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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Vines (11/21/05)

TITLE: Davey's Wallpaper
By Anita Neuman


Sometimes I think I’d sell my soul if I could go back to those blissfully ignorant days before we knew anything was wrong. Back to the days when Davey was a healthy, quiet baby.

I used to hold him in my arms late at night, marvelling at his perfection. I could hardly bear to set him down, for fear that I would miss something wonderful. And I always did miss something wonderful: him. He filled my heart in a way I never expected. He was my world.

When we realized that he should’ve been making eye contact with us and reacting to our facial expressions, we feared what we thought was the worst: blindness. While we waited for doctor’s appointments and test results, I planned our future. I wasn’t going to let Davey miss out on anything. I was going to be the most creative and involved mom ever and help him to experience the world even better than his peers. I would be his eyes.

As it turns out, he wasn’t blind. The diagnosis finally came when he was almost a year old. Autism. How I hate that word. Even after three years, I haven’t gotten used to that word. My precious son lives in a different world and I can’t draw him out. He doesn’t see me. He doesn’t know my voice. He doesn’t know that I love him. He doesn’t know that my heart breaks all over again every single day.

We moved just after Davey turned four. I was very careful to make sure his new room was set up exactly the same as his old room, but it wasn’t worth the effort; Davey refused to spend any time in there, except to sleep. But the one thing in our new house that I was determined to change immediately was the one thing that captured Davey’s attention.

We ended up being grateful for the ugly vine-patterned wallpaper. It kept Davey calm through the move. There was something about those vines in the kitchen that both intrigued and soothed him. As the days went on, he was drawn to the wallpaper more and more until tracing the vines became his favourite activity.

I often sat and watched him. His left forefinger traced down a few inches of the vine, then his thumb traced back up the same line. His movements were slow and precise. He seemed to concentrate on every little movement. I wondered what he saw. I wondered what he was thinking.

I soon made a decision. Since I couldn’t get Davey to join me in my world, I decided to join him in his. I sat on the floor beside him and tried to mimic his movements. I traced down the vine with my left forefinger and back up with my thumb. I didn’t talk or even look directly at Davey. I just sat with him tracing the vines and I tried to imagine what he was seeing and feeling. When I got up to make supper, Davey didn’t notice. He probably hadn’t even noticed that I’d been sitting there that whole time.

Over the next few weeks, I traced the vines with Davey for several hours a day. His movements never altered and I was no closer to understanding him, but my helplessness compelled me to action. I couldn’t stop tracing the vines with him any more than I could magically make his autism disappear. I just wanted to know my son.

My determination started to waver as the days wore on without change. As I sat with Davey, tracing the vines over and over again, I wondered if it was futile. My hand stilled as a lifetime of this mindless behaviour flashed before my eyes. I struggled to breathe, afraid to face the endless nightmare ahead.

Suddenly, I noticed that Davey’s hand had stilled as well. I turned to him and found that his baby-blue eyes were focused on me. Miraculously, my son was looking into my own eyes. For that brief second, I was in his world. For that brief second, he knew I was his mommy.

And just like that it was over. His eyes looked through me again and I ceased to exist. But the Lord saw fit to grant me a second miracle. Davey moved his hand closer to mine, slowly moving across the wall until his tiny fingers gently touched mine. And with a barely discernible touch, he moved my hand. Down the vine, then up again.

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This article has been read 1242 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Pat Guy 11/28/05
This might be unfair because I haven't read anyone else's yet but this one has got-to-be-it! Absolutely beautiful!
Julianne Jones11/29/05
This is beautiful and you have captured the world of the child with autism and the world of his parents so well. You obviously speak from experience - whether your own or someone else's - and my heart aches for you. This is beautifully done and deserves to be seen. Thank you!
Marilyn Schnepp 11/30/05
I agree with my co-readers above...this is beautifully written; and it seems so real that I have to believe Davey is yours. God Bless! Kudos!
Jan Ackerson 12/01/05
Mind-bogglingly, heart-breakingly, absolutely perfect. Thank you so much for this beautiful story.
Amy Michelle Wiley 12/01/05
This brought tears to my eyes. What a beautiful, heart-tugging story...
Laurie Glass 12/01/05
This brought tears to my eyes. So real and so touching. Great job.
Cassie Memmer12/01/05
A beautiful story full of emotion. Great writing!
Garnet Miller 12/01/05
What a wonderful story! I have experience with autism. My feelings have run the gamut from anger to despair to sadness. You captured the mother's emotions very well.
Denise Stanford12/02/05
Powerful... I agree, heart wrenching.... yes....so full of understanding, you have indeed captured that separation but then introduced hope in such a lovely, simple way...a lesson for us all in touching another's world no matter what the separation.
terri tiffany12/02/05
You did a wonderful job! I was beginning to wonder if she would see hope and that tiny moment between them was just enough! You captured it perfectly!
Shari Armstrong 12/02/05
What a heart wrencthing story. I used to work with autistic kids (none this severe though) and they are very special children.
Linda Watson Owen12/02/05
Exquisitely bittersweet. You are a skillful writer who has woven a beautifully heartrending story!
Linda Germain 12/02/05
Absolute perfection! A winner in my book.
Sally Hanan12/04/05
It's easy to tell on this one that you made every word matter. Great job!
Sandra Petersen 12/05/05
You are to be commended, capturing the heartsickness of a mother with a severely autistic child. Every paragraph was so well thought out.The paragraphs that moved on my heart: P. 2, 4, and 9 to the end, and especially the concluding paragraph. That last paragraph was the one that sealed it for me! Excellent!
Helga Doermer12/05/05
How I missed this piece, I am not quite sure. It is a piece of heart-wrenching beauty and deserving of first place.

Congratulations on your win.
Karen Ward12/05/05
Anita, fantastic my friend. Hopeful, but realistic, the mother's love, anguish, despair and hope all conveyed to the reader so well. Congratulations! :) Karen
DeAnna Brooks12/05/05
Anita, in reading your words I saw a clearer picture into the world my daughter, who works with autistic children, lives in ... heartbreaking in both pain and reward! I readily admit the ways of God, when reading words like yours, are hard to understand. But what I do believe, with all my heart, where we cannot not enter God dwells in all the power of His majesty. Though their ears may be silent to our words and their eyes blinded to our world, I believe they see God face-to-face and are in ceaseless conversation with the Majesty of the Universe.
God Bless you, and congratulations.
Brandi Roberts12/05/05
This made me want to cry! Wait, I am crying! I could never imagine my son having autism. It would break my heart in two. Thank you for a glimpse into the world of autism, you wrote this beautifully.
Debbie OConnor12/05/05
Excellent in every way. This is a treasure. Congratulations!
Suzanne R12/05/05
Beautiful - and a creative take on the topic as well. This piece could easily be published in a magazine that focuses on health needs, with an additional insert box about support groups etc. Just a thought.
Mtheto Hara12/06/05
Lovely and awesome , totally moving and really touches the heart dearly. God bless you always and congratulations.
Birdie Courtright12/06/05
Beautiful! Such a difficult story so lovingly conveyed...I think we all met you there in Davey's world. Congratulations!--Birdie
B Brenton12/06/05
Wow. Gut wrenching.

Anita, you captured it.

How that must feel... a mother's grief...

Crista Darr12/07/05
Beautiful, heart-wrenching piece with a profound message - love never fails. Amazing work.
David Stewart03/31/06
Beautifully written, but know my heart hurts, there is a lump in my throat and I can barely see throught the tears in my eyes. I love this story.