I saw you.

I saw you hold your son’s hand. He looked about 11 or 12. That was my first tip-off. Most boys that age won’t willingly hold their mom’s hand in public.

I saw you view the hotel pool. Scanning it to view all the potential triggers. Searching for the best place to set up camp for your family. Closest to the exit and closest to the pool.

I saw you prompt your son into the water or as close as he could manage at first. His hands over his ears. He managed to sit on the side with his feet in. I saw his eyes squinting tight but after a while, relaxing. His hands never really coming down off his head but relaxing, flapping from time to time.

I watched you, your husband and your daughter all get in the pool and stand around and in front of him. Forming a sensory shield. All smiling but I noticed you, still scanning the scene. Ever watchful.

I gave you a big smile.

I know my tribe. I wanted to swim over and fist-bump ya or give you a high five. Of course, I had my own son to keep eyes on in the over-crowded pool. Plus, I never figured out a good opening line when I spot another ASD family. “Flap here often?” isn’t so smooth. I just hoped you saw my smile was just that, a smile. Not condescending or with pity. I just wanted to acknowledge you.

I saw you later, the next morning, at breakfast. You “opened the joint” like we do. I smiled and wished you all a good morning. I overheard your son ask quite anxiously “What time is it?” to which your husband replied quite wearily, “It’s vacation, it doesn’t matter what time it is.” I heard you sigh. You knew how it mattered but you also knew how your husband felt. Doing that dance of trying to keep the peace.

I hope you had a good vacation.

Maybe it’s not the type of vacation others would enjoy but for your family, it was great. I wish I could have told you it was nice to see one of our own. That just seeing you and your family made me feel less outnumbered by the “typical” families all around me. I wish we ran into each other more. Maybe we would have had a chance to throw our heads back and laugh at a joke only we would understand. Maybe somehow you will see this blog and realize you weren’t the only one at that resort with autism in your life. I hope you and I might find more of our own wherever we go. To keep us company. To help and support. To sound off and give advice.

Maybe even just share a side of fries.

This post originally appeared on Autism with a Side of Fries. It has been used with permission.

Eileen “Mama Fry” Shaklee says “Autism is a trip I didn’t plan on, but I sure do love my tour guide. It’s better to laugh than to cry, mainly because I got distracted by the free samples at Costco and forgot to buy tissues.” You can join this one mom’s adventure with a side of sarcasm (and fries) on my blog, Autism With a Side of Fries or on Facebook and Twitter.

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