Then he growled, with his Grinch fingers nervously drumming,
“I must find some way to keep Christmas from coming!”
When I was pregnant with Sawyer and I looked forward to the experiences parenthood would bring, Christmas was high up on my list.
Growing up, I loved Christmas. I remember racing home from school on December afternoons, desperate to be the first one through the front door so that I could switch on the fairy lights. I remember sitting on the top step on Christmas morning, waiting for Dad to put on his dressing gown, pleading with him to hurry up so that we could see if Santa had been. If I really stretch my memory, I can still remember unwrapping my very first Girls World, which I promptly drew all over with a brand new felt tip pen (honestly, Mum – it came like that!). Of course it wasn’t just about the presents. My younger sister made that abundantly clear one year as she unwrapped a brand new set of Scooby Doo threads, thrust the box in to the air above her head, and squealed with glee “OH YESSS! I GOT WIRES!!!!!”.
The magic of Christmas stayed with me well in to my adult years, and I was impatient to pass it on to my own children. Sawyer was only a few months old for his first Christmas, but it didn’t matter because I was already busy planning his second in my mind. I imagined taking him to see Santa at the local garden centre, reading him festive stories, and teaching him all my favourite Christmas songs. But what I hadn’t planned for was autism. And what I didn’t know was that for us, those simple Christmas treats wouldn’t happen for many years to come.
Every year in the run up to Christmas I would be asked if Sawyer was excited, and every single time it felt like a jab to my heart. Because as much as I wanted to say yes (and mean it), it simply wasn’t true. Sawyer wasn’t excited for Christmas because he had no idea what Christmas was. He could not yet speak because he could not yet understand, and he wasn’t interested in books or songs because he could not yet focus on either. As I watched the annual wave of grotto pictures wash over my social media I told myself again that next year would be our year.
By the time Sawyer’s fourth Christmas rolled around, his little sister was a year old. She spent most of the festive period clapping along to Christmas songs, smiling at her own face in baubles, and unwrapping presents from beneath the tree, particularly if it was 4.50am. On Christmas morning, textbook fashion, she threw her new toys to one side and sat playing intently with the boxes. Meanwhile, Sawyer gave his still-wrapped presents the side-eye and proceeded to run in circles around the kitchen table. I began to wonder if he would ever understand Christmas, and if we would ever be able to show him how magical it could be.
In our house, it wasn’t the Grinch who stole Christmas. It was autism.