No Explanations Needed and No Apologies Necessary: A 'Typical' Evening at Carnegie Hall, by Francine Kleiss
From Left: Ray A., Mathieu A., Zachary K. and Francine K.
This past Saturday night, thanks to the Golden Hat Foundation, my friend and I were able to take our sons to Carnegie Hall to watch the Music of Hope benefit concert. Did you hear that world? We took our sons, who have autism, to Carnegie Hall, at night. I am still pinching myself.
When my friend Chandra and I first discussed the Music of Hope concert, we thought of all the reasons we shouldn't go: It was late at night, extending past our sons', Zachary and Mathieu's bedtime. It could be crowded and our sons don't do well in crowds. And besides, they'd never be able to sit still that long.
Her husband Ray interjected. He thought it was a great opportunity. He wanted to take Matheiu. 'If you'll go, I'll go', I told him. And so it was. We knew that if we didn't seize this opportunity, we might never get another chance.
And the truth is, our boys love music. We used to teach them by singing to them. They responded much better to singing then to the spoken word. One physician explained to me that it's because music utilizes a different part of the brain then the spoken word. Indeed, my son has been in music therapy for years.
I had a white-knuckle grip on Zachary as we were escorted to our seats. The boys sat down and looked around in wonder, and when the music started, they were completely mesmerized. As were we. The talent was phenomenal. My friend and I kept turning to each other in awe.
The first time everyone started clapping, we told the boys to clap too, and clap they did. Mostly at the correct times – and occasionally mid-performance. Even before I could push my son's hands down, my lips started forming the apologies for his behavior that have become second nature. But as I turned to the folks sitting next to me, I realized with relief that the looks I got from them were not disapproving but filled with understanding. We were seated in the midst of other families with children with autism. No explanations were needed and no apologies were necessary.
We hoped the boys would last for at least 30 minutes. They sat through the entire concert (2 hours)– as did the families in front of us, behind us and either side of us. I'd have never thought it possible.
So Golden Hat, please let me thank you.
Thank you for creating this night that allowed us to push our boys past what we thought were their limits, because our boys rose to the occasion. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to take our boys to Carnegie Hall, because we would never have taken them there otherwise.
And mostly, thank you for letting us feel like typical families for one evening – you gave us a night out where our only obligation was to have fun – as opposed to being therapeutic or educational -- and one in which we didn't have to apologize for our sons' autism.
When Margret Ericsdottir [Co-Founder of the Golden Hat Foundation] introduced the evening, she talked about how her dream was that one day there'd be a time where our children would be accepted for whom they are, and oh Margret, for that one night, that's exactly how it was.