Sitting on the garage floor, collecting dust and occasionally getting kicked by our careless footsteps, was a collection of glassware in various baskets. Like most of the world, stay-at-home mandates provided time (lots and lots of time) to sort through household items and secure a portion for donation. Trouble was: every time I tried to bring those glasses to a donation center, they were full. I was turned away frequently. So the glasses in their respective baskets stayed put in the garage.
I grew tired of hearing the clang of glasses with every misstep, and with the holidays approaching, I knew we’d need access to the garage shelves to bring in our 20+ boxes full of Christmas decor. (I had a hard time sorting through holiday items during those lockdowns…the decorations are just too sentimental!). So, one afternoon recently, as Zach and I were headed out for errands, I loaded the baskets into my trunk. First stop, Discovery Shop.
As I drove into the parking lot, a woman was folding the “Donations Here” sign. Uh-oh. It was not even 2 o’clock, and their sign said open till five. “Sorry, dear!” She yelled. “We’re full up and closing for the day!”
I closed the window and drove on. I must have pressed the accelerator too forcefully; the glasses shifted in their baskets and clanged loudly. Drat.
I drove a few miles and thought ‘Goodwill.’ Two birds, one stone. Donation and bargain crayons for Zach. We got on the line leading up to the large blue bins where a pair of young men were pulling items from cars and hoisting them into the bins. They looked like luggage crews unloading planes in a hurry and were just about as careful… I worried about how the glassware would survive their “enthusiasm.”
At our turn, I spontaneously made the decision not to donate two of the baskets. I could still use them for other things (and who doesn’t need storage??). The young man said, “Sure, Ma’am, whatever you like.” I handed him glass after glass and he (carefully) set them inside an empty bin, which may have been reserved for such delicate items. I hoped some person’s old bike helmet wouldn’t be carelessly launched into the same bin later on.
After taking the receipt, I got in the car and drove around to the front to park. Zach was loudly vocalizing in the back seat. Not a good sign. We proceeded inside when suddenly he broke from my grasp and started toward the donation area. “Wait!” I yelled out, and he listened. He stood in the middle of the sidewalk and vigorously pointed at the donation bins. His vocals told me he was unhappy.
“Zach, we just donated the glasses…the baskets are still in the trunk. It’s okay!” He was not satisfied. “Let’s go get crayons.” I coaxed him inside.
When the sliding doors shut, Zach turned and triggered them open. He vocalized and pointed with that arrow-straight right arm. “Let’s get crayons, Zach,” I said, knowing I was in for it. Once a notion enters his mind, it is rubber-cemented, super-glued, welded into place.
We walked about ten feet when he stopped and raised both arms – one at me, one at the entrance. Interpretation: You, Mom, need to go get those glasses, because they belong in the baskets in the garage. Period.
I dropped my head to my chest. I sighed. Could I return to the line and take back my donation? I peeked out. At least five cars were now in the line-up. I was sure they would not give me back the stemware and juice glasses. By now, someone else’s collection of FTD® floral vases or souvenir ashtrays may have made their way to the fragile items bin, and it’d be too much of a hassle. I didn’t want to delay the line either by cutting to the front and asking to un-donate my glasses.
“Zach,” I said in the most understanding voice I could, “honey, we donated those glasses. We gave them to the store so people can buy them. We don’t need them anymore. But other people might need them. We donated them, and they’re going to be fine.”
I was interpreting (or perhaps projecting) that Zach’s angst over the glassware had to do with leaving a friend behind, so to speak. The glasses first lived in the kitchen cabinets but were then relegated to the garage. And they remained a “steady fixture” on the garage floor for quite some time. Now, here they were, suddenly/unexpectedly one day for no rhyme or reason extracted from their habitat and fed to a blue-mouthed monster in the parking lot outside of Goodwill!
I tried physically prompting Zach to the “craft” aisle. No go. He has a unique ability to remain firmly (and I mean firmly) planted to the ground he stands on. He’d out-stand Jim Cantore wearing ankle weights in a Caribbean hurricane.
Resorting to the double-point method, Zach made his thoughts clear: the glasses don’t belong there, they belong in the baskets in the garage thankyouverymuch. So what did I do? I led him out of Goodwill, back to the car, and zoomed to In ’N Out Burger. With every gesture he made, indicating we were leaving the fragile friends behind, I uttered something about donations. I even asked Siri to define donation thinking a legal description might help.
