It’s rainy and miserable here, so in my head I’m in the Maldives.
It’s a beautiful group of islands in the Indian Ocean and we were lucky enough to visit. In December 2001 Christos was 3 and newly-diagnosed. We had 3 bags of clothes and a bag of Christo’s food. I was 11 and had no idea what Autism was, my cousins were also with us so I was too busy running around with them.
I remember the buffets, the snorkelling, the swimming, the sunsets, the fishing, the giggling and feeding the fish on the pier with bread we stole from the restaurant. I remember one of the most amazing holidays we have ever had. Then, I try and look at it from another perspective; my parents’. They had just found out their son was on the spectrum. My mum had to pack his special diet food, his crisps, a pan, dishes, forks, spoons, a burner – I can’t even think about it without stressing. An entire bag of just the food he would eat on that 2 1/2 week holiday. They had to sit on opposite sides of him on the plane to comfort him and control him during take off and landing. They talked about how they would keep him busy, and get him to keep his seatbelt on. I like to think that even though I didn’t help them, I made it easy for them by staying out of the way.
Except for the smell of egg and lemon soup in our bungalow, the only other vivid memory I have of Christos is how much he loved to play with sand. There were little pots of water outside every bungalow to wash the sand off your feet, except ours was full of sand. Christo would sit for hours and just pour sand in the bowl of water. He’d use his little red shovel to pick it up and throw it in. Whether we were having tea or just hanging out around our tiny plastic Christmas tree Christos would be enjoying himself that way.
I wish i remembered more from those first couple of years, but that’s a testament to my parents and how well they managed to let me have a childhood while dealing with a diagnosis.
So whether it’s sandy water, black eyed beans or flat beans in a box, whipped cream or ‘Ow’ing’ Christos loves the repetition. That’s what he enjoys, the texture, the sound, the soothing effect of focusing on one things and avoid the sensory overload.