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This story is inspired by my two little cousins who live with ASD. 

      The world is a kaleidoscope of color.


      Red is quiet. She is the softness of my blanket and the blush that dances on momma’s cheeks. Red is always sweet and sometimes squishy, the only type of fruit snack that I’ll put into my mouth. She is helpful and she is happy— the color of my curlicue hair.


       Blue is cold. He is the glow of the open fridge and the bathwater that makes me shiver. Blue’s the metal clink of Milo's collar and the hue of the early morning sky. He is frosty playgrounds in the winter and swimming pools in the spring— the color of my baby blue eyes.


      Yellow is loud. She’s the blare of the TV late at night and the bright rays of sunshine in the morning. She is the crunchy food that grinds the tops of my teeth and shakes the inside of my skull. Yellow is harsh and hasty— the color of my baby brother’s bedroom.


      Red, blue, and yellow.


     These three colors together get along just fine, but two at a time get along even better. And, when there is just one color all by itself? Well, that’s what’s really best. One solid shade is confident and calming, a steady cadence of color. Like the warm red light that spills from my alarm clock and into the darkness— one color is sure and stable.


      When there are more than three colors, they always end up in a fight. Blue bickers with green and orange vies for attention. Red cries in the corner and yellow screams at the top of her lungs. When four or five or six colors get together, I find myself spinning in circles, trying to take them all in. But, no matter how hard I try, I can’t focus. I can’t focus and I can’t focus and I can’t focus on anything at all. So, I spin and spin and spin, until the colors blend together. I spin and spin and spin… until my world becomes a kaleidoscope.



​      January 12th, 2007


       Today I made a kaleidoscope.


       Daddy picked me up from school in his car and I gave him a toothy grin. I love the car. It’s white like the clouds and hums in a way that puts me right to sleep. With a hand from Ms. Brown, Daddy helped me into my car seat and we went straight to McDonald’s. After seven french fries and two chicken nuggets, I slept the rest of the car ride home. It was just an average Tuesday afternoon… until we walked into the house and momma wasn’t there.


      Momma wasn’t there.


      Momma wasn’t there.


      Momma wasn’t there.


      Every weekday for as long as I can remember, momma’s met me in the living room after school. She sits in the big red chair with her arms wide open and pulls me in for a loooong hug. She asks me about my day and, though I can’t speak, she listens to what is on my mind. Somehow, someway she understands me. She always has.


      Momma says that she knew from the first time that she held me that I was special. Even in those early years, back when Daddy thought that I was the same as any other baby, momma knew better. Before I was late to walk and unable to talk, she saw something wonderful that others couldn’t or wouldn’t see in me. Nine years later, she still sees those things in me. She whispers them in my ear every day when we’re snuggled in that big red chair.


      …but not today.


      Today momma wasn’t there.


      I called for her and she didn’t answer. I searched the whole house but couldn’t find her. She wasn’t in the bathroom or her bedroom or upstairs with baby Braden. Daddy said that she’d be home “soon” and I cried. I don’t know what “soon” means.


      I paced.

      I paced.


      I paced.


      The carpet was yellow— a light light yellow that blurred under my feet. Where was momma? Why wasn’t she at home? Yellow is loud. Loud like the lights in the kitchen… I had to turn them off. Loud like the open blinds in the hallway… I had to pull them closed.


      Daddy’s glasses were blue. Blue like the blocks Braden left by the stairs and blue like the bracelet around my wrist. Blue like the sky outside and blue like the papers on the counter. There was too much blue too much blue too much blue. I yanked off the bracelet and threw it to the ground.


      The chair was red red red but only the chair. Daddy kept saying “soon, soon”, “soon Sophie”, “soon” … but I don’t know what “soon” means.


      So, I made a kaleidoscope.


      I spun and spun and spun until I couldn’t spin anymore.


      Momma got home a few minutes later.



 *        *        *

      August 26th, 2011

      Today I made a kaleidoscope.


      Momma took Braden and I to the waterpark in Camas today— it’s one of our favorite places to go in the summertime. The water is warm and smooth and smells like nothing at all. Braden brought his friend Finn and they like to play by the slides. The slides have too many people, so I stayed with momma in the lazy river.


      “You havin’ fun sweet girl?” momma asked.


      I giggled and held her tighter.


      Momma can’t hold me anymore unless we’re swimming. She says I’m too big, but I don’t think so. Momma is strong. Or, at least that’s what grandma and grandpa say. They say that she has to be strong to be able to take care of me and Braden— that we’re a lot to handle. Daddy’s gone a lot now, which means that momma is on her own most of the time. I wish I knew how to help her, but I don’t.


      I took momma’s hand in mine.


      Two teenage girls who looked about my age floated by in a tube. They laughed as they passed us and I smiled up at them. Momma looked angry and I wondered why.


