Our Christmas - Some Things Never Change

Hubby and I have had some all-autistic Christmas Days, and also some Christmases in the company of non-autistic people (or to be completely correct, non-autists and an autist who has unsuccessfully devoted her entire life to trying to be normal).  This year we were among pretty much neurotypical people (they can’t be completely normal, being blood relatives).  There was a big elephant in the room, the same elephant that has been haunting every home that I have shared with my family of origin.  We are not all the same.  Some people are different.  Some people are autistic.  Some people can’t just step out into the world and find a great job just by being determined.  Some people don’t have friends or family that can help out.  Some people can’t be much bothered with socializing that is all about trivialities when there are important issues to be faced.  Some people can’t pretend to be fascinated with every idiotic fad that comes along, just because other people like it and are doing it.  Some people just don’t care what the herd is up to, or what the herd thinks.  I was only there for the sake of the kids.  Christmas is for the children.  It isn’t about adults.  So f*** off and leave me alone, I can’t be bothered in this infernal heat.

I remember the Christmases when one could discuss an issue that one is really passionate about and interested in, and then give someone else a turn at doing the same, a very long turn, and it didn’t matter if there were some odd-looking movements, or a temporary loss of the ability to retrieve the correct words for speech.  One wasn’t expected to mutilate one’s thoughts into teensy-weensy sound bites to slot into a conversation that suffers from an attention deficit.  If this all took a lot of time, that didn’t matter, we have time, our engagements book isn’t full.  We aren’t going to try to visit a dozen different homes all in one day.  We aren’t in demand, and we don’t care.  We are here, and we are settled in for the day, and much of the night if that’s what we feel like.  As long as it takes - that is our motto!  Do you need something repaired?  Let’s see if we have the necessary tools at hand.  Quite likely we will.

Escaping from discomfort and stress was a top priority during these Christmas celebrations.  If there was something to stress us out, it just wouldn’t be happening.  We know our limits.  It isn’t stubbornness, or attention-seeking.  It is those neurotypical people who don’t understand.

These autistic Christmases weren’t perfect by any means, I have no time for Utopian fantasies, but they were interesting, and I think they were full of potential.  Maybe we could have gotten better at it if we’d had more time, and more courage.  But these Christmases came to an abrupt end when we buried the only other proud fully-autistic in our family.  Now it’s only us, and our kids, who fit into the fabric of society with much more ease than we ever will.  The experiment is over.

Lili Marlene blogs at Incorrect Pleasures.

Our Christmas - Some Things Never Change, first published this past Sunday, appears here by permission.

[image via NineInchNachos9, via the Flickr Boing Boing pool]

on 12/31/10 in featured, Society | 3 Comments | Read More

Comments (3)


  1. Lili, I totally love you and your style. You put it out there with such unrelenting passion and honesty. Great stuff.

    I don’t even celebrate Christmas, but if we lived nearby, I would make an exception for your sake just to spend the day in the company of others who like talking substance. As it was, I spent this past Christmas with another autistic friend who needed rescuing from the enforced gaiety of the day. Since our house is a Christmas-free zone, she was happy to visit the land of No Expectations Whatsoever on Christmas Day. We sat around watching Doc Martin videos and playing with the cat. Fun times, and no one needed a weighted blanket and ten Excedrin when it was all over, either. :-)

  2. Lili Marlene says:

    LOL. Doc Martin was an apppropriate choice, I think.

    I think as a public service you should put a big sign on your door “Christmas-free Zone - Refugees Welcome”. You could take bookings and charge for lunch, could be a nice little earner! But if it got too popular and noisy, and became too much of an institution, it would become too much like the evil that it was created as an escape from.

    I think the big problem with Christmas is the unrealistic expectations. It is a time when people typically see family members who they don’t see much through the year. How much should we expect from people who we don’t see, for whatever reason, throughout the year? Generally speaking, not much, I’d say. There are situations that are exceptions, but as a general rule, if people put a relationship at a lower priority than whatever reason or reasons keep those people from spending a lot of time together or living together, either it can’t be such a close relationship. or it will become a less close relationship. I always have time for children and youth at Christmas time, but the grown-ups I look at without illusions.

    If I feel the need for more substance in my life, I can always read some of your work, Rachel. All the best for the new year!

  3. I love the idea of booking my house as a Christmas-free zone for Refugees from the Fun. I’d probably want to keep it to autists, since we are the population the most in need of sensory refuge that time of year. And because I live in a rural state where the people are few and far between, the goings-on would remain humble and low-impact. :-)

    I think you are right about the unrealistic expectations at holiday times being a source of stress. They create an even greater necessity for social forms than usual, because with people you hardly see, there is not much of a basis for substantive conversation, and so the social niceties start flying. I have enough trouble smiling my way through a trip to the market, so I consider myself very lucky that I don’t have the pressure of Christmas.

    The Jewish holidays are quite a bit easier, because there is usually a lot of ancient ritual that provides a container for the time together. At Passover, which is our big family holiday, the entire time is scripted from a book, and it goes on for hours. My husband leads the ritual, I lead the singing, and as a result, I can have eight people at the table and not leave with my head spinning. I actually look forward to it.

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