The school parking lot is empty but for one car when Esther pulls in, wheels spitting gravel, car door slamming in her rush to the entrance. A late meeting and too many red lights puts her thirty minutes behind schedule. She knows what that means. Once inside, Aydan’s yells echo to her down the empty corridor.
“I have to go! I want my moon rock! It’s made of oxygen, silicon, magnesium, iron, calcium, and aluminum. My dad bought it for me! Let me get my moon rock!”
She waits for the thud of his fists hitting the classroom walls. A long silence, the murmur of a deeper voice, then she hears laughter. Aydan’s laughter? She pauses to look in the window before opening the classroom door.
Her brother Aydan is a beautiful boy with hair sweeping like a raven’s wing across his high forehead, eyes gray-green as clean river water. Thin shoulder blades defined beneath his white shirt, he walks awkwardly around the room, outlining circles in the air with his index fingers. The repetitive motion is as familiar to Esther as his face. It is what he does when he is upset or uncertain. Lately it is all he has been doing. Their recent move and a new school make the Asperger’s Disorder symptoms more pronounced. His world has spun out of its familiar orbit, now his reaction is meteoric.
His teacher, Nate Gordon, sits on the floor below the chalkboard clapping his hands in a steady rhythm while Aydan rattles off moon words in his flat-toned voice.
“Blue moon, new moon, full moon, moonrise, moonbeam, moonlight —”
Taking a deep breath she turns the door handle and walks in. Whatever Nate did to keep Aydan calm dissolves as soon as he sees her. He runs to the corner, throwing himself down on the floor, crying, flailing his limbs. Esther wants to hurry to him but Nate stops her with a raised hand. He approaches Aydan quietly, sits down beside him and waits. She drops into a child-sized desk, exhaustion written in her slumped shoulders.
“I got stuck in a meeting and the traffic was awful. Now I‘ve made you stay behind and —”. Her words fizzle, lost in Aydan’s cries. Nate holds his finger to his lips, placing his hand gently on the boy’s shoulder. He sings in a raspy tenor.
“Oh, I’m bein’ followed by a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow
Leapin’ and hoppin’ on a moon shadow, moon shadow, moon shadow.”
Aydan’s favorite Cat Stevens song slows his angry thrashing until he lies quietly. He keeps his face to the wall, his spine stiffly curled. Esther wonders when she can get him to the car and home. How much longer can she keep doing this?
In the three years since the accidental deaths of their parents, Esther has set aside all her own dreams to care for Aydan. The life insurance settlement barely covers the cost of this private school for children with Asperger‘s Disorder. Higher functioning than a child with autism, his education could equip him to live a reasonably normal life someday. It means relocation to an unfamiliar city, barely making it on her bookkeeper’s salary. It’s what her parents would expect of her, she knows, but she doesn’t have the patient attitude of her mother or the calm strength of her father to deal with Aydan. He is as mysterious to her as the moon he is so fixated upon. His moods change like the shifting phases of the orb in the night sky. Revolving around a world she cannot reach, he is unable to let her in behind his stilted, repetitive speech and averted gaze. She loves him but it is a worried love, heavy with responsibility.
Nate motions her to join him in the hallway where they can see through the window. Aydan’s fury at her lateness seems to have dissipated. They watch him stretch out on his back, drawing circles in the air.
“He had a great day, you know,” Nate says. He touches her arm, his gaze warm on her face. He is Aydan’s teacher and her friend. Someone who sees beyond the Asperger’s to the boy inside and loves him. Someone who sees beyond her worried brow and cares enough to listen and encourage. Then there is Nate’s faith. He often mentions praying for Aydan; “bringing him to the foot of the cross”, he calls it. He says Jesus gives him wisdom to teach Aydan. She can almost believe it when she sees her brother respond to Nate in ways she never thought possible. He can even make Aydan laugh, something he rarely does.
“You might not believe it, Esther, but Aydan is a lot like his favourite subject. He reflects God’s goodness and glory, like the moon reflecting the sun. Sometimes it’s hidden by clouds or is so small you can barely see it but it’s always there, ready to shine.”
Nate leans a little closer and whispers, “Don’t miss it.”
By the time they get settled for the drive home, twilight is seeping into the late September afternoon. Aydan keeps up a running monologue of moon facts from the passenger seat, oblivious to Esther’s weary silence. Traffic thins as they leave the city behind. Mist gathers in hollows between the gentle hills, twining vaporous fingers through groves of autumnal trees. Reaching the last hill before their turn, Esther feels tension drain from her stiff shoulders.
Their little house squats on the corner of a patchwork quilt of farm fields, its yard light glowing a welcome in the dusk. She questioned the distance from the city when she rented it but it was all she could afford. Now she treasures the calming drive home and the peace and quiet for Aydan.
After supper Esther kneels to wipe old linoleum, tears running off her chin diluting Aydan’s spilled soup. She knows his clumsiness is more apparent when he is tired. She doesn’t blame him, but she is just so weary of the constant vigilance and damage control. Maybe she should look into getting some respite care.
Suddenly Aydan’s bedroom door crashes back on its hinges.
“Come see, Essie! Come!”
He runs past Esther kneeling on the floor, beckoning frantically for her to follow as he flies out the back door. By the time she gets up he is running barefoot in pajamas across the frosted grass. Grabbing boots, she rushes after him, rounds the corner of the house only to stop short at what she sees.
The moon —- Aydan’s moon! A vast, amber sphere balancing on the cusp of the horizon, transfixes her breathless.
She blinks in wonder, the luminous ball embedding behind her eyelids, imprinting itself on her soul. Gone are tears, care, weariness. There is only this incandescent moon, flooding her vision with radiance. Boots drop from her hand as she runs barefoot across cold, crisp grass to where Aydan dances. Gilded in moon glow, he leaps and twirls, laughing with joy.
“I saw light in my window! I thought it was a flashlight, but when I looked out –This!”
He throws his arms wide, eyes reflecting miniature golden moons. Grabbing his hands, Esther dances with him in crazy circles, then pulls him into her arms. For once he hugs her back and she wishes time would stop. Nate’s words spring into her mind.
Don’t miss it.
This is it. Aydan’s fine-boned body held close, laughter still rippling under her hands. This is the glory Nate was talking about. God-glory blazing out from a full harvest moon fails to outshine the God-glory in this small boy with Asperger’s. Nate sees it and she is beginning to see it too.
“Look, Essie, we have a moon shadow!”
Aydan turns them away from the rising moon. It’s pearlescent light outlines their two silhouettes on the grass, hand in hand. She cannot see where her shadow ends and Aydan’s begins.
© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.