On Saturday, I met an old friend for the first time.
Several months ago, I struck up a friendship online with a fellow blogger Spectrummy Mummy. It happened very naturally. Our writing styles are similar. Two of our kids are the same age. We write about the same things.
She quickly became a confidante. Someone I could bounce ideas off of. Someone that I could e-mail at 4am with a question or complaint, and I knew she’d answer it. And “get it”. But we had never actually spoken to one another. Or connected in person.
So when I read that she was going to be moving to the other side of the world this summer, I knew we had to meet. Somehow.
We chose the day before Mother’s Day to meet in Boston. She would fly up, I would drive in. It would be our day to just be…us.
I had no idea what Spectrummy Mummy looked like or sounded like. However I know her kids’ names, their diagnoses, and tiny details of her daily life. The weird thing about blogging friendships is that you get to learn the most intimate of details about the other person, but nothing superficial. It’s the opposite of creating friendships in real life.
I had it all planned out. I was going to get to the airport early, complete with my homemade “Spectrummy Mummy” sign to find her at the airport, and then I’d whisk her into Boston on a grand sightseeing tour. She’s British, so I planned to show her all the battlefields in the city where we beat her country. I drove in to Boston, parked my car in a hotel garage, and headed for the bus to the airport.
And I missed it. Only in Boston will a bus drive away as you’re coming down the stairs to get on it.
So instead of my grand “Welcome to Boston” plan at the airport, I had to send her a text that I was going to be late. Of course.
We hugged at the airport like old friends, and headed back into the city to Faneuil Hall. The conversation flowed so easily. The sun was shining, and we grabbed a lemonade and sat on a park bench. And talked. And talked.
It was like we’ve known each other for years. We talked about our kids. Our husbands. Our families. Our pre-kid lives.
No awkward pauses. No kid interruptions. No phone calls from school. Nothing but just…us.
Halfway through our lemonades, I looked across the plaza. A group of well dressed people were gathering in front of the entrance to the marketplace. I knew why there were there. Our senior senator, Senator John Kerry, was having a town meeting inside. It was open to the public. All you had to do was sign in.
I had been told about this by some friends and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to do some autism awareness and advocacy. After all, we were already there. We were autism moms. And as I told my friends, you can take the moms away from their children with autism, but you can’t take the autism out of their kids. Or something like that.
The night before I had rehearsed my question for the Senator in my head.
Senator Kerry, can you state whether or not you’re committed to the reauthorization of the combating autism act? Can we talk more about our military families and the high incidence of autism amongst military children? Can you tell me why my friend’s husband has to leave her family again so soon after returning from a long tour? How can we help my other friend, who is at home putting together her son’s IEP while her husband is in Afghanistan? What supports can we give them so he’s not worried about his child at home while protecting his country?
I turned to Spectrummy Mummy. “Do you want to go in?”
“It’s up to you.”
I stood for a minute and watched the people file in.
I couldn’t do it.
I was definitely intimidated, that is true. But I was also tired of fighting. This was my one day that was just me and my friend. I couldn’t do it.
At that moment, I didn’t want to be an autism mom. I just wanted to be…me.
We ate at a restaurant where we didn’t care about the ingredients. We watched a street performer demonstrate the changing of the guard (which was quite amusing to Spectrummy Mummy, her being British and all). We debated the merits of spending $12 for a half dozen cookies. We took a picture with a Storm Trooper outside of Newbury Comics.
When the skies opened up and the rain poured down, we ran back inside Quincy Market for cake and hot chocolate. And sat on the floor.
No worries about kids running off. No anxiety about the loud noises of the giant crowd taking refuge inside with us. Just…us.
My plan of taking Spectrummy Mummy on a tour of the city scrapped because of the rain, we headed over to the Seaport Hotel to meet up with Varda from The Squashed Bologna. She was there for a blogging conference, and it’s where I had parked my car. It seemed like the perfect last stop before taking my friend back to the airport. We sat in the hotel bar with Varda, drank a bottle of wine, and talked some more.
Our only time constraint was getting to the airport on time for Spectrummy Mummy’s flight. We had nowhere else to be. We talked about our writing. Our plans for the future. Plans for our kid’s future. I debated spending $7 for chocolate covered pretzels.
And then, it was time to go.
A ten minute ride to the airport, three hugs goodbye, and my new/old friend was gone. And I fought back tears the whole ride home.
Online friendships can be tricky. When you read someone’s work for so long, you picture what they could be like in person. You’re so in awe of all that they do, and so inspired by what they write and say, you wonder if you could even be in the same room as them, let alone spend the day together. I have been lucky enough to meet some of my fellow autism blogging friends in recent months and now count them among my best friends. These people I can count on to have my back in an instant.
I can now include Spectrummy Mummy in that group of my best friends. The day we spent together was one of the best I had had in a long time. It was the first day in almost a year that I had just been…me.
There’s a special connection that autism moms have. An instant bond. An total understanding. And no matter our backgrounds or our beliefs or the specifics of our child’s diagnosis, we have a common ground. We “get it”. We’re here for each other. Helping each other to bring out the “just me”.
From down the street or across the globe.
“No one could ever know me
No one could ever see me
Seems you’re the only one who knows
What it’s like to be me
Someone to face the day with
Make it through all the rest with
Someone I’ll always laugh with
Even at my worst I’m best with you, yeah
It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear
When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month,
or even your year…
I’ll be there for you
When the rain starts to pour
I’ll be there for you
Like I’ve been there before
I’ll be there for you
‘Cuz you’re there for me too…” – I’ll Be There For You by The Rembrandts