Your Life As I Knew It

By Anna Cosslett

The highs and lows of family life, as a mother pieces together the effects and possible causes of her son's fairly severe autism.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Swimming in Fog

As I mentioned in an interview recently, we often chose to go with Huw's autism rather than try to repress him.  Here is one example, which I wrote about in a poem, as well as in this extract from the book:

'Let's go to the beach,' says Lucy.

'Good idea,' says Mum.  'It'll be good to get out of this damp house.  We can take a picnic.'

They go in the car.  Huw loves the car.  It is warm and soft and there is music and sun shining.  

Now the sun has stopped shining.  The windows have gone white.  That's funny.

'Oh, no,' says Lucy, 'it's gone foggy.'

'It must be sea mist or something.'

'What are we going to do?'  The car stops and Lucy gets out, 'I can't even see the sea.'

She runs away, over the big round stones.

'It's really thick, Huw,' says Mum.  'We can't swim in this.'

Huw decides this can't be possible.  No, no. They MUST swim.  They are here to swim.  They cannot NOT swim.  Swimming is the plan and the plan cannot be changed.  Huw kicks the back of Mum's seat and moans a lot.  Lucy comes back.

'There are people in the water,' she says.  'It isn't too bad – it's really weird, everything sounds muffled and you can't see very far at all.'

'We're going to have to go in,' says Mum.  'Huw will create merry hell otherwise.'

'OK,' says Lucy. 'Come on Huw!'

The sea is not wavy and there is cold steam on top of it.  Mum and Lucy and Huw go swimming in the cold steam.  There are other people in the steam sometimes. Sometimes they are there, sometimes they are not.  

'Doesn't everyone sound funny,' says Lucy, 'like they're talking into pillows.'

'It is odd,' says Mum.  'I can't see very far at all.  We mustn't let Huw out of our sight for a minute.'

They can hear a helicopter.  It is on the other side of the steam.

'Can you see the helicopter at all?' Mum says.

'No.  I can hardly see a thing.  This is one of the maddest things I've ever done.'

Huw tries to swim out of the steam.  Mum and Lucy stop him.  Mum and Lucy are laughing.

'Come on Huw, I think we've had enough now,' says Mum.

'I'm getting cold,' says Lucy.  'Can we have some chips?'

'What a good idea.  Come on Huw – let's go and get some chips!'

Huw loves chips. Huw loves the chip shop by the beach. He puts his hands on the hot glass cupboards in the chip shop.  

'Yes, we're all a bit cold,' says Mum, 'but I'm glad we did it.'

'It was sooo weird,' says Lucy.

They eat chips in the car.  Mum drives and eats chips at the same time.  Soon the sun starts shining again.

'I bet it's been like this all day, here,' Mum says.  'We'll have to be careful what we say in future.  Once you say you're going to do something with Huw, there really is no going back.'

From the 'little book' I write in from time to time, when times get rough in 'Your Life as I Knew it'.  When I first got together with the children's father, we were both aspiring poets.  He has published a collection.  My poetry remains largely unpublished - I was busy doing other things, of course (like swimming in fog).



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