I sit on the porch, trying to remain calm, my eyes following every movement of the bright orange shirt as he moves down the walk. He sings, "ding! ding! ding!" as he looks both ways, Oswald-style, before crossing the street. He ambles across, a sure sign that there are no cars in sight. I watch.
And I hold my breath.
There are several families at the corner, they are waiting for the school buses from the elementary and the upper elementary. Andy is on the upper elementary one, and Joey declared he is going to go pick up his brother today, just as Andy often used to "pick him up" by meeting Joey's bus as it stopped at our door. After all, Joey is the Big Brother, he reminds me. He's eleven years old, now, and has to take care of his Andy.
He wants me to stay on the porch. He wants to do this himself. He wants to go to the corner and play with the smaller kids waiting there for their big brothers and sisters, talk to the moms and dads. He wants to be himself, with other people, with his friends.
So I stay on the porch, and watch, ready. Triggers can be so small, so sudden. I cannot let my guard down, especially with him half a block down the street. I know the adults there know not to let him run, but I would not want the burden to be on them. And though I am ready, I am optimistic. If I didn't think he could do this, I wouldn't let him walk across that road, down that street, all by himself. In my heart, I know he won't run. I know he wants to do this, he wants to be happy and hang out, like all the kids and adults he sees down there. He wants to be a part of the world, and he knows other kids his age do this.
I watch the orange shirt, even though I have brought the iPad out as I usually do, though I have the mail to read, both are idle in my lap. I watch, my heart with my eyes.
The first bus comes. It is the younger bus. I can hear his happy squeals of greeting, as kids he doesn't really know come off and hug their parents. He's just glad to see kids. They seem happy to have such a big kid who is happy to play leaf-battle and tag with them. They can communicate, they have even communication skills. They can relate to each other, and he's happy, and he's playing... at the corner.
The second bus arrives. I can hear the joyous "ANDY!" clearly. There is some more leaf battling, but the group begins to break up now that all have arrived. They amble back together, brother with brother, arms around each other's shoulders. Well, actually, they appear to be wrestling. But at least it's friendly.