October 25, 2009

FACEBOOK, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways

1. How can I be old enough to have friends whom I have known 25, 35, 45 years?

2. Lots of messages in Danish, which is very cool, even though I can't read them

3. I didn't think I had friends in high school, and now it appears that I did.

October 21, 2009

The A-Word

This is the second time someone has said in Jeff's presence, "My son is autistic, too." Although I am the last one to get sniffy about "labeling"--I will do anything to get social services for the boys--this comment is so jarring. My attitude has always been, "I know my kids, so it doesn't really matter what words are used to described them." I confess that I have used the A-word myself on occasion, but usually as shorthand, in the case of frustration or immediacy. On two occasions long ago, adults (once at a playground, once in a bookstore) have tried to grab Jeff and, knowing that this was not going to have the result they intended, I yelled, "Don't touch him. He is autistic."

However, that term is not anywhere in the boys' medical or educational records. It's just as well; it would be much too simplistic. There is no doubt that they are somewhere on the continuum of autistic spectrum disorders, but it's a small piece of a constellation of issues.

As Jeff has gotten older, many of his "autistic" behaviors have diminished. He is somewhat immature for his age and socially clumsy, but that word suggests many traits which Jeff doesn't have. I have overheard Jeff and his respite worker chatting, teasing and joking, like young men anywhere, and I think, "Who is that regular person?" Eye contact is not an issue. Explosive tantrums--nope. Sensivity to noise and texture--not really. It's still hard for Jeff to follow adult conversation, but with a prompt or two, he can participate, and more significantly, he wants to. Autism suggests a lifetime of social isolation--the confusion and bewildering morass of nuanced human behaviors--but Jeff is eager to interact and make friends.

So I'm going back to my own diagnostic description which I employed for many years while waiting for the doctors to come up with something better: autism-lite.

October 12, 2009

Jews at Hogwarts?

While housecleaning recently, I found a letter from one of my cousins in England. She must have sent it a few years ago, when I told her I was a huge Harry Potter fan. LS

No one makes a big deal out of it, but there have always been Jewish kids at Hogwarts. Not many, and not any of the famous ones, but still there are students from the entire U.K. there and from some of the former colonies, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I attend.

A huge effort is made to keep the wizarding world secret, so only my immediate family knows. It hasn't been easy keeping that secret from the extended family who seem to know every single religious school in the world, who attends it and who has graduated from there. But I got a letter when I was almost eleven, just like every other muggle-born wizard in England. My parents in Golders Green assumed it was some advert and tossed it, but a few more identical letters arrived and they finally took a look. I was attending the local Akiba Day School and was intending to go the same Bais Rivka that all sisters and cousins and aunts had attended.

Haha. Now I know better. Hogwarts does not take NO for an answer. I never got to meet Headmaster Dumbledore. That would have been something! He spoke over sixty languages, including Hebrew and a good bit of Yiddish. Some of the Jewish alumni told me that he would astonish their families with his linguistic ability and that would soften them up for the Hogwarts pitch. Professor McGonagal doesn't have quite that ability, but she did win points with my mum when she said that faculty and housemates would be "mispocheh" while I am at school. That didn't impress my dad though. What kind of Jewish kid goes to a school called Hogwarts?

In the end, they relented, although I found out later that all muggle parents do. It's part of the process and Hogwarts headmasters and headmistresses have the recruiting and convincing game down pat, thanks to a bit of harmless magic.

However, I think my mum is the first muggle mother to ever inspect the Hogwarts kitchens. Professor Mc had to relent on that. My parents weren't going to allow me to go anywhere that didn't provide kosher food. Believe it or not, she trained two house elves and made sure that my dishes and silver and cooking utensils are kept separately. Becher and Benscher even got special tea towel uniforms with the London Rabbinical Kashrus seal. I thought they'd complain about all the extra trouble but they are very proud of their special status.

Hogwarts: A History mentions a bit of Jewish history at Hogwarts. All the Jewish students there have been muggle-born, and they have all been in Ravenclaw House. In the whole recorded history of Hogwarts, there has only been one Jewish student on the Quidditch team, but lots of notable Gobstones players.

So that's it. I guess everything thinks that English boarding schools are totally goyishe, but I just want to put a word in that the most famous one isn't, completely.