Jan 13, 2014 0 Share

Gifts of the Season


Ceramic gifts made by the author's son.
Photo by Julie van der Poel

Even though the boxes of decorations are back in the attic and the cookies have long been eaten, my thoughts still turn to Christmas. The holidays are always a reminder of how fast the year flies by, but this year I was also amazed by how much Cameron has grown emotionally.

The weekend before Christmas, Cameron was given his first opportunity to stay home alone. My husband made a spur-of-the-moment suggestion to go to New York City and immerse ourselves in the holiday spirit Big-Apple-style. Cameron was invited to come along, but we pointed out that he would miss work, and that staying home would be a good step for him. He very willingly chose the weekend of solitude, and he flourished. He surprised me at dinner one night prior to our departure by asking a safety-related question: “Isn’t there supposed to be a hose on the end of the fire extinguisher?” I had been meaning to quiz him on the fire extinguisher location before we left, and he beat me to the punch. Clearly, he was processing the importance of being the only one at home. And he did great. No problems to report, other than an issue with iTunes, which he managed to resolve on his own.

While we were away, Cameron wrapped gifts that he was giving family members. Aside from an unsolicited suggestion from me regarding a gift for his sister, Cameron independently went about acquiring gifts for the family. Cameron is taking art at school this year, and created a beautiful array of ceramics, which he used as gifts. These items were in the school’s art show, and Cameron refused offers from would-be buyers visiting the show, because he had planned these as gifts all along. He also had the opportunity to obtain gifts at the school’s annual gift market, where students are allowed to shop from donated items, and pay for their items using positive reinforcement points given throughout the year. It was clear that Cameron had taken his gift giving very seriously, and put thought and heart into every gift he gave. All recipients were quite touched by his efforts. Cameron pretty much stole the show with his gifts this year.

Cameron was also very gracious in receiving gifts, which has not always been the case. (Imagine a stiff, forced smile and “thanks” uttered through clenched teeth as he tosses the gift aside.) This year, Cameron was very appreciative of receiving a gift, and appropriately responded to the giver without fail. His exchange with Mimi, my mother, was particularly touching. Mimi has been adding to Cameron’s ceramic dog collection for many years, and this year was no exception. Cameron opened this year’s dog, and was clearly awestruck.

He asked, “Is this a copy, or is this the original?”

I didn’t recognize the dog he was holding, and was curious about Cameron’s reaction. Mimi clarified that it was the original, and I then realized it was a dog that had sat on her bookshelf for years.

Cameron said, “Wow! Thanks Mimi. I’ll treasure this. This is really special.”

Mimi had to wipe her eyes, and she doesn’t have to do that very often. I think everyone in the room was blinking back a tear or two.

Admittedly, I often have a hard time embracing the spirit of the holidays. But never in a million years would I have predicted that my son, with all of his social and communication challenges, would be the one that epitomized the meaning of the season. Cameron’s holiday spirit this year was truly the best gift I could have ever hoped for.