Redefining Typical

A Mother, A Son, A Journey…..with Autism

30 more sleep nights….. October 3, 2013

photo (3)


This is the email that I sent to my family and Dawson’s team of teachers and therapists:

I wanted to send you this picture of Dawson. He made this yesterday in Speech with Shelia! He is so excited about Halloween! Per his request, we have already put our Halloween lights up outside. Margaret-Ann asked him what he wanted to be for Halloween and he said, “Pumpkin, wizard, motorcycle.” She was trying to think of ways of how we could create this costume for him. There was once a time when he did not get Halloween. Now he counts down the days when he can go door to door and say, “Trick or Treat!” And we thank all of your for your hard work, love, and support. Because without you, it would not have happened!


But there is more to the story.

So much more.

His request for the video It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

His tee hee hees.

Oh, his contagious laugh when he repeats the lines of this special movie.

When Charlie Brown and his crew go door to door to trick or treat.

Checking their bags to see what treat they have received.

And the line, “I got gum. I got a candy bar. I got popcorn.”

Then Charlie Brown says, “I got a rock.”

Yes, my boy knows the lines by heart.

Joyfully, he says the whole script.

And he understands the words.

He gets the humor.

My Dawson giggles when he recites, “I got a rock.”

And with his whole body, he laughs.


And it is night time.

He is snuggled in his purple sleeping bag with his green, white, and blue blankets around him.

I lie next to him.

My hip suffocating several Little People that are dug into my side as I try to nestle closer to my Dawson.

We lie.

In the dark.

It is where my little — now big — boy opens up to me.

I feel him scrunching his body.

Then his legs moving in excitement.

His breath, “It is Halloween.”

I touch his head, “Well, in 30 more sleep nights, it will be Halloween.”

In the darkness, his smile is there.

His arms flapping and his feet kicking in his big purple bag.

The happiness.

It covers us.

Resting on us.

In us.

His voice, “Thirty more sleep nights, then…trick or treat!”

I move closer, “Yes, thirty more sleep nights until trick or treat!”

Then his words.

In their sing-song rhythmic way, “And we get candy and say trick or treat and sit on the steps.”

I lie there.

Breathing in every syllable, “Yes buddy, we can sit on the steps too. Do you like to sit on the steps and give out candy?”

His confident reply, “Yes!”

I nod my head, “Well, we can sit on the steps and give out candy.”

His planning continues, “We will get pumpkin. Where is the knife?”

Now, holding his hand.

I whisper, “Oh, we will need to wait to get the pumpkin and carve it. It is too early to get the pumpkin.”

Not pleased with my answer, he turns his head.

His voice serious, “We will make a jack o’ lantern.”

I hug him, “Oh yes sweetie, we will make a jack o’ lantern.”

This time, my answer soothes him.

His feet kick again.

And we sit in the happiness.


And now, with my girl.

My Margaret-Ann.

We lie in her bed.

Her princess comforter.

The one she has had since she was two.

It comes to our chins.

She is talking.

Her voice going.

Always fast.

Never stopping,”Mama, watch this!”

She arches her back and kicks her legs.

She propels herself into the air and back down to the bed.

This game continues until I not-so-gently remind her that it is time to go to sleep.

And so she snuggles next to me.

Resting her head on my chest.

Her arms moving above her body.

Because until she is asleep, she does not stop moving.

“Mama, I think Dawson is really excited about Halloween.”

I nod, “Yes, I think he is very excited.”

She sits up, “Mama, I told Dawson that I am going to be a Ninja Warrior for Halloween. Then I asked him what he was going to be.”

I prepare for her to tell me that he did not answer.

That she does not like it that Dawson does not say anything when she asks him a question.

But she smiles, “Mama, you know, he answered me!”

I look in her blue eyes.

The joy.

The beautiful joy.

“Yeah, he told me he wants to be a pumpkin, wizard, motorcycle.”

I put my lips together, “Hmmm… Now that might be kinda hard to be all three.”

Totally alert.

Nowhere close to going to sleep.

Her arms start moving, “I was thinking we could get him a pumpkin costume and then a wizard hat to put on his head and then maybe some motorcycle stickers to put on his pumpkin’s costume.”

She plops herself back down onto the pillow.

Head back onto my chest, “Yeah Mama, that way he can be all three like he wants to be.”

I kiss her still sun-bleached hair.

“Sweetie, that is a great idea. I think he will love that.”


Yes, there was once a time when he did not get Halloween. Now he counts down the days until he can go door to door and say, “Trick or Treat!”

In his pumpkin, wizard, motorcycle costume that his sister has designed.

We will celebrate the season.

Make our jack o’ lantern.

We will all four hold hands.

We will go door to door.

And together.

As a family.

We will say Trick or Treat!


Copyright Cheairs Graves, October 2, 2013



10 Responses to “30 more sleep nights…..”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Oh, I love this. It warms my heart to read about his excitement..and your daughter’s excitement about his excitement. Wonderful!

  2. Diane Says:

    Once again, another beautifully written story. So vivid and emotional, I can’t help but feel Dawsons excitement for Halloween! Tell him we will get our Halloween decorations out in 2 more sleep nights. Love you guys!

  3. Lindsay Says:

    Thank you for this. My 5 year old is very similar to Dawson and this gives me hope for when he’s Dawson’s age! Great progress, Dawson– this is going to be your best Halloween yet!

  4. Ms. T. Says:

    Yes! Yes! Yes! And celebrate you will. Rock on Dawson and Margaret-Ann!!! Those two are unstoppable, Cheairs. :) Big hugs from me. xo

  5. Kristin Says:

    I am smiling with great joy for you! This year, we are going to my mom’s church to do Trunk or Treat, as last year was not fun with having to drag Sam up the stairs to each house. Or Hank for that matter. Plus we added the third. Easier if we can just cruise car to car. But after all that time with no words, we are joyful this year as well. We’re going to practice. We’re going to teach Sam to say trick or treat. And I know it’s a goal we can accomplish. If not, we can always fall back on, “Sam, what does a ghost say?” “WHOOOOOOO!!!!!” :-)

  6. Ann Davies Says:

    I can’t wait to see pictures of Dawson’s costume and videos of him sayingTrick or Treat! This will be a special Halloween at the Graves house! So happy for y’all!!!

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