I am living on the autism spectrum. I didn’t know until weeks ago. I accepted the diagnosis as one of relief and a gift. It has taken me down memory lane. In my mind, I have relived episodes of the distant past as well as recent. One of those memories was of a Christmas Eve at Grandma and Grandpa’s farm when I was old enough to have wanted a record player for Christmas.
My Grandma was one of the sweetet ladies I ever knew. During her last stay at the hospital, the nurses spoke of what a wonderful patient she was. She never complaind even though the pain had to be excruciating had times. At the funeral, the minister spoke of my Grandma’s warm hospitality and loving nature.
But they might not have known there was more to my Grandma than met the eye. She was an enigma. On one hand, she’s give you the shirt off her back; on the other, she’d delight in giving an unsuspecting loved one a “pig’s tail” for Christmas.
What I remember is the anxiety I felt when arriving at Grandma’s house and inspecting the presents underneath the “live” Christmas tree. I hoped in silence that the one that had a pig’s tail did not have my name on it. I didn’t dare reveal my fear in my Grandma’s presence. If someone brought the subject up, it sure wasn’t me! I knew more likely than not it would eventually be my turn to be the victim of my Grandma’s annual Christmas piggish delight. Anyone who had a present under her tree was a potential owner of a pig’s tail.
Christmas presents were always opened on Christmas Eve night when my Grandpa said what all the grandkids were eager to hear “You can open them now.” My Grandma wasn’t as enthused as her grandkids were to open presents. Instead, I suspect in the back of her eye was the family member who would open a present and find the short end of a pig.
On that particular Christmas Eve, I got a record player with two albums of my favorite vocalist back then: the Carpenters and Peter, Paul, and Mary. I eagerly moved the player to a bedroom to play it. Now I understand why I wanted to be myself. I preferred doing things alone and that Christmas Eve was no exception. I retreated to a private place, pacing back and forth, pretending in my make-believe world as I stepped to the music.
I can look back on this episode differently. Instead of seeing it only through my eyes, I see it through my Grandma’s. The face of disappointment on the one who got something that was only useful to its previous owner would turn my Grandma’s face into one of absolute delight. She would laugh so hard that she sometimes had tears in her eyes. I smile thinking of the gleaming “sly” smile on my Grandma’s face. I can faintly hear the sound of her laugher which is music to my ears as was the Carpenters and Peter, Paul, and Mary when I was the one who got the pig’s tail that Christmas Eve.