The Kindness of a Stranger

How do we as parents of Autistic children connect with other parents like us? Primarily Facebook has been my vehicle of socialization, and not that I don’t love each and every one of those connections, meeting in person is something I crave. I really don’t have that many Autism Mom friends that I could just call up and meet for coffee. Now that I think about it, not any. (at least not without some MAJOR planning, and let’s face it I’m SUPER lazy when it comes to working hard for myself. Other people? Sure! I’ll work myself into an early grave but something for me?….eh..)

Lead in accomplished, I was driving to the grocery store on Friday evening, BY MYSELF. My sister came and stayed with my kids so I could fill my Yaris to the brim with the seat down instead of the micro trunk it usually has when you cram 3 small humans back there. Plus getting out without kids? That never happens!!

As I was driving, listening to my much denied NPR, I sort of glazed over the car ahead of me. I live, eat and breathe Autism Awareness so imagine my surprise when I realized I was looking right at a puzzle ribbon on the back of the SUV in front of me. I had this overwhelming desire to wave my hands at them and honk. Roll down the window and shout “Look I have one too!” like a crazy person. Or even more lunatic, follow them. Yeah, my heart sort of sank when the flipped on their turn signal…OKAY before you judge me, I assure you the feeling was fleeting. Also, look me in the face and tell me that you haven’t seen a fellow Autism Awareness magnet in a parking lot or on the highway and felt the same thing.

It’s encounters like that that make me look at every stranger I pass, scrutinizing every screaming child I see in a basket at the store. Listening to screaming that sounds just like my little guy in the middle of a meltdown, and wondering.

Well, today we decided we all needed a treat. We don’t go out to eat as a family often, but when we do it’s pretty much CiCi’s or Cracker Barrel(unless you count the random fast food or Uhg Chuck E Cheese) we decided to treat ourselves to Crackle Barrel tonight. When our super nice server came to get our drink order, we hurried and ordered Emerson’s Chicken strips and fries, probably throwing her off but the key to a successful dinner is minimized waiting time for the little man. I have to say I think this was our best family dinner outing ever. All the kids were awesome!

At the end I decided to stop our server. Something made me tell her that Emerson is Autistic. Now I’m on the fence about telling strangers he is Autistic, especially when say he has had a good outing and the average person would have no idea. Not because I don’t want them to know (let’s face it, I seriously want the world to think of HIM when they think of Autism) but because I don’t want to tell everyone his business. He is only 5 and still has speech issues as well as comprehension of social interaction but someday he will be self aware enough to understand what I say to people. I want him to be proud of his Autism, but its not my place to “out” him. I’m aware of this even now, though it seems like light years away. Anyways I told her.

I went on to say:
“You really wouldn’t know because of how good he has been this visit. I just wanted to thank you for being patient with us and doing such a great job.”

She sort of looked at me for a second and said:

“My daughter is Autistic.”


Whatever your faith may be, or not at all, that my friends was a Devine moment!! After that I hugged her. I mean what are the odds?(shut up, of course I know the odds but it still blew me away!) Her daughter and Emerson are only 11 months apart. I was not pushy in my hug. It was very natural. Not the hug of strangers, but of allies. Kin. (I may be kind of theatric..but…whatev. Go with it)

We wrangled the kids into the car, and I sent the husband back in with an envelope. In it, a nice tip, a $5 Starbucks gift card and a little note just for her. Hillary, server at Cracker Barrel that I met for the first time tonight, wether you knew it or not, you have a built in family of people like me! Maybe I WILL get that coffee pal after all….

Tracy Quigley
Mommy Buddy from the Planet Autism
Tracy Quigley

Tracy Quigley

Mommy Buddy from the Planet Autism

3 thoughts on “The Kindness of a Stranger

  • I am sure you know far more than I.  Remember the nephew I told you about?  He goes for his first job interview tomorrow.  His mother left a message on facebook saying she was most certainly glad that she did not listen to doctor’s recommendations.  I am not sure what that means.  Yes getting a group together takes a lot of work.  I was in Scouting 9 years and there was no pack when I started.  At night I would make pastel posters of Ziggy taking the scout oath.  I couldn’t keep a pack leader (at that time, men only) but I raised enough ruckus that they allowed me all the pack leader training.  The only reason I quit when I did was that they promoted me to Unit Comissioner.  That meant I had to train adults to do what I did and left me without the kids.  What did I do that was so special?  Love the boys and that is something you can’t teach.  A den is supposed to be around 6 kids, I was meeting with 30.  During Day Camp in summer my largest acquisition was a refrigerated 18 wheel trailer.   The woman wanted to know why I wanted to “borrow” one.  I told her I wanted to put an indian in it.  Not only did they deliver my trailer but provided propane in order that Indian George could tell his shaman stories in air conditioning (he had had a stroke the year before) but it held at least 3 units of 10 boys.  McDonalds provided me with a cotton candy machine and two women to run it.  I was known as the scrounger.  I want you to have that outlet group and others that feel the same as you do.  The only other “notable” thing I ever did was to start a group, similar to what I have suggested to you for Autism, for mixed sexually orientated marriages….I think it was the second in the U.S. at the time.  I unfortunately lost my partner, a professional counselor, before we could get it off the ground.  The next counselor I found insisted on charging.  That was not good for me so I quit supporting her, but her group filled up in two days.  Now I am retired medically.  Sometimes I feel I have lost my purpose in life but I have found that we don’t choose our lives.  A lot of times it just comes along and it is your lap it falls in.   I will talk to my sisters and find what they found on Autism, how they survived it, what they did to garner support. 

    If in any way I can help you, please feel free to message me.  One thing I have is a lot of time on my hands.

    No, I didn’t think your reply was harsh at all.  I am not walking in your shoes,


  • @mommachatter@xanga – I practically choked on my laugh.  I know you meant well by your post, but schools are NOT thirsty to help children.  Maybe some are, but for the most part, autistic kids are considered a budget problem and a burden as far as the school district is concerned.  I know people like to have rosy, inspirational views of difficult situations, but that is not the reality.  Sorry if this sounds harsh, but its true. 

  • I do not have any children who have autism but i do have two nephews and possibly a neice and a next door neighbor’s son.  I am sorry you feel so alone.  I don’t know where you are living but I am finding no central core to it.  I think the reason people don’t talk about it is that they don’t understand it.  The first I knew of how it “works” my nephew was visiting with his mother.  I had a half filled jar of pennies and he spent hours and hours rolling it over and over watching them turn.  I knew this wasn’t typical behavior of a three year old but instead of thinking it strange, I more or less looked at it with interest.  It was then his mother told me.  The young man grew and graduated from high school with “good” grades.  Last I heard from him was a couple of nights ago when he spent the night with his grandmother and was in the kitchen fixing dinner.

    You, my dear lady, are in a unique position.  Schools are thirsty to help most children, perhaps organize a self-help group just for coffee one night a month, children optional.  There have been much less groups that have helped many.  I hope you will think about it, perhaps the school counselor could offer some suggestions as to who and when would be the best time. ~ mom


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