A Candle for Love

The fourth advent candle represents love, something that seems to be difficult to define at Christmas time. Is it a present, the price of it, how big it is, how many you give, or the number you receive that defines how much you love or are loved? That’s what I was thinking when the phone rang. It was Mowgli’s teacher “Did you get the note?” I didn’t get the note. Mowgli probably put it in the bin. He is going through a ‘lets put everything in the bin’ stage at the moment. “…well, his concert is tomorrow at eleven. I’m ringing to remind you he needs a Christmas jumper…” Mowgli doesn’t do jumpers, snowmen jumpers, Rudolph jumpers, ho ho ho jumpers or any kind of jumper for that matter. They are all the same to Mowgli, itchy and scratchy. “…And if you had something for his head maybe…something Christmassy?” Last thing I saw on Mowgli’s head was a lamp shade. He had managed to pull it down round him and was looking out through the top of it. Strictly speaking, Mowgli doesn’t like things on his head much. “And do you think you’ll make the concert ?” I’m thinking of the appointment I have at 10am. The friend I am meeting at 1pm and the Christmas shopping I want to do in between…

“I know it’s a bit of a hike, and with not getting the note and all, and he’ll probably not miss… Her voice trailed “…if you know what I mean…” I did know what she meant. She meant he wouldn’t miss me, not really, not like other children who hang out of their parents demanding not only presents but their presence when they are performing in Christmas shows. “…So don’t worry, it’s short notice, as long as you remember the jumper and swimming gear for Friday and no need for lunch on Thursday.” We said our goodbyes and hung up. I was off the hook. I didn’t have to go to the Christmas concert, the event I went to every year for years, the one that moved me to tears every time. It’s the way it is, you see, the beauty and simplicity of a special needs Christmas on a school stage. It’s a floppy kind of love but it works. It works for me and, as it happens, Mowgli too.

Five minutes later after the call I had the appointment cancelled, my friend postponed and was sitting on a school chair the next morning watching Mowgli in his Christmas t-shirt (and a flashing decoration on his head—how?) do his thing with his classmates. And then he spotted me.  His mouth stopped moving and his gaze became more focused as he strained under the lights to make out his Mum in the shadows.  A slow half smile creased his cheek and he looked away into that secret autistic place where his happiness begins and ends, that makes his hands shake and body sway. His assistant placed a hand on his shoulder but it’s hard to concentrate when someone’s presence is felt, someone you love, I guess.  I give him the thumbs up.  He responded by bending his thumb slightly and I tried not to cry as the warm fuzzy feeling of unconditional love welled up inside me. I don’t know if he would have missed me but I do know his face lit up because I was there. As the saying goes, what children most need is your presence, not presents, especially at Christmas time.