For years Zion has spent Friday nights at his grandparent’s house. It is part of his routine, and it gives me a night of respite from the autism and Zion’s high energy.
Recently though, Zion has been asking to spend more time at home. Friday morning when I dropped him off at his ABA therapy center, he said, “Stay home with mama tonight?”
Be still my heart.
Zoë had already made plans to go to the movies with Auntie Boo and grandma, so I asked Zion if he would like to do something special, too.
He thought for a moment and said, “Can I go to the restaurant for chips and cheese?”
I laughed. (Wouldn’t the whole world love to immerse themselves in a vat of that white cheese dip? YummO.)
I asked if there is anything else he would like to do.
He thought for another moment and replied, “Go Christmas shopping?”
No matter how many times I hear new words and phrases out of my son, I am still speechless every time. I have never heard Zion talk about Christmas shopping before. For all I know, he thinks those gifts magically appear…or that Santa Clause does actually bring them.
So I probed further. “What do you want to buy when we go Christmas shopping?”
He simply said, “Presents.”
I asked Zion, “What kind of presents do you want to buy?”
He said, “Movies.”
I asked, “What kind of movies?”
And he said, “Santa Clause is coming to town.”
I laughed out loud and said, “Well buddy, that sounds like more of a gift for Zion.”
I kissed him goodbye and headed off for work.
About half way through my day, I received a text message from Zion’s program manager stating how excited Zion was about our impending evening out. That made me tearful. (another shocker) There was a time when it seemed like Zion wasn’t even in there…and now he’s not only excited about Christmas, he’s making plans in his mind and actually wants to spend Friday with his mama.
By the time Zion came home from therapy, he had changed his mind from Santa Clause is coming to town to The Smurfs Christmas Carol. He sat through dinner, happily munching his chips and cheese and drinking 87 cups of lemonade. He chattered non-stop about going to Target and shopping.
What happened at Target plays out in my mind like a home movie.
First off, Zion knew exactly where The Smurfs Christmas Carol was located. Apparently he had seen it during an earlier trip to Target. I’m sure I looked like I was walking a bloodhound, as he was practically dragging me through the store…squealing about the Smurfs and Christmas.
As we passed the cash registers, I made quick eye-contact with a cashier. She looked at Zion and grinned from ear to ear.
As we approached the movie rack, Zion practically dove on that movie. He grabbed it up in his hands, and held it high over his head and squealed, “Mama, I found the Smurfs!” as he jumped up and down for several minutes.
I wish I could get that excited about anything.
I said, “Now buddy, I know that’s not for Zoë. I will buy that for our Christmas box, but what are you going to buy for Zoë?”
I didn’t expect a response, but I wanted to teach him that Christmas is about giving.
Before I could do or say anything else, Zion took off. I said “Where are you going, buddy?” And he said, “DIS WAY!”
So I followed.
We rounded what seemed like about 100 corners before we stopped in front of some ceramic piggy banks.
Zion pointed to the red one and said, “DIS one.”
I said, “You want to buy Zoë a piggy bank?”
And Zion said, “Zion break it.”
I laughed again. I said, “Buddy, I’m not going to buy something for you to break.”
Zion said, “Zion break it on the Zoë’s room.”
And suddenly I remembered. I stared at my son with my mouth open.
Years ago, and I mean YEARS ago….the kids were probably 3 and 4 years old, Zoë had a piggy bank that Zion loved. He was obsessed with it. He would sit on the floor and put hundreds of coins into the slot, one by one, and then when he was out of coins he would shake the coins out and start over again.
One day he was cheesed-off about something, and threw the piggy bank at Zoë’s closet hardwood floor. The bank shattered everywhere. Zion got a timeout, and Zoë cried her eyes out. I never replaced it because it was ceramic.
As I stood there in Target trying to process what just happened, Zion grabbed the piggy bank and said, “Be careful, don’t break it!”
I grabbed him and hugged him as hard as I could.
When we got to the checkout area, the same cashier who had made eye contact with me earlier was open. It was as though she waiting for just us. We walked up and Zion announced to her, “We buy the Christmas presents!” as he jumped up and down.
She spoke directly to him. (I love that so much.) They had a short conversation about Christmas, Zion’s eyelashes, and the yummy aforementioned cheese dip. When she was finished ringing up our purchases she looked directly at me and said, “He is beautiful.”
I smiled and said, “Those eyelashes will break a thousand hearts.”
She replied, “I wasn’t talking about the eyelashes.”
(Geez Louise, how many times can my heart be ripped open in Target in one night?!)
Every year during the holiday season, there is always a moment when something beautiful and nostalgic happens, and I feel in my heart that it is Christmas. One year it was on Christmas Eve, when we got some surprise carolers at our door. Another year it was when I was penniless and the tree broke in half on Christmas Day, causing great laughter. Another year it was on the Friday after Thanksgiving, the first time my kids and I decorated together and baked Christmas cookies.
But this year, for me, Christmas came two weeks early on a Friday night in Target.
Merry Christmas, everyone. xoxo