Saturday, December 2, 2017

Small Town Christmas Wearing Headphones

We live in Carver, Minnesota.  Chaska is actually the county seat of Carver County.  Odd and confusing as it may be, I, too, had to get used to it when we moved here from Chanhassen 15 years ago. I grew up in the then small town of Forest Lake, now a huge town with every store and restaurant you could imagine. I ended up in Carver County 24 years ago when I went to Crown College in St. Bonifacius. Except for small stint in Excelsior (Hennepin County), Carver County has been my home for my entire adult life. I love small town living. I love running into friends and family at Target or the other local shops. I love knowing the name of the butcher. (I call him Butcher Tom, and now just pray that that is actually his name.) And being greeted by name when I go into one of the many quaint store fronts that draw people out into our neck of the woods. 

During the Christmas Season we enjoy Christmas Light shows set to music, large trees decorated in the the local park, giant trees by Curling Center that greet us as we enjoy a slow stroll on the Boardwalk at Fireman's Park, craft sales for the Girl Scouts, the Moravian Auburn Home Christmas Boutique, Carriage Rides, hot cocoa and carolers. And this is all this weekend in Chaska!  SO many fun things to do.

The kids and I often leave the house early on Saturday mornings so that we can participate in as many activities as possible. This morning we picked up our Christmas cards that were printed in less than 20 minutes at Walgreen's, went to two boutiques, dropped off consignment items at the store, returned Redbox movies and now we are lounging at the local library.  Every Saturday, our morning involves the library in Chaska.

Zach adores it, he can look at movies and books, and Lily quickly signs him on to computer 15. She settles onto computer 13 and always chooses a few good books before we leave.  I drink coffee, read, write, complete my bible study, answer emails and often search for every elusive popular books. Our Saturday mornings involve a whole lot of technology and whole lot of fun.  We usually stay for about an hour or an hour and half and then head home for lunch. 

Zach, (14) has Autism. He thrives on structure and knowing what comes next. He doesn't like when we vary from specific plans established for the day. So Lily (11) and I remain flexible and stick to our planned out days as much as possible to keep the peace with Zach and to enable all of us to have a joy filled day. Zach struggles with babies crying and loud children. He can't handle it.  He wears headphones to block immediate sound and they provide a bit of pressure to enable him to cope in situations that he perceives as stressful. Many times Zach feels so comfortable wearing his headphones, he forgets to take them off when we get back in the car or are just by ourselves. I remind Zach to remove them, so that he can take in more of the conversations and happenings around him. 

Zach loves Christmas. Lights and trees and ornaments. Wreaths and decorated homes, goodies and Christmas Carols.  While at one of the boutiques this morning, Zach quickly removed his headphones and ran to me. "Mom! Mom! The song!  It is Christmas! Walking in a Winter Wonderland!!!"  Zach exclaimed in a loud booming voice. 

Zach is a handsome, very tall 6' 2" man sized child. He is often noticed by others because of how much joy he finds in the mundane. He was soooo excited about the music that was being played. He began to quickly scan the room trying to locate where the music was coming from.  He located the speaker, barreled to it and began to sing and dance.  He turned to smile at me as he sang.  Many of the women surrounding us turned and smiled at Zach and then smiled at me. One woman stopped me and touched my arm, "If only all children loved Christmas as much as he does!"

While walking a few blocks this morning returning to the car from the Christmas boutique, Lily and I were chatting as Zach was about 20 feet in front of us. His long legs and huge strides will never allow for Lily and I to keep his pace. I saw Zach stop in tracks and whip his headphones off again.  He stared up at the large tree next to the sidewalk and pointed up at it. "Mom! Listen! The birds are talking!"  Lily and I approached and we could hear the birds. Two of them having what appeared to be a conversation. Tweeting, more like squawking back and forth, the birds got louder as we drew near.

"Mom, I love the birds!" Zach explained.  I, too, have a genuine love of birds. Zach wasn't ready to move on as of yet, he only had eyes for those loud birds.  I started thinking about all the times I have become frustrated with Zach's headphones. All the times I have tried to pull him into our world and have requested that he would remove them.  Zach can still hear when he is wearing his headphones. He can still hear what is important. What is important to him. He heard the Christmas music that he adores. While others shopped, he took the time to listen to music, sing and dance to it. While Lily and I chatted about what we wanted to accomplish today, Zach heard to the birds high up in the tree, stopped rushing back to the car and took the time to listen to an exchange that only the birds understood.

Zach wore his headphones last weekend when went on the horse drawn carriage rides in Carver.  He wore his headphones when we picked up our Christmas Cards this morning. He will probably wear his headphones at the tree lighting ceremony in Chaska tomorrow. The headphones bring him comfort. They bring him calm.  Zach is still able to take in all the sights and sounds of our small town Christmas, but only in the way that he is able. And that will be alright with me.  Because he isn't interested in small talk. He isn't interested in the hustle and bustle that this time of year seems to revolve around.  He is interested in the lights and silence is all around him. He is interested in the music of Christmas celebrating a Saviors birth. And he is interested in the birds excitedly conversing in the trees overhead. And those things, seem so very important to me.

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