Keep in mind it’s June. Autumn is a season away; Halloween, four months down the road. I stuffed a backpack and a duffel bag with simple overnight supplies for a quick trip: clean underwear, pajamas, toiletries, a t-shirt and a hoodie. Marin County is known for its cool ocean breezes and rolling fog banks that creep over Mt. Tam. My husband, son, and I were spending one night there as my husband was speaking at a seminar bright and early on a Monday.

As we tossed the bags in the back of the car, my son Zach ran back into the kitchen with purpose. I followed as I always do since he requires constant supervision. There on the counter was his pumpkin: one of those plastic-y, crafty kind which he found at Goodwill for a buck fifty. His eyes communicated the question: Can I bring my pumpkin? My heartstrings tugged as my head nodded yes. He lovingly scooped it up and skipped to the car.

“Pumpkin” had already accompanied us to several stores and a doctor’s appointment. He also joined us at Mimi’s Café, much to the delight of the waitress. My only worry was that we’d leave Pumpkin somewhere along the coast, so I made a strong mental note to constantly check on him the way you’d watch a puppy on his first outing.

After dropping the bags in the hotel room, we scampered out to enjoy the temperate Bay Area weather; Sacramento in summer is HOT! First stop: Tiburon. Pumpkin was perched on the table at a Mexican restaurant and made a little boy outside the window laugh and jump with delight. Patrons leaving an adjacent table cast an inquiring eye. The waiter said nothing. After our tacos, Zach hoisted Pumpkin under his arm, and we were off to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Be not concerned: Pumpkin did not meet his end by falling 220 feet into the ocean. In fact, Pumpkin is safely positioned on the counter as I write! Both boy and his beloved squash enjoyed the bridge, the beach, and a bookstore. Being in the Bay Area was the best! But as we cruised around to different places, I began to notice (and feel) the stares.  Of course there were some who smiled at the sight of a teenage boy carrying a 14 inch spherical fall decoration under his arm. And I smiled back. I even heard one person say “cute” as we walked by. And I love people like that. Yet we all know there are those who aren’t amused by something atypical, especially, it seems, when the atypical thing crosses their path or “interferes” with their day. They want to cast a criticizing eye as if their opinion matters!

That’s the beauty of being a veteran autism mom; such narrow-mindedness doesn’t matter! Evaluative eyes, mean faces, and snarky giggles do not affect me at all. From the looks of it, Zach doesn’t care either. I’ll toss him a positive comment to counteract the nastiness just in case he does detect the negativity in some way. We just walk on and do our own thing, because in the grand scheme of things, those party-pooper people don’t matter. My child’s happiness: that matters.

As we continued our little trip, I found myself grateful on several levels. Grateful for the fact that I don’t give a rat’s patootie about the haters. They don’t understand the magic. Grateful that my precious boy has things he loves which provide comfort and joy. Grateful that my eyes are open to the knowing smiles and winks. Grateful for the natural beauty that surrounds us in our daily lives and when we depart from daily life to go exploring elsewhere. And maybe, I’m hopeful, those with the disapproving demeanors will have had their minds opened a bit by Zach’s contagious vivacity. He tends to sprinkle his exuberance like glitter wherever he goes.

Come October, we may be cruising around with a giant Easter egg. I think I’ll don some bunny ears and continue walking right beside my boy.

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