Bethesda Magazine | July-August 2017

The Bracelet By Tanya Edwards

Adult Essay Honorable Mention Winner, Clarksburg

I almost cried at the bus stop today. Not because of something bad, but because I witnessed something that gave me hope for Ethan and his socially awkward stumblings that are an intrinsic part of his high functioning autism and ADHD.

I am one of the few parents present at the middle school bus stop but keep a comfortable (i.e., non-hovering/non-embarrassing) distance to make sure Ethan stays out of trouble and gets on the bus. There are about 20 kids at our stop and at least half of them are in sixth grade along with Ethan. He went to a different elementary school than they did, so they already have an established group familiarity and social hierarchy.

Our usual protocol is: I hang back, he walks up, they’re all clustered together at the corner talking, Ethan usually plows (completely oblivious to how rude this is, no matter how many times I remind him) right through the center of their circle as a few of the kids roll their eyes. Occasionally he would stop and try to engage one of them in conversation but that was usually greeted with a curt head nod or he was just flat out ignored. I’ve asked Ethan about this and he said it doesn’t bug him because “it doesn’t matter so much.” Social nuances are not his strong point. He’d be just as happy peeling bark off the tree as he would be trying to awkwardly engage with indifferent peers.

But this morning was different. As a side note: Ethan’s current passion is making bracelets on the rainbow loom. At any given time, he has at least 15 of them on his wrist. Last night, he mastered the “fishtail” design and made a few. I asked him if I could have one and he said, “Not yet, Mom. I want to save these and give them to my friends.” OK, that’s cool.

This morning when we walked up, I stopped at my usual “hang back” spot and Ethan walked up to the social circle. Instead of plowing through, he stopped, pulled up his sleeve and pulled off the fishtail bracelet to show them. I inwardly cringed as I prepared to witness the usual indifference of the group. But instead? I saw all heads turn and the circle closed in around my Ethan as everyone exclaimed and smiled about his cool bracelets. One of the taller boys walked over and tapped him on the shoulder. Ethan turned toward him, they chatted for a moment and the boy asked if he could have one. I watched with my heart in my throat as Ethan reached out and slid the fishtail bracelet on his new friend’s wrist. They got on the bus together and I stood there, my eyes brimming with tears, chanting to myself in my head, “I will not cry at the bus stop, I will not cry at the bus stop.”

Sometimes, it’s the little things that are really, really big things…. You know? *sniff*