OK , I’m ready to write about one of the most awkward/amazing/un-imaginable days I have had for a long long time!
image from railpage.com.au
For those who don’t know what I’m rattling on about….let me give some brief history here.
Sunday – Mr Patient drove the children and me up to my mum’s for the Easter school holiday break and had booked a flight to come home that evening so he’d be back home in time for work the next morning.
It was a very kind offer to drive us as he knows how hard it can be to drive that far alone. So you can imagine his annoyance when he logged onto the computer to confirm his flight and realised that he had actually booked it for the day before by mistake!!!
After a few frantic phone calls to the airline, he soon discovered that there were no free seats on a flight for that evening OR for the next morning, the only possible alternative was to turn around and drive all the way back home almost immediately.
Mum and I were concerned about him doing this alone as he was obviously tired from the long drive we’d just had so made an on-the-spot decision that I would go with him to share the driving and she would mind the children overnight at her house.
We went and booked me a train ticket for the next morning then set off on our way.
And I do need to add how very proud I am of my children that they coped so brilliantly with such a huge and sudden change of plans thrust upon them!
So…fast forward to Monday morning……
I am wandering around alone and slightly lost at Sydney’s Central railway station…..(this place is HUGE and overwhelming) and I spot a familiar face. It was Miss K. She was my English teacher in high school and was known for scaring the pants off her students with phrases such as: “I am neither your friend nor your acquaintance. I am your teacher……do NOT cross that line”
Before I could stop myself, I find myself (obviously delusional with relief at finding someone I recognised), call out “Miss K, It’s Fiona!….Fiona S from *** High school!”
Her face lit up and she greeted me like a long lost cousin and invited me to join her for breakfast. How could I refuse? It was clear that I was lost and also that we were both catching the same train to my home town.
She asked me to call her by her Christian name but there was NO WAY that I could bring myself to do that!
So over toast and tea we chatted and reminisced. She asked to see photos of my children (which of course I happily obliged) and I received my FIRST grammar lesson of the day!
She commented that the children all had lovely shiny hair and that they weren’t as dark as I am. I said: “Yes, they are all mousy”.
She tutted me and said: “One must NEVER reply to a compliment with an insult”.
My face must have given my confusion away because she followed with : “Mousy’ my dear, is how one would describe the drab personality and character of an individual that one no longer wishes to associate themselves with”.
“Err no”, I replied….. “I just meant that their hair is lighter than mine but not really blonde either”!
We filled in about half an hour chatting and noticed that it was time to head towards the platform to board the train. I excused myself to go to the bathroom wishing her well and safe travels.
I had just entered a stall and hung my handbag on the hook when I hear “Fiona…Oh Fiona my dear…..Our train is leaving from a different platform than we originally thought. I shall wait here for you and guide you to the correct one.”
Oh-kay! I was glad no-one could see my face!
I walked with her over to the correct platform and she asked me what carriage I was in. I looked at my ticket and told her “D”.
“Oh , how lovely”! She replied. “As am I”!
It was a mostly empty carriage so she asked me to sit in the seat across from her so we could continue chatting and I did until a few towns later when a couple arrived and I was in their seat.She offered me the one RIGHT NEXT TO HER! So I felt it would be rude to say no so there I sat for the rest of the journey!
At this stage, I had already mentioned to her that 2 of my children were on the autistic spectrum and had explained how life with aspergers looked through my eyes. But over the following 4 or 5 hours – I was able to explain in great depth how diverse it really can be from individual to individual.
The Country Link staff member who checked our tickets and walked through the carriages from time to time taking our rubbish and attending to us was wearing a blue ribbon on his vest, so naturally I asked him what it was in support of and was disappointed to learn that it was in fact only for the recent Victorian flood victims.
I had intended to inform him that it was also autism awareness month but before I could open my mouth – Miss K was saying very matter-of-a-factly : “Young man, are you not aware that April is autism awareness month. This young lady here is the mother of 2 children with autism. Maybe your ribbon should be for BOTH of these worthy causes”.
My mouth dropped to the floor!
I was starting to see another side of this wonderful lady!
We continued chatting about her travels overseas since she retired a few years ago and her history knowledge was remarkable! She could tell me a fact about every small town that the train rolled through! She cheekily told me which of my past teachers she suspected had aspergers and informed me of who was still teaching, who had retired, who had died and who she wishes had!
The conversation flowed beautifully until she asked me what I did in my spare time.
Of course I gave my usual answer of: “Spare time? What’s THAT?” to which she tutted again and rephrased the question to ask me what I enjoyed doing. What brought me the most pleasure in life and what would I most like to do if ever I had more free time.
I didn’t have to think about it because I’ve realised lately that I really, really love writing.
Not necessarily blogging, but I have a couple of notebooks and journals that I jot down my thoughts and poetry into. These are my safe places. The places that I can write whatever i want. Whenever I like.
None of it is open to public scrutiny and none of it has to be grammatically or punctually correct. I write it for me and me only.
She asked me if I’d ever had anything published. I told her no.
But then I remembered that I contributed to a new just released book called ” The Autism Experience”.
You can click on the book image on the top right of this page to order your own copy if you haven’t already.
This wonderful book is the brainchild of my friend Valerie Foley who compiled and edited and marketed this book brilliantly! It is full of parent’s stories from all over the world and how they live their lives with autism as a part of it.
You can also visit Valerie’s amazing blog Jump on the rollercoaster but make sure you promise to come back here afterwards. I’m not a professional writer like she is!…….and of course Miss K asked me how I became involved with this.
So I had to tell her about my blog.
I said it quickly hoping she’d not pry and I was even smart enough to get out my iPad and show her tha
t I was unable to connect to a wireless connection so therefore couldn’t open my blog.
But she was smarter and more switched on than I had given her credit for!
“Why don’t you show me on your iPhone dear…..I saw you fiddling with your emails earlier so you must be able to access the internet through that!”
Then she winked at me and I knew I was beaten.
After much fiddling and sweating, stressing and panicking, I finally settled on *this* post.
It was one of the first posts that I ever wrote and it is specifically about my son Harley and how autism looks on him.
As she read it, I could feel my heart throbbing, my hands sweating and my mouth drying up. As much as I told myself that her opinion didn’t matter to me- I knew deep down that really…it did.
She finished reading and turned to me and said: “Wow, that was beautifully written. You know your child so well.”
Finally I exhaled.
She then completely surprised me by adding….: “You know what Fi (and I nearly collapsed after hearing her shorten my name!)…..“If I had have been shown something like this when I was teaching, it would have made me a better teacher!”
And with that…..we sat side by side like old friends smiling as the train continued its gentle clickety clack, rocking motions until we eventually rolled into town.
She spotted my children waiting on the platform before I did. I helped her disembark from the train and I turned around after hugging my kids only to see her red cape-style jacket disappearing into the crowd Mary Poppins style!
I don’t know if we’ll ever meet again, but I really hope we do