Tonight's story for Joey was Miss Rumphius. In case you are not familiar with the story, which I recommend, Miss Rumphius decides there are three things to do in life: see faraway places, retire to the seaside, and do something to make the world more beautiful.
The idea is to get kids to think about life and how to make the world beautiful. Joey, however, was more interested in the "seeing faraway places" part, and we talked about how Mommy had been to India. He was interested enough that I dug out a couple of my photo albums, but they weren't as interesting to him. Andy, however, popped in when he saw I had pictures, and was fascinated.
We looked through the pictures, then I settled him into bed, and he started asking lots of questions- about the pictures, and the sculptures there, and the people in the pictures. He wanted to know if everybody there was brown. So we talked about melatonin and how different people have different skin because their ancestors adapted to where they lived, and people who lived in sunny places needed to be darker, and we came from the north where it wasn't as sunny, so our skin is lighter. And we talked about tanning in the summer. And we talked about how people are different, simply because that is how they were made.
So he wanted to know other ways people were different.
"Well," I said, "we all like different things. Like some of us like peanut butter, and some of us don't."
"i don like peanu budder," he affirmed. "Wha else?"
"Well, some people are short and some are tall. That is just the way they are made."
"Yeth," he agreed. "An sthome kids are fastht, and some isth swow." I nodded. "I run fastht."
"Super fast," I agreed.
"An Joey isth diff-er-en."
Pause. Was this about to go where I think it is going to go?
"How is Joey different?" I asked.
"He no' like over kidsth," Andy frowned.
"You're right. We're all different. And Joey is different." Andy still frowned. "Joey is autistic," I added.
"It means he thinks differently than you do. He sees the world a little differently. And he has more trouble talking than you do." He still frowned.
"Wha do i have?" he asked, and I shrugged.
"Nothing. You're just not autistic." He still stewed. "Well, let's think of it this way. Most people have brains like... say, toasters. And they make toast really well. So your brain is a toaster, and it makes toast."
"Okay," he accepted the premise uneasily.
"Well, Joey's brain is more like a hair dryer. It heats stuff, and can even make toast, but it is a lot harder for him, because he isn't made to make toast, he is made to dry hair. And we need dry hair, so it's a good thing he's here." Andy frowned. "And some of us are ovens...."
"An oven? The thing we put cookies in to bake them. But not the best for making toast." Though I suppose that depends on how you like your toast. But let's not confuse the poor lad.
"And some people are... clothes dryers. So they can heat things up, too, but they do better drying clothes than making toast. But most people are toasters, and the world is geared to making toast." Yeah, I fumbled it. Just shoot me already.
"Thas funny," he giggled, thinking.
"There's lots of ways to be different," I offered as explanation. "And it's a good thing we're all different. It makes the world interesting. Things would be pretty boring if we were all alike. Some people like animals, and some like cars, and some have blues eyes, and some have brown. What color are your eyes?"
Instead of answering, he put a finger to one of my eyes.
"Yes, you have the same color as mine. What is it?" He signed blue, and looked tired. "That's right. Because that is just the way you are made. And handsome!" I kissed him, and he snuggled in, and fell asleep.
I have the feeling this is going to be a regular bedtime conversation.