by Lillian Csernica on June 11, 2013
My younger son graduates from middle school on Thursday.
Last Friday night, the school held the Eighth Grade Dance, an elite social occasion for the upperclassmen/women only. Whenever my son gets his hair cut, for the first week he looks like a Marine from the back. It’s only when he turns around and you see that sweet boyish face that you realize you are not standing near an adult of legal age. Thank God my son is not aware of just how grown up he looks, nor is he of a mind to put it to the kinds of uses some boys might. No, on Friday night after the dance my son gave me a heart attack of quite another kind.
Me: “So, how was the dance? Did you have a good time?”
Me: “Were your friends there?”
Him: “Yeah.” (He named a few.)
Me: “So what happened? Did you do anything interesting?” (Dancing, Wii games, live texting on big screens, etc.)
Him: “I saw a panther.”
Me: “You saw a panther? A real panther?”
Me: “What, did you watch a video about panthers? Was there a poster or something?”
We went back and forth a few times over this. My son just kept insisting it was a real panther. By then my fight or flight was starting to kick in.
Me: “What color was the panther?”
My son is very good with animals. Horses, cats, goats, cows, dogs, birds, you name it. So it was not totally outside the realm of possibility that the middle school principal had gone all out for the end of the year festivities and had actually brought a live panther (the sports teams’ totem animal, so to speak) under proper restraint to the dance. I seriously doubted it, because there had been no official notice and no school board wants to hear the words “Are you insane?” and “lawsuit.”
Me: “OK, wait a minute. Did you actually see a real live black panther? Was it on a leash or something?”
Him (confused look): “No. It’s our mascot.”
Then it hit me. Part of my son’s autism is being very concrete in his thinking, very literal-minded.
Me: “Somebody came to the dance dressed up in a big black panther costume like the mascots who go to the big professional sports games on T.V.?”
At that point I collapsed on the couch in relief.