Life With Georgia

by Nancy Walton

Life With Georgia

The Agony of Repeat

agony of repeat

I love repetition. No really, I love repetition. No, really. I love repetition. If I say it enough times, I may actually believe it.

Georgia loves repetition. In fact, she’s pretty well wired to love it. There is much discussion and evidence that kids with autism love repetition. And Georgia is living proof. She loves to repeat sayings, jokes, words, phrases, noises and questions over many times. They don’t fade away or become lost in memory. They persist and are repeated.

She is a jokester and loves a single good guffaw. Or ten. Or one million. About. The. Same. Thing. Because, obviously, any joke that is good is good enough to repeat. Any song good enough to sing is good enough to repeat. (Trust me: I’ve heard the Wiggles’ Wheels on the Bus more times than all the accumulated toddlers in the world.)

And I’m not talking about a few times over a day kind of repetition here – oh no, that’s for amateurs. I’m talking about finely honed repetition skills, over many years.

Years? you ask with a doubtful expression …

Yes, years.

Georgia can ‘hook onto’ a new expression or new question and then really milk it for all its worth. For example, she loved to learn about the fact that iPods and iPads need to charge to get to 100% of their battery. Great thing for her to learn.

agony of repeatExcept she is now the most super-vigilant monitor of all things electronic in our house including those things that don’t actually need to recharge to 100%. If you put on an iPod or use your iPad, you’ll find a little person at your side demanding to know “Is it at 100%?” Maybe you’ll dare to, as I often do unthinkingly, answer in a somewhat cavalier way (and I assure you, you’ll only do this once) with a response like “Oh I dunno, maybe, it’s fine though. Not to worry.”

This in fact does worry Georgia. Immensely. In response to your unconcerned casual reply, she will then stand over you and do a full diagnostic diatribe, approximately once every 8 seconds, “What’s it at? Is it at 90%? What’s it at? Oh no, it needs to be charged! Oh no, it’s going to go kerplunk. What’s it at? Is it at 90%? Oh no.” (repeat)

According to Georgia, my nephew Chris apparently made some goofy noise about eight years ago, in Georgia’s presence. Innocently enough. The noise is something halfway between a deep low-pitched intake of breath and a horrible choking sound. The first time we heard Georgia making the sound, I nearly tripped over myself catapulting up the stairs to her room to save her little life, and Chris was torn between calling 911 and reviewing how to administer the Heimlich maneuver.

Georgia, however, was just fine – lying in her bed, laughing her head off and making this noise. Our reaction was probably the figurative nail in our coffin: she realized this noise was GOOD. Inherently and richly rewarding. Panic-inducing. Fun to make and hear, it produces satisfying rattling noises in your chest.

Dear reader, over the past eight years, we have tried almost everything we can think of to eliminate this noise from her repertoire: rewards, punishment, cold hard cash, salad (if you’re a regular reader you will know that is a reward for this kid), salami, threats, pleading and begging, visual cues, a poster in her room with a picture of my nephew with NO NOISE! written across it in red. We’ve even given her new substitute noises: “Georgia noises” — thinking we were being pretty smart.

Oh yes. She found a replacement noise, which of course has now become a supplementary noise following the terrifying choking noise. I can only describe this as a high-pitched prehistoric bird-like noise that will crack glass. Hearing this noise from another part of the house, through insulation and concrete, is still akin to having a small hot sharp ten-inch long rusty nail drilled slowly into your forehead.

* * *

When Georgia was a baby we lived on Shaftesbury – a lovely little street in midtown. We had some fabulous neighbours there, two in particular who made their house into a haunted house at Hallowe’en complete with a battery-operated ghost over their door that made a noise as you walked in. A noise I can only call a weird ghostly doorbell noise: “Bee-ooo. Georgia was barely a toddler in my arms when she heard that noise, as I carried her through the door. She’s fourteen now. Enough time to forget. To say good-bye to random noises. However she still, out of the blue, repeats that “Bee-ooo” noise, often accompanied by strange questions such as: “Mommy, is that the Bee-ooo there?” or “Mommy, it’s the Bee-ooo, right?”

The thing that amazes me most is that for 12 years I haven’t been able to construct a plausible answer to either of those questions.

About five years ago, Chris turned a deck chair over onto its side to drain the water off after a particularly heavy rain. Georgia, shuffling into the kitchen to eat breakfast, spotted the turned over chair. Well. This chair may well be the funniest thing Georgia has ever seen in her life. A. Chair. Knocked. Over. Okay, it’s perhaps a bit chuckle-worthy. Maybe. For a few seconds. If I really try to think about it.

Georgia on the other hand nearly peed her pants over this and over the course of a day, took a number of special trips through the house to view this hilarious scene. And uh huh. You guessed it. She has not stopped talking about this knocked-over chair for five years now, and asking me how funny I think it is.

FOR FIVE YEARS I have had every possible permutation of a conversation about a funny knocked-over-chair that one can have. It has been iterated and reiterated. I have been asked about how funny the chair is in the car, at the dinner table, out with friends, on a plane, with strangers on the TTC, upon surfacing in the pool for air, at 3 a.m., while coming out of anesthesia, in the bath, in the dental chair. “That was a funny chair, right, Mommy? That. Funny. Old. Chair. Right?”

Five years later, you can still induce peals of belly-laughter by simply whispering quietly in her ear, “Hey Georgia, you remember that chair?”

In the world, it seems that many things fall over. Shopping carts (hilarious), locked-up bicycles (tragically funny), construction signs (gut-busting), pieces of fencing (knee-slapping), toilets out for garbage on the street (okay frankly funny without being knocked over), garbage cans (side-splitting), and, our newest member of the collection of fallen-overs, the basketball net at school fell over once this year (absolutely priceless).

agony of repeat

Oh-my-gosh-that-silly-old-funny-basketball-net-in-the-gym-falling-over-was-funny-mommy-wasn’t-it-yes-it-was-so-funny was the single persistent topic of conversation for our entire car ride to and from our vacation this summer.

Sound kinda cute? Not so bad? Fun, in a way? Well.

Just keep in mind we do a 19 hour drive each way. That’s 38 hours in total. Thirty-eight. Just saying. And repeating. Again. And just saying.

agony of repeat - Life with Georgia


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