Cleaning out the car is just one of the many opportunities during the novel COVID-19. Ridding the trunk of the sleeping bag, stashed in the trunk corner for an emergency, an extra crockpot for who knows what, empty granola bar wrappers during the after-school feeding frenzy, and other miscellaneous items actually feel good. There is a sense of “awe” and a deep breath you can take when your car feels a bit lighter.

And yet, all of that supposed junk in the car is like finding a Black Opal for Buddy and Sissy – who have now lived, learned, and breathed in the walls of our home for 10 weeks. So, the cleaning of the car is a welcome adventure filled with new capes for the princess, giant blocks for stacking, and a long, lonely metal cable lock in need of a friend.

Yes, you read these words correctly. The long, lonely metal cable lock in need of a friend and Buddy immediately recognized this. At first, glance, when Buddy ran through the back yard with the cable, I used my Momma-Bear voice, shouting, “What are you doing, Buddy? You might get hurt with that cable.”

“No, Mom, don’t worry, I’m just going for a ride and I’m totally safe!” shouted Buddy as he zipped passed me and then over the slip-n-slide engulfed in green grass and mud. Buddy continued to zip, run, jump and vroom around the backyard with this cable until finally, his belly started to rumble and his mind shifted its focus to food. He left the cable in a parallel form on the grass next to the slip-n-slide. And, I sighed a sense of relief, believing the cable intrigue found a final period.

And when the long, metal cable lock didn’t appear in our yard, again, for about two days, I made the general assumption that my significant other picked it up – and stowed it away somewhere. I’m sure that assumption was also made about me. Life continued with walks to the creek, making popcorn for snacks, meltdowns every day around 3 PM and feeding the birds every morning. We sounded out letters and practiced our multiplication tables. We baked cookies and failed at a new dinner recipe.

Yet, as anticipated, the cable reappeared one morning while I was enjoying my earl gray tea on our porch. “Hey, Mom! I want you to meet my friend!” shouted Buddy from inside the house.

With a dust of sleep still in my voice, I echoed, “Okay, Buddy,” as I indulged in the very last sip of tea. And, just as I put my feet the ground, Buddy appeared with the long, lonely metal cable lock from two days prior.

“Buddy, please don’t play with that cable. It could hurt you. And, it is going to hurt my wood floors.” I touted as soon as Buddy appeared in the doorway to our patio.

“Mom, I want you to meet Mr. Snake,” said Buddy with excitement and a tone of prowess. His eyes, an intent hazel brown and his mouth brimming with a genuine smile told me that this moment was real.

I found the playful, non-judgment part of myself and said, “Okay, it’s nice to meet you Mr. Snake.”  Smiling, I reached out to touch him and then became afraid because, alas, some snakes have venom.  

“”Don’t worry Mom.  His venom is only for the villains.  And, Mr. Snake is my friend. He plays with me. He goes on adventures with me. I’ve been keeping him in the garage because it is so nice and cool in there.” exclaimed Buddy.

And I listened as Buddy shared everything about Mr. Snake: he is a rare species, what he eats, how long he sleeps, the best climate for him to survive in. … The part that struck me the most, that splintered my heart, were the words, “he is lonely Mom.” Hum, I said out loud to my son. “Can you tell me why he is lonely?” I prodded.

“Sure. He is lonely because he has no one to play with. But, not anymore because now he has me.”
At that moment, I canceled my scheduled Zoom meetings, texted my colleagues that I was unavailable, and found some much-needed time to play with my son. No guilt. No apologies. There wasn’t, and still isn’t, anything more important than togetherness and love. We spent the morning dancing to Taylor Swift and Michael Jackson. We jumped on our trampolines and then we rolled in the grass.  We ate loads of popsicles – perhaps an entire box (but I wasn’t paying attention). 

All the while, Mr. Snake, stayed on the patio, right where Buddy left him.

It is rather commonplace for some children on the autism spectrum to create friendships with inanimate objects.  In fact, it is also commonplace for neurotypical developing children to do the same.  The beauty at this moment is recognizing my son’s creative spirit and mind – and listening to his words.  The beautiful side at this moment is not dwelling on the fact that perhaps, during COVID-19 coupled with a boy on the autism spectrum, that my son truly is isolated; rather, his beautiful mind is able to find the joy and the beauty in a lonely, long metal cable lock.  I don’t know about you, but there is a need for more love in our world and I’m thrilled to share it with Mr. Snake.  

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