I did everything I could to distract him. I sang (I have the.worst.pitch. of anyone I know). I pointed out colorful trees, bad drivers, crows in the sky, police cars, and palm trees. We waited on the always-long line at In ’N Out, and I opened the windows to distract him with the scent of meat cooking on a grill. I ordered him burgers and plenty of fries. I even threw in a lemonade for good measure.
For the first time the pointing stopped. I was not getting double-arm maneuvers from the back seat, and the vocalizations subsided. Phew! As he gobbled his lunch, I did a few parking lot circles to decide what to do next. The decision was a crucial one. I felt like a NASA scientist at her desk trying to analyze calculations for a trip to Mars. My answer had to be right.
I guess I should have ordered myself some lunch, because my nutrient-deprived mind ended up thinking Christmas shopping! Zach handed me (read handed as thrust) his In ’N Out wrappers, cup, and straw, and proceeded to give me the double-arm point. With vocalizations. He even leaned forward over the middle console and began nodding his head yes, which means you really really need to listen to me.
I went for calming emotions. “Honeybear, the glasses are going to be fine. They are where they need to be. I know you are upset about the glasses. (He nodded rapidly). We have mannnnny glasses at home. I will show you when we get home later. We have wine glasses and juice glasses and even martini glasses. Everything will be okay.” He nodded yes and put his arms down.
It grew unusually quiet. A look in the rearview mirror said it all. He was on the verge on tears. That did it. I dictated a text to Siri for my husband. Go to GW. Ask young guy with dark hair if u can get glasses back that I donated. Large bin at far end. Z beside himself. Just explain why.
We were a good 45 minutes away, and he was five minutes away…and even though there was a slim chance the glasses were already transferred to their processing warehouse in the back, there was zero chance of getting them back the next morning. I had thoughts of breaking in overnight to rescue these members of our family from the dark depths of Donation Land.
As we drove to Hallmark on a mission for a present, Zach’s pointing continued. Until I knew whether the glasses were retrievable, I didn’t want to say anything more. I just felt truly terrible for causing such anxiety and worry. I knew he felt that the empty baskets in the trunk were EMPTY and missing their contents. I pondered whether it would have been better to just hand the baskets and all to the Goodwill employee so everything would be gone…but I thought better about that. I arrived at the conclusion that it was really about the items (the “friends”) being evicted from their home on the garage floor.
It’s like the pumpkins. Every year, as Zach’s beloved collection of pumpkins on the front porch begins to succumb to the weather, we have to furtively dispose of the rotting squash. We made the mistake one year of cleaning up the lopsided, oozing, black-bottomed pumpkins in front of Zach, and he had none of that. Out of the trash and back in their spots went each one, until in the darkness of the night, one by one, the rotting remnants were buried in the bottom of the green-waste bin the night before pick-up. It was the only way to relieve the porch of the stinking squash.
Glassware, pumpkins, empty boxes from Christmas or birthday presents…they belong and must not be cast off.
The recognizable iPhone Tri-Tone indicated a new text.
Right there in Hallmark I let out a sigh of relief and said, “Ohhh good!” Our own Superman would be saving the day (and the week, and the weekend, and the month…). We paid for our present at Hallmark and got back in the car.
“Hey Zach – you know the glasses – well, I think we’ll see them later,” I said. He nodded and smiled. And then I realized what I said.
Reverse that sigh of relief! What if the glasses were already gone?? Just because my husband said he’d go ask for them, didn’t mean they’d be there, or that the employee would actually let him have them back!! OH NO OH NO OH NO What did I just do??
I texted furiously. Pls tell me if u can get the glasses. Need to know. There’s over 20. I said a little prayer that this plan would work. If we could put the glasses back in the baskets and carry on like this was a temporary glitch, then all would be well. I could save his nervous system from breakdown and preserve my sanity in the process.
As we drove in the twilight towards Goodwill, I was practically in tears myself. I was so mad at myself for even doing this in the first place! It could have been avoided if I had just left the baskets in the darn garage. I just wanted them out of the way. I knew Zach was often thrown by changes in his environment – but it’s a bit unpredictable! Sometimes something would just get under his skin in the worst way…and sometimes you’d expect something to greatly irritate him when it actually did not! I boosted my mood by thinking that a “Pumpkin Policy” was needed. Never ever move the pumpkins – no matter how rotted – in Zach’s presence. Discretion, covertness, and some slight-of-hand was exquisitely essential. The Pumpkin Policy needed to apply to making donations.
Was there anything wrapped in paper?