      “Don’t you worry about them,” she said, brushing a wet curl behind my ear. “You just worry about me, Ms. Sophie May. You worry about your momma who loves you thiiiiis much.”


      Momma spread her hands apart until she looked like a bird. I stretched my arms out too, squealing and rubbing my nose against hers. Then, Finn's voice echoed towards us.


      “Mrs. S-stalder! Mrs. S-stalder!” Finn yelled from the side of the lazy river. His teeth were chattering, his legs covered in goosebumps.


      Momma grabbed me around the waist and stood up against the current.


      “Mrs. S-stalder!” Finn yelled again. “B-braden hurt his arm! T-too m-many kids went down the s-slide at once.”


      Momma’s eyes went wide and she headed for the stairs.


     “Is he with a lifeguard?!” she asked, and Finn nodded.


      Momma pulled me from the lazy river and I protested— I didn’t want to get out. The air was so so cold and the water was warm. Why did we have to leave?


      “Sophie,” she said, her voice stern, “we have to go help your brother.”


      I shook my head and sat down on the tiled steps.


      “Sophie, now!” momma said. “Braden has an owie.”


      She pulled me to my feet and I let out a wail. Then, we followed Finn through the crowd and over to the waterslides.


      The slides were orange, green, purple, and pink. Some were short and some were tall, but all of them were loud loud loud. There were hundreds of people, all in different bathing suits. Some had sharks and some had flowers and some were so small that I wondered how they didn’t fall down. The music was blinding and the air smelled like ice cream and wet feet and hot dogs.


      “Braden?!” momma called when she saw him. A lifeguard blew his whistle over and over and over again, corralling kids away from my brother.


      Braden was smiling but his lips were blue blue blue. Momma scolded him for scaring her, then wrapped him into a hug. His swim trunks were yellow yellow yellow and momma’s face was red red red. The lifeguard wanted to take Braden over to the medical tent which was orange and white with bright green chairs.


      I paced.


      I paced.


      I paced.


      I scratched my arm one, two, three. I scratched again four, five six. I scratched again seven, eight, nine. Then, my arm was red red red and warm warm warm and wet wet wet. I looked up at momma and she was mad mad mad.


      So, I made a kaleidoscope.


      I spun and spun and spun until I couldn’t spin anymore.


      Momma took us home after that.


*     *     *


      September 4th, 2018  


      Today I made a kaleidoscope.


      I haven’t seen Braden in sixteen days— not for real. He’s been calling me every night on daddy’s phone, but it isn’t the same. Momma says that he’s at school now, but I think she’s just being silly. School is just for the daytime and Braden hasn’t been home for dinner or bedtime either.


      It isn’t fair that Braden gets to go to school all day long when I don’t get to go to school at all anymore. My teacher Dan comes over every day to help me practice my words and do homework, but it isn’t like school used to be. I miss playing with other kids at recess and making new friends. I miss Daddy picking me up outside and going to McDonald’s and falling asleep in his car.


      These days I spend most of my time with momma. And, even though I love her most, I really miss Braden.


      Today, Braden forgot to call.


      For sixteen days, Braden called every night at 6:30. He talked to me about his day and told me how much he loved me. He talked to me about "college"... though I don't know what "college" means. 


      But today? Today Braden forgot to call.


      I waited with daddy’s phone until 7:00… and then until 7:15. At 7:30, daddy said that he needed his phone to do some work things, so momma gave me hers. We tried to call Braden together, but he didn’t answer. I called three more times before momma said that we could try again tomorrow.


      But what if Braden didn’t forget to call?


      What if Braden was hurt or alone or lost his phone? What if he tried to call later and we were all asleep? What if I didn’t answer and he couldn’t tell me how much he loved me? Or to have a goodnight?


      I paced.


      I paced.


      I paced.


      At 9:27 momma said it was time for bed... but I couldn't go to sleep like that. She chased me up the stairs and then chased me back down the stairs— momma isn’t as fast as she used to be.


      Daddy had the TV on downstairs and it was yellow. It was bright bright yellow like the popcorn in his lap. Momma caught up and wrapped me in a blanket that was red red red but it didn’t help. I started to cry. My heart pounded hard and I balled my hands into fists— tight, tight, tight until my nails pricked my palms.


      I started to spin and spin and spin, waiting for the colors to blur together.


      Just when I was about to fall… the phone in momma’s pocket buzzed blue blue blue. I stood still still still while she answered.


      It was Braden.


      Momma handed me the phone and led me over to the big red chair. She pulled me into her lap and swaddled me up in my big red blanket. Braden smiled wide in his red T-shirt and I felt my hands relax. Daddy turned off the TV and came to sit with us as Braden talked about his day and his classes. Braden told me that he loves me and momma and daddy told him goodnight. At 10:04, momma tucked me into bed.


      I fell asleep to the warm red light of my alarm clock.

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