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“Mom! Mom it snowed!”.

Wow (sarcasm), snow in North-central Indiana in January. At 4:30 in the morning, the local weather report brought to you by your 8-year-old son isn’t so cheery. But love covers all sorts of inconveniences.

It was Jaxson’s birthday after all and he had been praying all week that it would snow on his birthday. Pretty good reasons to be excited. “Jaxson, you need to go back to bed, until daddy’s alarm goes off at 5:00”. Rules are really important in Jaxson’s home. Autistic children do well in a structured environment, but get out of the routine and there could be trouble without an extra helping of parental love.

Tic toc 5:00 and Jaxson is ready to go.  Mom and dad roll out of bed and get the day going.  Showers, beds to make, laundry to finish up, Madison and Emma to get going on their day, snow day arrangements to make and Jackson wants to go outside.

The snow suit is on.  “Jaxson, when mommy calls you need to obey and come in”.  “Need to obey” are code words for an autistic 8-year-old.  He might not understand why obedience is so important but he does understand the practical need to obey.

“Ok mom” and out he goes with his brand new “snow brick” maker (Where were these cool things 50 years ago? I want one) in hand.  Time to make the coolest snow train ever imagined by a 8-year-old boy.  It was going to be the best ever birthday for Jaxson.  Past or future, nothing was going to be better than this birthday.

“Jaxson!  Time to come in!”  No response.  “Jaxson!”.  Nothing.

I will not pretend to understand what goes through a parent’s mind at this point.  Is it terror first or is it “been here, done that”?  A wise parent is a steadfast parent.  No need to let emotions run ahead of the facts.  “Jaxson?”

“Danny, Jaxson is not responding.  I am going to look for him.” Adrenaline can be a great friend or a dreadful enemy.  The cautious mom dresses for 5 degree weather and with the skill of a native American tracks the the birthday boy to the neighbors.  Thank the Lord it snowed.  Jackson’s footsteps where easy to follow.

“Oh Jennifer, come in, quickly dear it is cold out.”  It was as if Miss Ruth was waiting for her, just as she had been waiting for Jaxson.

Quick apologies for Jaxson barging in at 5:45 in the morning were not necessary, but Jennifer felt obliged to offer them.  Miss Ruth was a mother too and a grandmother also.  But most of all to Jaxson and his family, she was a good neighbor.

“Jaxson,” the tone was a little more stern, but loving nonetheless, “what are you doing?”

“Mom, my train was going to need lots more snow than what we have.  So I came over to ask if I could use theirs.”  A mother’s anxiety and fear melted away in sheer delight.  “Ge’ez, he does get it” she thought to herself.  There were still some motherly duties to fulfill though.

“Jaxson, that is really good that you thought to ask before borrowing something.  Maybe next time you can tell mommy that you are going next door before you go?”

“OK mom”, the joyful engineer replied, “and I just had to stay.  Miss Ruth had biscuits and gravy, just for me, it’s my birthday you know!”  No harm in letting the little railway sojourner think the breakfast was just for him on his birthday.  Who knows, maybe it was.

“Who is your neighbor?” the Lord asked of his disciples in Luke 10:29-37.  Is it the traveler who was beat and left to die? Or is it the 8 year old autistic boy who stretches the boundaries of “normal” family life?  Maybe it is the person next door who’s political and religious views are completely opposite of yours?

Gosh, maybe it is all of them.