I tried from a young age to help John to understand the true meanings of the Christian festivals we celebrate. Namely Christmas and Easter. I also wanted him to know that it wasn’t all about presents and chocolate eggs, I wanted to make sure he understood that he was a lucky boy to receive gifts at these times. I explained to him that on Christmas morning and Easter Sunday there would be children all over the world who would wake up and not have any presents or eggs. He looked at me with his beautiful big brown eyes, nodded and said ‘Kite please mummy’ followed by ‘Eaher Egh ten’ holding 10 fingers up.
He was obviously making sure he wasn’t one of the poor children I was rabbiting on about.
However there were signs early on that he may not have taken it all in, when aged eight he gave a great performance in the school nativity play as ‘The Inn Keepers Friend’….I can hear you all saying… Eh? there is no mention in the bible of the miserable inn keeper having any friends and you would be right, but lets not ruin a fabulous performance with facts.
John made the role his own, swathed in an enormous blue dressing gown and with the mandatory tea towel on his head, he welcomed all his ‘Friends’ into the stable by waving his arms like a windmill to beckon them forward, shouting ‘Ere’ at the top of his voice in case they should lose their way and end up in the wrong stable.
I think the deputy headmistress who was in charge had got her bible stories confused and the play became a cross between The Nativity and Noah’s Ark.
The Inn Keeper’s friend welcomed three sheep, two cows, several geese, a large chicken in a wheelchair and a donkey with a walking frame. Behind these came, and I kid you not, a reluctant elephant who cried all the way, a very small lion who took giant steps pawing the air with one hand and picking its nose with the other and finally a rhinoceros with a very elaborate papier-mache` horn covered in tinsel. There should also have been a snake but it got stage fright and refused to join in.
John herded them all neatly through the door and around the crib in such a way as to make the audience believe he had watched more than his fair share of One Man And His Dog.
I was so proud of him and eagerly awaited his big ending. His final job was to hand out presents to all his ‘Friends’ to celebrate the birth of the baby Jesus.
The presents were just empty boxes wrapped in Christmas paper and baby Jesus was a plastic doll with tight blonde curly hair.
John went over to the table where all the stack of presents were, looked over at the zoo in the corner, turned his back and with great speed ripped all the paper off the presents. When he found they were only pretend he sat down and wailed…..’Crane, Bridge, Kite…wahhhhhhh’ he was inconsolable. Meanwhile the zoo, also thinking the presents were real and that John was keeping them all for himself, went berserk causing a stampede. The donkey lost its walking frame and the poor rhinoceros snapped its horn in two places.
Christmas to John and his classmates was clearly all about presents…..well I had done my best!
You would think that following on so close after Christmas, the deputy headmistress would have had second thoughts about putting on an Easter production, but no she was a brave soul. She decided that each class should put on a mini production of their own, and so it was that John was dressed as a huge yellow Easter Chicken….think Big Bird off Sesame Street and you will get the general idea.
His six classmates would be dressed as Bunnies (Boys) and Daffodils (Girls). The bunnies would just wear ears and tails and have a black nose and whiskers painted on. The daffodils would wear yellow balaclavas with petals sewn around the outside and they would carry little baskets with chocolate mini eggs inside, to hand out to the mums and dads.
The bunnies and daffodils job was to hop and dance around the huge Chick while it laid an enormous egg. Thats a lot of stuff to remember for children with special needs.
What could possibly go wrong.
John was not amused at his yellow onsie and balaclava with a wibbly wobbly red comb sewn on the top. Even worse he had to wear a beak on elastic held in place by his ears. Some autistic children don’t like wearing things on their heads, John had only just managed not to flip with the tea towel in the nativity. His class teacher told me several times that the balaclava was causing her a problem, completely missing the point that it was obviously causing John a problem too.
On the big day all the mums and dads sat nervously waiting for their child’s class to perform. I think its fair to say that John’s class had the most nervous parents by some way. Suddenly the tape recorder started playing All Things Bright and Beautiful and the stage area was filled with bunnies hopping and daffodils waving around in the breeze whilst trying not to spill any of the mini eggs. One little daffodil was a bit too enthusiastic with her basket and threw the whole lot into the audience by mistake. She stood yelling ‘Me baskets gone, me baskets gone’ then promptly stole one from another very small unsteady daffodil. This little daffodil couldn’t quite work out what had happened and wandered around in circles wondering where her basket had gone. The bunnies kept crashing into her as she became more and more confused.
Meanwhile a voice could be heard from behind the partition in the stage area trying to coax the Big Chicken come out and do his stuff.
‘Pssst! John, now’ whispered the voice ‘John, now, com on’ and crouching she backed onto the stage beckoning John forward. John shouted from the wings ‘No hat’ causing the audience to giggle. ‘Eaher Egh’ ‘Shouted John again from the wings, showing the teacher he had recently gained skills in bargaining.
‘You can have one afterwards John, now come on please’ she hissed desperately.
The bunnies and daffodils were tired of hopping and dancing and were starting to bang into eachother. Concentration is not something that comes easy to these children but they were doing their best. One boy had took his ears off and was scratching his bum, this caused his tail to come off too so he thought he might as well sit down. He threw his ears and his tail at his mum. The others hopped, swayed and fell over him several times. There were mini eggs rolling in all directions and getting squashed underfoot.
The audience were in hysterics it was hilarious for all the wrong reasons.
Eventually John catapulted on stage, presumably given a gentle shove from behind. He was wearing the beak on his forehead but apart from that he was strutting his stuff.
He stomped about, flapping his arms like a chicken and every so often he would stop, bend over and stand up again. It must be one helluva big egg he was about to lay.
The bunnies and daffodils were now just wandering around the stage area not sure of anything anymore. The teacher hiding behind a partition called John over. She managed to get him to bend forward and then she rolled a huge golden egg under his legs, it would have continued rolling too if John hadn’t leapt on as if scoring a try for England, trying in vain to get the golden wrapping off, presumably so he could eat it.
The teacher tried to wrestle it off John but he wasn’t letting go. ‘Eaher Egh, now please’ shouted John putting the huge egg under his arm and stomping off stage to rapturous applause.
Easter to John is all about eating chocolate eggs, but I did try honest.
This Easter weekend John was excited about his Easter Egg Hunt which he always has on Easter Sunday. I hide the eggs in exactly the same place each year, and each year John squeals in surprise when he finds them.
As we went about our usual Saturday business of buying CD’s from smelly shops and not so smelly shops, everyone we met was asking John what he would be getting on Sunday.
‘Christmas presents’ shouted John, with a slap of the head and a crotch grab.
I give up!