YES! There were champagne flutes and juice glasses wrapped in tissue paper. He was there! He saw them! It was about a 15 minute drive for us from our location. Did that truly mean he found them?
They understood. No problem.
No problem??!! All 20 something glasses were still in the jaws of the blue-mouthed monster and could be easily snatched back, unharmed? It was too good to be true. But, it wasn’t. It was true!
A photo of some of the glasses I carelessly fed to the monster showed up in text. I immediately showed the photo to Zach and exclaimed, “Let’s go get the glasses from Goodwill! Turns out, they had too many and didn’t want them!” He stared straight ahead, but I knew he digested what I said. Maybe he didn’t believe they were really back. I had to prove it.
If this didn’t work, I’d never be able to take him to Goodwill in search of crayons or used books or old picture frames ever again. He would – guaranteed – experience some form of PTSD with every trip to Goodwill from having lost the beloved glasses there. The arm-pointing would never cease.
In fact, that afternoon, I had visions of Zach busting out of his bedroom that night and somehow getting out of the house and walking in his pajamas and bare feet to Goodwill to check the blue bins at two in the morning. He’d be walking along the sidewalks like Charlie Brown on Halloween night in search of treats, and he’d only end up with a rock.
We devised a plan for meeting at Goodwill and showing Zach the glasses.
With our cars parked opposite each other, trunks open, and parking lot lights shining down on us, we loaded up the empty baskets with the un-donated glassware. There were some, I felt certain, that weren’t originally ours! Ooops. I felt as if I was accepting an Oscar for a David Copperfield-like disappearance-reappearance magical performance. I felt grateful to have them back. When I re-entered the car and started it up, I glanced in the rearview mirror. There was just enough light to illuminate a happy little face in the back seat and take in the fact that both of Zach’s arms were relaxed at his sides.
I drove home and thanked God that this worked out. That the glasses were there and that the dark-haired young man understood when a blond-haired guy came up in the darkness asking to take back the 20-something glasses that his wife dropped off earlier that day. That the return of the various tasting room wine glasses and mismatched juice glasses and the never-used champagne flutes settled and soothed Zach’s rattled and frayed nerves. (And mine.) But, What if it didn’t? My thoughts took a sudden turn. What if he had a mental inventory, and once back in the garage, something was M I S S I N G??
The horror! I shuddered. Should I have checked the blue bin before leaving? What if a stemless goblet from the horse rescue spaghetti feed fundraising dinner was left behind? What if the other person’s wine glasses were looked upon as imposters and we had to turn around and re-donate the un-donated glassware of someone who had donated after we did? I was tired of the emotional roller coaster of the day. It will be fine! I admonished myself. FINE!!!
We pulled into the garage, and I took a deep breath. Popped the trunk. Turned on the overhead light. Watched Zach exit. Held my breath. I couldn’t watch. I went inside while my husband and son unloaded the baskets and placed them on the floor by the shelves. I heard clanging. I heard the sound of goblets and glasses and tissue paper merging and moving. I thought for sure something was going to break, and then we’d have a whole ‘nuther problem! Pleeeeeeeease!
Next thing I knew, Zach walked into the kitchen, shut the door, locked it, and looked at me like What? I looked back at him. I did not detect distress on his face. His arms were not raised, fingers not pointing. He was not vocalizing anxiety. No tears in his eyes. Maybe he welcomed the unexpected additions to the Glass Family? And if he had had a mental inventory, well, all items were accounted for and everything was in order. If it hadn’t been so, he never would have come inside. We’d be spending the following seven hours in the garage trying to convince him that Goodwill was closed and that we couldn’t go back for the missing pieces. I again shuddered at the thought. I’d have to sleep at the foot of the front door all night…
All was good. Once the baskets were full and repositioned, the problem was solved. I suspect that our un-donated goods will remain in place for several more weeks, if not months. We’ve had bottomless, putrid pumpkins on our front porch that saw Halloween AND Easter. What’s a few more months of glassware in a garage? When the time comes, I just might be making daily, secret trips to the blue-mouthed monster, feeding it one wine glass, one juice glass, one champagne flute at a time.
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Great post with great perspective, humor, and compassion–quite a window in what it takes to care for a person with such unique challenges. Love it!
Engaging story. So happy that the half empty glass turned into a half full glass, filled with caring and lots and lots of love.
This is a lovely , well written slice of life story highlighting what real life is with someone near & dear with special needs,who is supported with so much love, thought & compassion. Well done!💜