It’s a Hanukkah

It’s been exactly one year since this event happened. We were asked by our church to light the advent candle. After we committed to doing it, I immediately I thought that I wanted to let Everett read a portion of the ceremony. Most people who encounter Everett don’t get to see the depth of his knowledge, education, and abilities. Our church has always been so loving and supportive, but I can tell at times they are at a loss of exactly what to say or do with Everett. I knew he wouldn’t shy away from the microphone. He usually runs towards microphones and repeats what he has heard what other people say into them. A few years ago, I was helping prepare for Vacation Bible School and Everett was with me. He was watching the AV person set up the speakers and microphones on the stage. After they were done, he ran onto the stage and grabbed the microphone. He said “This is Mr. Clung. Kids, it’s time to settle down and be quiet.” Mr. McClung was his principal at the time and he imitated his voice perfectly but added the muffled version of how the worn out PA system makes his voice distorted. And then he proceeded to sing the Alphabet Song. Everett is completely unpredictable with what comes out of his mouth, which is one of the things I love most about him. He is hilarious when you least expect it. We practiced his part of the advent for a few days or at least until he was uninterested and bored with it. I knew it was a gamble of him actually cooperating with what I wanted him to do, but definitely felt like it was worth a shot. That Sunday morning, he was unwilling to even look at the practice sheet, so I had very low expectations. I asked our preacher’s wife, Jennifer, to video it with my phone. Clay, Everett, and I went into the pulpit. I read my part and then it was Everett’s turn. He did a good job and it was a really sweet to see him up there so confident and willing to take on public speaking without a moment of fear. Our plan was for him to help Clay light the candle after he was finished reading. He grabbed Clay’s hand and as they were lighting it you can see a light bulb go off in his head. What I didn’t do in preparation was to show him pictures or videos of our church’s Advent Wreath. I didn’t explain what it was or what it was called. They light the candle and then he says “Happy… It’s a Hanukkah” I immediately corrected him with “no, it’s not Hanukkah”. The whole church (including clay and I) busted out laughing. He mistook the Advent Wreath as a Menorah. Our minister, Kerry, was so gracious and amused by it and even talked about it being an opportunity to share and talk about other religions inside of our church walls. He did ask me as we were leaving how in the world Everett knew what Hanukah was. The answer was Elmo. I watched the video so many times. It’s an amazing metaphor for our life. If you watch me in the video, you can see my range of emotions during the process. I’ve pushed him to do and try new things, but I’m literally reading along with him and can’t keep my eyes off of him. I go from fear, to pride, and then relief. Only for him to throw a monkey wrench in the whole thing with his Hanukah line that busts my bubble of being able to control the situation and I’m mortified that he mentioned Hanukkah during a Christmas ceremony. I then give in and enjoy the moment with joy and laughter. I’m willing to let go of what might happen to let him grow and proudly show the world what he is capable of. I have learned to let go of my neurotypical boundaries and norms for Everett, and living in our family’s world of neurodiversity keeps us all on our toes. Everett has to show up to our “normal” world everyday. Some days are easier than others, but you can’t ever deny his honesty, authenticity, and humor. These are the moments I cherish.

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