Friday, July 20, 2012


History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies. 

-Alexis de Tocqueville

Nobody, I think, ought to read poetry, or look at pictures or statues, who cannot find a great deal more in them than the poet or artist has actually expressed. Their highest merit is suggestiveness.
-Nathaniel Hawthorne

Friends of ours once sent us a Christmas card of their two beautiful children posed in front of an large white mantel.  The perfect setting for a slice of Yule-tide Americana.  When we got the card, my wife looked at it curiously for a moment with no real reaction, turned it over to read the greeting.  She then let out a bellowing laugh.  She was laughing so hard, she could not find the words to tell me what was so funny.  She could only manage to pass me the card.  Set against the beautiful, high-end magazine, air-brushed quality backdrop were the flushed red faces of two clearly miserable children with the remnants of tear marks on their faces.  Curious selection, no?  I too paused curiously wondering about the picture selection…until I turned the card over and read the punch line:  “After 2 hours and 3 rolls of film, this was the best picture we could get. Happy Holidays anyway!

I admire our friends for sending that card.  It confirms one of the clichés I think I invented to get my family through the rough-cycles of Autism – “If it doesn’t kill you, at least it will give you a good story to tell.”  Looking back now several years later, it’s funny how life can throw a wrench even in the most well-thought out, well-intentioned plans.  Even a “bad” picture can provide a glimpse of the funny quirkiness of life many of us have been through.  Those unexpected things are sometimes the most memorable.  Indeed, I don’t remember any other cards I received that year (or even this year).  

On the other hand, we have a picture of our Little Man that I took at a Fourth of July celebration a few years ago.  He is standing tall and still against a fence – holding a small  American Flag as if he was watching a Patriotic Parade.  He is looking directly into the camera.  It is rare to get such a good picture of the him.  He rarely is still enough to get the shot and, when he is still, he will rarely look at the camera, let alone smile.   As soon as I saw the image, I knew I had a keeper – maybe even an All-timer.  Here was this little boy, in a struggle with physical and mental complexities – frozen in time as typical All-American young man. 

As great as that photo was, it just didn’t feel right.  It was not him.  This adorable little boy does not stay still.  Whatever the hell Autism really, truly is and whatever unknown havoc it is reeking inside him, it is not a little serene slice of Americana.  For the Little Man, it causes him to be in an almost constant state of motion.  The truth is, as perfect as the picture looked, was an absolute fluke.  He didn’t stop to pose for it.  In fact, he didn't stop at all.  He was having a bad day and was off on his own, unable to process the fact that I was watching him and oblivious to the fact I wanted to take his picture.  He was lost in his own mind, his own Autism induced world.  I could not get him to acknowledge me.  As I watched him run back and forth with the flag, unaware of my presence, I figured I could at least get an action shot of him running with the flag – like Mel Gibson style from the movie The Patriot (“Hold the Line!”)  So I pointed and clicked.  Imagine my surprise when I saw the resulting image described above.  It was the perfect picture and he was not even aware I took it.  It just looks so right – that its wrong.

Funny, our friends spent hours trying to get the perfect picture of their beautiful children and had to settle in frustration for a curious photo that did not present a true image of their family.  And I spend one-click trying to get any passing image of our little boy that day, and had to lament the fact that the perfect image I captured did not present a true image of our Little Man. 

Welcome to the deranged world of Autism!

1 comment:

  1. I would love to see those pictures - both the Christmas card and the one of your son. More so to know that, in either case, it didn't represent what was truly there. I can so relate to that idea - of pictures not being truly represented of what is really going on - which is why I've always sort of loathed those carefully crafted, posed, 'we're so perfect we can't contain it' Christmas photos/letters...kudos for your friends for being 'real'!!!

    Great to see a post from you!