It’s unsurprising that my middle son and I are exceptionally close. For a whole year, that child (then baby) refused to allow anyone but me to touch his Royal Majesty, and while most parents would’ve been screaming and pulling out their hair, I loved it. Certainly not every day, but most days, it was so unbelievable that a child could love me.

I had a first son, of course, but, thanks to autism, his love has always been something expressed more delicately than Alex, who simply loved me. It was pure, untainted, and one of the most religious experiences of my life. I finally understood what it felt like to be a parent. I’d clung to the notion that I was a parent, yet never felt like it, for so many years.

He’s closing on five now, one of the most intense people I’ve ever known, and still my best small friend. When he’s sick, he crawls into my lap, nestling in like a baby bird, and allows me to bask in memories of those baby days. When he’s well, he scampers around with his brother and sister, stopping briefly to hug me before spinning off to do something else.

For Christmas this year, he got a new butterfly costume. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the day he somehow broke the wings or tore the tutu, so for Christmas he got a second set. He fluttered around the house, stopping only to put on the boots he’d lovingly selected:

May your heart always be joyful, Alex, may your song always be sung.

Always.

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