Until two weeks ago we kept our son behind a gate. Not a full-doorway creaking metal dungeon gate (though we sometimes wished!), but a half-door plastic toddler gate.
The Gate was not a physical barrier; it was a giant plastic “you-need-to-stay-in-your-room” sticky note. The Gate prevented nomadic sojourns into closets, toilets and other spaces little autistic boys need to avoid.
Liev now plays in his room sans gate. Late-night bathroom trips are independent and he no longer wanders into the computer room for virus downloading sessions.
Scattered down the hallway to T’s room, streaks, blotches, and spots stain the carpet. It’s a visual record of the items he’s flung out of his room while bored, irritated or amused.
I studied the marks as I vacuumed for the carpet cleaning guy. They delineated the range of Liev’s maturing throw. Closest to the gate, splotches of juice from Winter break 2010 yellowed the carpet. Further away, chocolaty smears from the March snow days evolved into concentric pink blobs from summertime daycare.
The more I vacuumed, the more I obsessed over the stained area. How had I not noticed the filthy hallway? I meticulously edged in the downstairs library, ruminating over the stains and the patterns they created.
When the carpet cleaning guy came, I shared my observations. I had unearthed the secret language of carpet stains! I rattled on, describing stain pattern and placement, figuring that a professional would be fascinated.
He was less than impressed. “Yep. Looks like a typical soiling pattern by the doorway.”
I wanted to argue, “No, wait! These are special stains! That pinkish one, there, is from when I lost the Tylenol Battle of April 3, 2011. And this, it’s organic chocolate!”
I felt disappointed he wasn’t as excited as me, but I realized this happens frequently. I am more excitable than other people.
The carpet cleaning guy cleaned and left. The hallways and rooms sported uniformly fluffy, clean, and industrial smelling carpet.
It seems silly, but I wonder if the soiled carpet represented my anxieties over Liev. Those stains arose from Liev’s worst days. I felt oddly connected to those stains and wanted a reminder of our hard work. But maybe, like Liev’s gate, as you grow up you leave some things behind.