tree surrounded with gifts, and watching with joy as he dives right in and starts ripping paper, knowing that each package contains a wonderful surprise.
There is still progress to be made. He still doesn’t understand the concept of Christmas or know that it’s just days away. That’s what I’ll wish for next year. For now, I have much to celebrate.