He runs out the doors of the school clutching a rolled-up poster, you know — the laminated kind used in classrooms everywhere. “Mom!” he says, “Look! Look what I have…CLOUDS!” He quickly unrolls it for my inspection. “Here are the cumulonimubus clouds, the altocumulus clouds, the nimbus clouds, the altostratus clouds. Mom! What’s your favorite cloud?” I tell him I like the kind that are puffy like pillows and he tells me those are cumulus clouds, don’t I like more? I ask him, well, what are your favorites, Sam? “Mom, I love ALL the clouds.”

Indeed. Sam loves everything.

Sam’s capacity to retain information is astounding to me, maybe because my brain struggles to recall the simplest things…why am I at the grocery store, what did I need to get? I have found as I’ve moved through my early 40s that my memory isn’t what it once was. It could have something to do with the dearth of sleep of course, or perhaps the sheer volume of autism knowledge that has taken up residence in each room of my tired brain. I am amused by his excitement and perhaps a little jealous.

He sits in the other room drawing yet another cloud book for his collection and I hear the slow roll of syllables as he pushes them around his tongue like he’s playing an instrument “nim-bo-stra-tus… stra-to-cu-mu-lus”…” not learning a new language. “I only like non-fiction, Mom. Remember. Okay?” He likes the black and white, the literal, the facts.

After he’s satisfied with his cloud book, he’s done and ready to move on to his other current obsession, the U.S. atlas.

Not only did Sam come home with his poster of clouds, he also came home with this which knocked me over.

He told me he made it during Free Choice at school. What’s amazing about this is that he wrote it from memory—he did not have the book with him at school, one we’ve renewed twice at the library. No, he sat down in his classroom and wrote from left to right, alphabetically, by region. So Connecticut, Delaware, Maine—the Northeast, then Alabama, Arkansas, Florida—the Southeast, and so on. He wants me to know that Wyoming is hanging out solo because he ran out of room after Washington. I look at this and think, no way did he get them all, I can’t even tell if they’re all there by looking.

But I count them up, fifty states and nearly all spelled correctly.


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