My husband and I raised our family in Lafayette, California, about 30 miles east of San Francisco, where a popular Art and Wine Festival is held each Fall. For people who don’t mind crowds, chaos, loud (but great) music and hot weather, the Art and Wine Festival is a lot of fun–great food, wine, beer and hundreds of booths spilling with art and hand-made crafts.
Photo by Tiraporn Olsen, LamorindaWeb.com
I don’t think I need to explain to you that this well loved two-day event has been nightmarish for me over the years, the mother of a son with autism who has wanted to go every year, especially during the impulsive, combative, escape artist years. When possible, we arranged to be out of town that weekend usually visiting my parents who lived in Carmel. One legendary year, when Matthew was about 15, we stayed home and he went to the event with a mentor/helper type, a brilliant idea of mine that backfired when he accused the over attentive helper of stalking him.
But the past few years, Matthew, who is now 28, has gone to the festival fairly successfully with his dad, and this year, just as the two were headed out the door, Peter stalled to take a phone call, water a plant, find a better hat, swat a few flies and other random activities that people our age get distracted with.
“I’m leaving without you,” Matthew groaned impatiently, “I’ll meet you there,” and he left.
Peter kept dilly dallying, finally leaving after about 20 minutes–and returning home an hour later without Matthew.
“I couldn’t find him,” he said. “What a mad house. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
Sure he’ll be fine. What could go wrong in a mad house?
“I’ll bet I can find him,” I said, trying my best not to sound huffy. I did find him, and he was busy helping one of the bands get set up.
“Go away,” Matthew told me, “I’m not being mean, I’m being independent.”
I walked home (just 5 blocks), and checked back later and saw Matthew posing at the photo booth with a few old school friends.
A few hours later, I checked on him again, and he was eating pizza and listening to music with his middle school music teacher. Matthew looked happy and relaxed and not nearly as overwhelmed by the crowds, sun, and noise as I was.
Not just cool, incredible.
If you were you tell me 5, 10, 20 years ago about the Art and Wine Festival of 2014, I would not have believed it.
Later that afternoon, I noticed a voice message from Matthew.
“Mom, I am seriously broke and need 20 dollars. I am in front of Starbucks and seriously need the money now. Meet me here immediately.”
He’d left the message 20 minutes earlier.
I called his cell phone right back. It rang and rang and went to message. “I’ll be right there,”I said. Gosh, he sounded anxious. Was he going to ask passersby for money? I called him again, but it was clear that he could not hear his phone ringing.
I drove my care (4 silly blocks) and parked illegally as close as I could to Starbucks, dashed over with the 20 dollar bill, but Matthew was nowhere to be found. I called him again. No answer.
I drove home, and Matthew phoned me just as I pulled in the driveway. I have your money! I told him. Where are you?
“I’m still downtown”, he said calmly, “I had a Starbucks card in my wallet and I turned it in for 20 dollars.”
They do that?
“And Mom,” he continued, ” You left me three messages in a row on my phone. That is not appropriate.”
“But I had your money…”
“That doesn’t matter,” he scolded. “You can call a person once and leave them a message, but if you do more than that, it’s bothering.”
“Of course” I said, “I’m sorry.”
He continued his mild mannered tirade with lines like “sorry is not enough” and “I won’t tolerate this behavior,” and “there are consequences”–on and on, repeating what he had heard so many times over the years. It was an endearing and clearly therapeutic rant, and one I will never forget.
You go, Matthew.
I’m pretty sure it is not Starbucks regular policy to grant refunds for gift cards, and I am grateful to the barista, who like so many folks in our community, who have taken the time and interest to understand and appreciate Matthew’s personality.
But I give equal credit to time, maturity, teachers, therapists, family, friends, (great parenting) and most of all to Matthew, who I later learned enjoyed a glass filled with half wine and half water just before walking home after a successful day.
My book A REGULAR GUY: GROWING UP WITH AUTISM is nearly sold out (in paper-forever available digitally)