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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Light the blue touch paper and retire to a safe distance

Experiences of our childhood colour our lives, little time bombs waiting to go off.

When I lived in South Africa as a child, a kindly neighbour noticed my interest in Chameleons. I was fascinated by their colour changes. [translation = because everything from my previous existence in England, was grey] I would park one of this leaf and watch patiently. I would remove it to an alternative venue and watch, patiently in my new technicolour world. The lady, and clearly she was one, leaned over the fence, white haired with a countenance of innocence to whisper, “you know, if you put them on something red, like a flower, they explode! You won’t ever do that though will you?” I nodded and then shook my head in agreement or possibly disagreement. I was aghast and mesmerized by the thought. Was she teasing? Do proper ladies tease? Could it possibly be true? Even at the tender age of 7, I was still too cowardly and guilt ridden, to give it a go, but the tantalizing thought has haunted me ever since.

These days, my concerns are much more down to earth.

I return from the shops. [translation = store] to find my children on self destruct. The chaos is overwhelming. [translation = never leave the house for more than 33 minutes at a time] I debate whether to unpack shopping or tidy first? Instead I consider dragging out the colouring materials, in an attempt at entertainment of children in a static manner, so that I can manovre around them.

My youngest son is already at the table, peering into the glass aquarium that houses the lizards. The aquarium is surrounded by many coloured pens, scraps of paper and scissors.

“Look! He is dah bomb! He is about to exploding!”
“Pardon! Say it again. What do you mean? Did you say explode?”
“Look at him!”
I look. I look more closely.
“He is going upsie downsie upsie downsie.”
I look. Isn’t that called breathing?
“Any minute now….boom!” he chuckles.
I yell at spouse, “did you let them watch cartoons whilst I was gone?”
“Lookie, lookie, lookie!” he continues, finger tips tapping the table.
“Did you feed him something?”
“No! He is waiting.”
“What is he waiting for?” Am I really having this conversation?

His nose is pinned to the pane. Little plumes of breath steam and disappear. I examine the lizard. He looks the picture of health to me. No signs of imminent combustion, but my knowledge of lizards is limited. Are lizards related to Chameleons? If they are related, are they first cousins or something more remote, like third cousins removed twice? Why do I not already know this?

I try again. I ask the expert. “What do you mean? What have you done to him? Why is he going to explode?”
“Lookie, lookie, lookie!” he giggles, with the hugest cheesy grin. What can he see that I can’t?

I increase volume, whilst keeping a watchful eye on the lizard and my son, “did you let them watch cartoons whilst I was gone?” I yell at spouse.

Spouse disengages himself from the computer that he is attached to, and pops his head around the door jam, “what?”
“Did you let them watch cartoons whilst I was gone?”
“Only a couple of minutes. Well, maybe half an hour or so. Perhaps a …..er……”
“What were they watching?”
“I don’t know. Cartoons. I think…that’s right……..educational cartoons.”
“Anything about lizards perchance?”
“Er…….don’t thing so.”
“Chameleons? Why Chameleons?”
“Any Animal Planet?”
“No, just cartoons, er educational ones.”
I can’t work out if it is better or worse that they haven’t been watching Animal Planet.
“What did they watch!” I squeak.
I return to the aquarium for another look. “What is that in there with him?”
“Yes, what is in there with him, that piece of paper?”
“Dat piece of paper is a rainbow for him so he can be finding dah pot of gold.”
“It is a rainbow.”
“Yes, dat is what I am saying. A rainbow will be making him happy.”
“Do you want to make him happy or do you want to make him explode?” What happens to a Chameleon if you put them on a piece of paper coloured to look like a rainbow?
“He will be happy when he explodes.”
“He will? Why would anyone be happy to explode?”
“Because when he is exploding all his babies will be coming out of his body.”
“Why do you think he is having babies?”
“Because he is dah fat tummy. Dah fat tummy is explode.”

Clearly my lecture on the subject of the birds and the bees fell on deaf ears. [translation = the lizards weren’t listening]

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