I don’t have much to say this week. Dar does.
When I call him non-verbal, I wonder if there are parents out there thinking, “Oh, God, I wish my kid was non-verbal. Ten minutes of peace and quiet would be freaking great.”
Yeah, that isn’t what’s happening over here in Chez Smith-Rowsey. Closer to the worst of both worlds. He can’t talk, but he also can’t stop verbalizing, and loudly. His voice-hole babbles and rambles nonsensically.
You might say there are two kinds of travelers to foreign lands – one kind that loves the plunge into a cacophony of unfamiliarity, and another that feels alienated by the whole mishegoss and longs for something more recognizable. You might say that, but I don’t believe it; what I believe is that there are parts of the two types inside each one of us. Sometimes we love the unknowable mosaic of humanity, other times we want comfort food and comfort banter. We’re all Dorothy; sometimes she’s loving her wacky new friends in Oz, sometimes she’s saying “there’s no place like home.”
Being with Dar is a little bit like having moved to a foreign country without ever learning the language. At first, hey, exotic! After a while, hey, this is getting on my nerves!
One thing you notice, living in the country of Darwinia, is that not only do its inhabitants seem to say the same thing a lot (is it like “aloha” or “ciao,” which have multiple meanings?), but they say that same thing LOUD. While stomping their feet. Starting at 5:30 every morning. And they don’t understand when you tell them to cut it out. Well, they do understand getting shut in their room, but that only leads to different communication – howls of pain rage that are just as loud.
Can you tell I’m writing this on truncated sleep?
All of this is partly to say that I get it when people side-eye Dar at Starbucks. He’s loud, and they’d look the same way at a foreigner who was speaking an unfamiliar language loudly.
I also get it when Dar’s fellow first-graders seem to have the same expression. They didn’t sign up for this. They’re stuck in Darwinia. Sure, it’s expanding their consciousness and they’re learning multitudes they never imagined. But the other side of their Dorothy-ness is also kicking in, and they want to go back to Kansas and Auntie Em and Uncle Henry.
It’s strange, but not wrong, to think of educating Dar as an assimilation project. As someone married to someone born and raised behind the Iron Curtain, I have had many thoughty thoughts and chatty chats about degrees of assimilation. For example, should everyone living in America need to speak English? Should they give up certain traditions, adopt new ones? Dar is in a protected class, so to speak, but he also isn’t. We’re not exactly honoring his right to keep on “tee-tee-tee”-ing, and I’m glad we’re not.
You know how in The Blues Brothers, when Elwood takes Jake to their new apartment, Jake asks “uh, how often does the L pass right outside?” and Elwood replies “So often you won’t even notice it!” Dar is like that. He’s a dripping faucet that you can’t adjust. You’d think you’d get used to it. You don’t.
I don’t have more to say about this. Dar does. So I’ll give him the last word: