In Lynchburg, on the Fallwell side of town, there is a big hill with a gigantic L.U. on it. As we drive past, Riley says,
"That stands for Liberty University." I say.
"I know that." she replies.
"Mom, I think I'll go to college when I'm 18. "
"Okay." I say, as I merge onto the exit for the mall.
"But you won't be going to Liberty." I think to myself.
"Well.....I do have a bit of autism." (She pronounces it Aw-TIZ-um).
My throat constricts. Does she think she can't go to college? Glancing at her in the rearview mirror, I begin forming a careful response, but before I open my mouth she continues,
"Kids with Aw-TIZ-um are really smart. You have to be smart to go to college."
My shoulders drop and I let out a big sigh. She thinks she's destined for college, because of the autism.
"Maybe I'll go when I'm 19?" she asks.
"It's entirely up to you Riley. Whenever you're ready."
At the mall we head straight to Macy's. She's outgrown all her clothes. I'm in such a good mood about our conversation, I spend way more than I probably would have on cute little outfits for her. Just us girls. We sniff perfumes. We walk around. She rides the merry-go-round. Twice.
On the way home I flip on the car stereo and Bob Marley is singing, No Woman, No Cry.
"Riley, this is reggae music. It's from Jamaica, where me and Daddy went on our honeymoon."
"Was I in your belly?" she asks.
"Nope, not yet.
"Oh." she says.
In my mirror, I see her arms are doing their little tic. It happens when she's really excited, or deep in thought.
After a minute she says,
"When you were in Jamaica, I must have still been in Pure Love."