There is a movie called, “Serendipity” and a line that stands out above all other cinematic lines. I think it states, “When destiny has a sense of humor…we call that serendipity.” It was serendipitous that I decided it was necessary to attend the Jeff Kinney “Diary of a Wimpy Kid Show” this past November. I have stopped caring a very long time ago what people think unless they are paying my bills or giving me something of incredible value. Therefore, I did not mind that I was in an auditorium with hundreds of starstruck children ages elementary to middle school or that I was with my mother. It was something that I wanted to do and had the money to make it happen. A divine force led me to sit next to a fine man named, Tom Solimine who was also enjoying the show with his beautiful family.
I forgot how it happened, but we somehow got to talking about his career as a special education teacher at a BOCES school in Brewster, NY. I have been very public about my case of Asperger’s syndrome for many years and had no hesitation telling him that I am on the autism spectrum. Tom replied, “I knew it as soon as you sat down.” He was merely stating that there was something unique about me that could not be disguised through the forced cover of artificial normalcy. I was extremely pleased by his honesty and we started talking about me visiting his school in Brewster called, Henry H. Wells Middle School.
The visit finally came to fruition on Friday, March 1, 2019 when I woke up at 2:30 in the morning to make the trip to combat my phobia of being late and letting everyone down. I take the expression, “Early is on-time, on-time is late, and late is never” to the extreme. No matter how many years have passed, I will always be haunted by those times in the future in which I have screwed up by going to the wrong John Jay High School or overlooked an email. Not this morning. Never again! I was going to own the clock for sure.
I wish I could say that the trip went smoothly. But it was not long before a blinding snow started to fall but not nearly bad enough to make the roads impassable. Onward and upward I went. The phone call came after six o’clock in the morning that I had been expecting. The Brewster Central School District was on a two-hour delay, which is the childhood version of decaffeinated coffee. (I mean…what is the point?) If there were a time to oversleep it would have been that morning because my soul would have been saved by a package from God postponing the time of arrival. I could have turned around especially giving the chance the morning could be wasted by a full-blown snow day and wasted travel. But I decided to take my chances and am ever so glad that I did.
The two-hour delay transitioned into a three-hour delay. I decided to go home to Dutchess County and use the bathroom in my family’s home while they were in Florida and enraged them by turning on different knobs in the furnace to make the water run. In the spirit of killing two birds with one stone,, I also used the extra time to have breakfast at my favorite diner, The Daily Planet and pick up an order of books at Merritt Bookstore that had been languishing there for at least two months considering that I am not often in the community. I had not looked at my text messages carefully enough and arrived at 10:10 AM instead of 9:10 AM. While I felt terrible for the mistake, I was still quite early for my speech.
The talks often blend together because there have been so many venues over the years. This one was dramatically different. Every student was respectful and asked amazing questions despite possibly being a little bitter they did not have a full-blown snow day. The veritable icing on the perfect cake came when the middle school principal, John Clark finally mentioned where he remembered me. I was thinking the same thing about him the whole time but dismissed it as my imagination or believing I must be thinking of some actor whose name I could not remember. As it turns out, Mr. Clark used to teach at Arlington High School when I attended from 1996 to 2000. As soon as he opened his mouth, I cried out, “Yes! I remember! I know who you are now. You used to be the advisor for the Everest Literary Magazine!”
The flashback immediately took me back to ninth grade in which the Everest Club was the only extra-curricular activity that I participated in during that nightmarish year where very little went right. It was the year I was finally diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome after a terrible transition to high school. There were still plenty of unanswered questions and nothing but hopelessness for the future. In one final orgasm of malicious bullying, I endured regular torment at the hands of sophomore students in the Biology Class from Hell.” It was so terrible that even the biology teacher quit after that year despite having been a veteran educator within the high school. The Everest Club was like a haven, and I remember Mr. Clark as a benevolent presence that stood out in a year when there was very little comfort. In the Everest Club I was not exactly befriended by all the students, although I did not exactly feel rejected either. It was a chance to shine with “creative weirdness” and some of the stories created by the members were really out there. But they had the freedom to write the bizarre, nonsensical, and creepy without prejudice from any of the other students. Leading this odd tribe was Mr. Clark.
It felt amazing to experience such a dramatic before-and-after photo from a time when I felt like a freak of nature ashamed to exist to that day as a published author with a polished social conduct in a reputable career. I also met another teacher whose name is also John who is the new owner of Roller Magic in Hyde Park where I spent plenty of childhood days. Thank you, Mr. Clark and Henry H. Middle School for the dose of nostalgia and serendipity. I know all of our paths will cross again! It just goes to show you what may happen when we choose to go outside the norm and pursue harmless flights of childish fancy such as attending the Diary of a Wimpy Kid Show!