About two weeks ago, my wife began leaving the paper towel roll on the window sill in our kitchen, in clear view of Mr. Busy Hands. I have no idea what prompted this obviously insane action by a normally sane human being. But, through some miracle beyond explanation, the paper towel roll has remained there—untouched by the little fellow—ever since.
For many, this may seem like a minor occurrence. Trivial, even. A topic unworthy of a blog of this stature. For these two veteran autism parents, however, it represents a milestone comparable to men walking on the moon or the invention of gluten-free bagels that taste and feel like, well, bagels. Let me provide you with a short history.
Six or seven years ago (the exact timeframe lies beyond the grasp of my increasingly feeble mind), we had a paper towel holder under one of the kitchen cabinets. We would place our paper towels on this holder, like nearly every other household in America. When we needed a paper towel, we would remove one from this roll and use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Clay, our live-in Mr. Whipple, had other ideas. He loved the “squeezability” of the paper towel roll. He would remove the role and walk around with it, often trailing about 30 miles of paper towel through the house. He would perform this activity perhaps 100 times a day. We would rewrap the paper towels in an increasingly large and sloppy fashion, and attempt to stuff the roll back on its holder under the kitchen cabinet.
After a few weeks of this interesting exercise, I had the brilliant inspiration to move the paper towel holder out of Clay’s reach. I mounted the holder in a carefully chosen spot above the sink area, inches from the ceiling. A place where my wife and I had to stand on our tippy toes to reach it. This created great amusement for our guests, but did the trick—more or less—until Clay grew tall enough to reach the towels on his own. Once again, the paper towel dragons began appearing on an hourly basis.
We were left with the final option. The paper towels were relegated to a high shelf in the pantry, where they remained, like precious jewelry, safely behind a locked door. Clay would occasionally grab them when he was in there cruising for snacks, but for the most part he left them alone. We were forced to fumble at unlocking the door, usually with wet hands, when we needed a paper towel. They were safe in there, though, so we soldiered on.
Fast forward to two weeks ago when my wife took the aforementioned crazy action of putting the paper towels in plain view and within easy reach of the little guy. He has left them alone. Not so much as one squeeze. It defies explanation. It may someday be the basis for a struggling student’s Ph.D. thesis. It also got me thinking of a situation with our doors (another example of Clay’s single-minded focus). Our kitchen has a door that leads to the backyard. The door has an extra sliding bolt I installed at the top to keep Clay in the house when needed. I watch him scan the kitchen when he enters. Refrigerator—locked. Pantry —locked. Back door—open. Bingo. Here we go. No matter the weather or the time of year, if that door is unlocked Clay will open it.
Here’s the thing. Our living room also has a door to the backyard (and to the front yard). These doors don’t have an extra bolt. They are often left unlocked. But Clay never uses them. Never opens them. Never seems to even think about trying to go out that way. Leave that kitchen door unbolted during a hurricane, though, and he’ll wander right out. In his socks. Sometimes without any pants on.
Now, when he opens the kitchen door during a tsunami, at least we can wipe up the mess without having to release the paper towels from their forced bondage in the pantry.
Next up, setting free the napkins.