Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Menards, Mangers, Maxes, Meaning, and Material Miscellany

Subtitle: Random Memories from the Holiday Season, Christmas 2008

Max has been pretty delighted with all the Christmas decorations everywhere we go these days. He exclaims and grins and Ho!-Ho!-Ho!s and wants me to talk about everything we see. I decided to take him to Menards home improvement store the other day to see the rows and rows of Christmas items on display there. (It's close to home, has free admission, and no lines to wait in -- the perfect low-stress outing!)

Max loved it! We spent quite a while just wandering up and down the aisles and ooh-ing and aah-ing over the giant inflatable snow globe, and the thousands of twinkle lights, and the sparkly ornaments, and the Santas GALORE!

...Although I did make the mistake of starting out in the aisle with all those stuffed, interactive critters with buttons to push. We had the entire row singing and playing banjo and barking and dancing and rocking and twisting by the time we worked our way through...and then Max thought that much of the other stuff on display was for him to touch and poke and move, too! Yikes.

(Which reminds me to comment on how nice the other shoppers were! Even when faced with the cacophony of Christmas critters we created, people were indulgent and cheerful, smiling at us and making friendly comments. One couple even stopped while passing by and the man asked if he could lift Max up to give him a closer view of the train running through a miniature Christmas village display. It was interesting to watch the interactions; I think shopping for Christmas decorations brings out the good in people.)

I bought Max a tiny tree to take home, and then let him pick out the lights for it. We settled on a string of tiny, multi-colored lights.

Carrying the box to the checkout counter helped keep his hands off the toys and candy so temptingly displayed along the way, too. Sometimes everything just works, you know? You may smirk at our Very Special Menards Christmas Outing, and admittedly I have certainly gotten my share of chuckles out of the entire concept, but I also have some very fond memories tucked away as a result. Sometimes seeing the world through his eyes makes things seem so magical & new again. Ahh, simple pleasures...


On Sunday, the kids all sang in church at the beginning of the service. My husband was out of town, and we were running late, scrambling in at the last minute. Max was initially reluctant to join the group of kids, but quickly warmed to the idea and I promptly left. The other kids stood for the song, and most were singing, but Max sat with his teacher and watched the congregation and listened to the music. When the song was over, the kids all joined their families for the rest of the service.

The service seemed so long; Max certainly doesn't listen (so I don't, either). Does he know about the manger? Does he understand the Christmas Story? No, not in that way. But he understands friends and singing and families and animals and babies and love and joy -- so, really, you could argue that he does. He gets the meaning.

Max was a wiggle worm, shifting and shuffling and squirming, making frequent exclamations in his NON-whispering way. But then the singing started. He didn't sing the proper words or proper tune while up front with the children, but when we all stood to sing, he was right there with the rest of us. He insisted on holding his own hymnal (with two fingers slipped in back, just like his teacher does in school, as if to turn it around and show everyone the pictures) and ran his voice up and down, gentle and high, forming his shapeless words, just as sincere as could be.

So, yeah, I'd say he gets it. Maybe not "it" (the precise, defined type), but definitely It (the Truthy Meaningful type).


Back at home, Max wanted to watch The Grinch. (Jim Carrey version) He's been watching this movie off and on for months now. It's nice that it is finally the proper season, and he can see similar images all around him. He particularly wants to watch the ending of the movie -- from the loud excitement of the Grinch's thievery through the part where the Whos all join hands and sway back and forth and sing their Who-y song. As a matter of fact, Max's sign for the Grinch movie in particular -- and for Christmas, in general! -- is to spread his arms and legs and rock back and forth, like one of the Whos in the singing scene. And then he wants us to say, "Daboo Florays" in acknowledgment of his "sign," because that is the phrase we have jokingly used in reference to the song the Whos are singing. (What are they saying? Anyone? I really need to google it!)

I've been trying to teach him the actual sign for Christmas, and he's getting it, but he needs a reminder and a prompt, and prefers to use his own full-body enthusiastic sign. (And actually, his version does capture the spirit of the season much more accurately, both in root and essence...) I like to think that he appreciates the sentiment of that scene, and of course, he likes the music. I think he also probably has special interest in that particular portion of the movie because the Grinch shouts at his dog, Max (nice coincidence, eh?), several times and then they end up rolling around on the floor together. It's nice to finally see that poor dog acting happy...and it's probably also nice to hear the music of one's own name.

So we're working on his Christmas sign, hoping to get one that is more universally recognizable and doesn't require an entire back-story explanation.


Max's speech therapist asked me what he wanted for Christmas. It's such a basic, common question...but it floored me for a moment. I really was blank! I mean, I know some of the things he's been into lately, and I have a pretty good idea of the type of things he'd probably like, and I have a list of things I've decided he needs...but somehow it really threw me off balance. I suppose we don't really ask that question! Can that be??

What does HE want? What does he WANT?

I stammered around and then kind of listed themes, telling her what he's into these days, and a few items I know he will be getting. The crazy thing is, I have tons of ideas for him this year! There have been years/stages where it has been really hard to know what to get him for birthdays or Christmas, but this year he's had some very clear preferences and delights. I've observed and I'm totally prepared! But I still don't really ask him that question. How would he answer?

Well, he'd do the same things he's been doing: pointing and grinning, picking something out in a crowd, carrying it around, using a sign or word for it...that's his answer. But it's not exactly the same.

On the other hand, maybe here he gets it, too. There's some stuff that is fun. Stuff that makes us laugh, stuff that we enjoy, stuff that has all the bells and whistles. But really, the details are not terribly important. Those things come and go. They are temporary. They may delight us anew each day...or they may drop from our radar, quickly discarded. It's the feeling we are after, not the thing. For me, grasping this concept is somewhat of an ongoing, lifelong lesson; for Max, though, it seems obvious.

He wants something that makes him smile or makes him feel good. But it doesn't really matter what it is, because the stuff is just on the side. A temporary distraction. A passing delight. His main pleasure is simply being with all of us, sitting close and playing together and smiling at each other. The rest is icing.

I'm still learning this one. Max, on the other hand, gets it.

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