My first grade teacher would remark to my mom, “Sometimes we just have an Edith day.” My first grade class was given a goal that we all read 100 books each by the end of the school year. The teacher’s aide would log them in a notebook and keep count. I happily brought in all the books about dinosaurs and constellations I was into and reading at the time. The teacher’s aide kept track even after I was past 100, writing down every single title. At the end of the year every one of us who met the goal received a small trophy. My mom transcribed on the bottom of mine how many books I read that year: 712.
In second grade came speech therapy for my stutter and along with that, bullying. I began to see I wasn’t understood by the other kids when none understood why I brought to show and tell whiskers and claw tips my cats had shed around the house.
I spent much of the next two years alone on top of my fort, wondering why my neighbor’s older sister wouldn’t allow her to play with me. In fifth grade I began talking to a classmate about feeling alone. At first she said she understood but after awhile she said if I didn’t stop talking to her she would spill everything I had told her to the rest of the class.
Middle school brought increased bullying and depression, but I also found solace in a deep obsession with Kurt Cobain. This obsession probably actually saved my life. I got into pen-palling, zines and punk rock. I went to high school still feeling wounded, but a little more defiant.
In high school I found a small group of friends who were all outsiders for one reason or another. We would do small things to make a statement. For example I wore bar code stickers on my forehead when it was standardized testing time. So on. By the time I graduated high school most of the kids who had always made fun of me seemed to have if nothing else, a grudging respect for me being myself openly. They voted me ‘most original’ and ‘most likely to be abducted by aliens’.
College, though intense as I’ve discussed in another post, was all in all excellent. I made friends there, most of whom I am still in touch with today. But suddenly being free to roam in an on campus living environment, social anxieties rose in me to levels I had not yet known. I could talk more about navigating all of that, and may well do so sometime, but right now it would derail where I’m trying to go with this.
I was in college, probably it was around 2005-2006, my mom happened to read a book by Temple Grandin. She and my dad talked and then came to tell me they thought we all three were autistic. I forget now which online quotient test we took but we all scored high probability. It made enough sense to me at the time but I still didn’t know a lot and didn’t feel sure.
Over the years – researching, talking to a close friend who is autistic and later joining in some Facebook groups – I concluded firmly it is the only thing that makes sense. I am autistic. I believe my parents were too, as they had said.
My mom was always mystifying me as a kid. She would speak when she thought she hadn’t and vice versa. We would laugh together over misreading words in print constantly. She was happiest outside poking at a fire with a stick. I didn’t know the term ‘info-dump’ until recently but I will say my dad was certainly the king of it. Both were big readers, owned enough books to fill a library. I grew up and generally thrived in this environment. None of us knew until I was an adult that we were autistic. (Losing them young into my adult life has been a special kind of hell, but more for that another time.)
I want to write more but am getting worn out. I am interested in getting this out there as I have never opened up on such a public space. So I am going to publish now and write more later.