It's not Portia Iversen's Strange Son, although my post about that is what sparked my thinking about this book. This comment and this comment made me think about it even more.
The book is Everybody Needs a Rock, a children's book by Byrd Baylor. Here are some excerpts:
"Everybody needs a rock. I'm sorry for kids who don't have a rock for aIn two scenes toward the end of Strange Son, Portia Iversen talks about the rock that her son Dov carries with him. In both scenes, Dov loses his rock and becomes visibly upset and dysregulated. Dov needs his "special rock;" it grounds him. It is his own, very literal, touchstone.
"Not just any rock. I mean a special rock
that you find yourself and keep as long as you can - maybe forever."
"If somebody says, 'What's so special about that
rock?' don't even tell them. I don't. Nobody is supposed to know what's special
about another person's rock."
I've been thinking about Dov and his special rock for the past couple of weeks because I've noticed that Bud has recently had a tight grip on a metaphoric touchstone of his own: the Teletubbies.
Bud has been a fan of the Teletubbies since he was a year old. We don't know why the Tubbies are so special to Bud; we only know that they are. In his early years, Bud was consumed with the Tubbies. His earliest language and his earliest echolalic scripts drew heavily from Tubby-style baby talk. The rest of us had a love/hate relationship with the Tubs - or "the guys," as Bud calls them. We hated their slow-paced repetitive sequences, their infantile words, the banality of their plot lines; we loved how happy they made Bud.
In recent years, Bud's passion for the Teletubbies has come in waves, with each wave seeming to lessen in intensity as the Tubby tide appeared to be going out. In recent months, especially, Bud's interest in other shows and other characters has continued to grow, and while he still played with Tubby characters, the books and the movies sat untouched as Bud seemed to be moving on.
In the past couple of weeks, though, the Tubbies have made a comeback, and life is once again All Tubbies, All the Time. The Tubby movies are in high rotation, the Tubby toys are the only ones getting attention, the Tubby books are strewn throughout the house. I found myself feeling discouraged by their reemergence, and regarding it as a setback. I started wondering if Bud's peers would start to tease him - this seven-year-old who likes baby things. I started to bristle when I saw Bud engage in Tubby-play.
Then I read this post on AutismVox, in which Kristina draws a parallel between the Tubbies and the other "Fab Four" from England: The Beatles.
And that helped me regain some perspective.
What I remembered is this: The Beatles in general, and Paul McCartney specifically, have played the same role in my life for the past thirtyish years that the Tubbies have played in Bud's for the past six. They have grounded me. They've been my rock.
The Beatles didn't really make my first car run smoothly. But as I drove away from the dealership having made the first significant purchase of my adult life, I flipped on the radio and heard the opening strains of "Drive My Car," and I was certain that it was a sign that I had purchased well.
Perhaps Paul McCartney didn't intend to write a song that would make me feel close to my children. But when I listen to his album Flaming Pie, and I hear him sing "It was written that I would love you from the moment I opened my eyes...I'll hold you for the rest of my life," I am certain that he did.
And I know that The Beatles didn't really get me out any faster when my car was stuck in a snowbank last week. They didn't keep Bud and me from being an hour late to school and work. But, even so, as we sat waiting for rescue with the engine running and listened to the radio play "Help me if you can I'm feeling down, and I do appreciate you being 'round," I felt strangely reassured.
My connection to the Beatles hasn't kept me from branching out. I listen to lots of different music. I have a wide range of interests. But despite that, the Beatles always lurk on the periphery of my life, and now and then - especially in the midst of challenge - they take center stage.
I imagine, though I wouldn't ask (because "nobody is supposed to know what's special about another person's rock"), that the Tubbies provide the same sort of comfort, shelter, and sense of home for Bud. In that context, I can see clearly why the Tubbies came back in full force during what probably felt to Bud like an extended period of upside-down: a week of too-sick-to-go-to-school, followed by a week of school vacation, followed by a week of Nana-and-Papa-are-on-vacation-and-every-day-is-a-little-bit-different-from-the-last. Though Bud has been revisiting the passion he's had since he was a baby, he is not reliving his infancy. He is approaching the Tubbies as a seven-year-old: working with me to add his Tubby books to his Library Thing account, reading their stories out loud to me, inviting me to help him create elaborate Tubbylands on the kitchen table, playing Director as he makes his characters act out the scenes on the videos he's watching, filling pages with gorgeous abstract art in purple, green, yellow, and red.
He's not talking like a baby. He's not "retreating into his own world." He's not regressing.
He's grounding himself.
And we all do that in some way, don't we? Sometimes the things that ground us are actually made of stone. Sometimes they're fuzzy and they play movies in their bellies. And sometimes they just sing silly love songs.
But everybody needs a rock.