I was in the supermarket this afternoon, gathering supplies for an event which takes place every two or three weeks in my small but comfortable home: movie night. As I saw my groceries lined up at the checkout, I realised they were all blue and yellow – from lemonade to cat food. I remarked upon this to the woman behind me. She evidently thought my brain was broken but was friendly nonetheless and commented on my bright jewellery (and yes, I had that lovely moment where it becomes obvious that Jeanette of the feeble brain is also Jeanette of the high paid job, responsibility and good taste in ‘nice things’. That moment never gets old). I mentioned to her that the soft drink and chips and things were for movie night. And that they were.
Everyone in my life seems to know about movie night. Every second or third Friday I will announce to my colleagues at work that I am taking a flex afternoon because I have to go home and prepare for movie night (read put away clothes and clean stuff).
Movie night is perhaps my favourite regular event. It has grown organically over the past twelve months or so into what it is now – a gathering of amazing Autistic woman – and one amazing teenager – to watch movies, eat take away and share our thoughts, concerns and lives with one another. We are always completely ourselves. There is no pretence, no bickering or meanness. We support and care for one another. There are currently six of us who attend, including me. Whimsy Manor is…well, cosy I suppose, so we fit quite snugly and distributing the pizza and drinks can be a logistical challenge but it doesn’t matter. I have the gift of a flat not filled with any housemates, parents or partner and I love to have others here. I often wonder how my guests feel about visiting because I am certainly not meticulous about cleanliness. I think the last time I dusted was in about 2012. I do clean the toilet but there is often a smattering of cat little which Mr Kitty does manage to get all over the bathroom floor and which it impossible to completely capture while sweeping.
Movie night started with myself and one other, a long-term friend who regularly does battle on social media with anti-vaxers and other unsavoury types. I admire her because I find confrontation very stressful. I just provide examples and thoughts mostly. The two of us watched the first two Hobbit films and then went to the movies to see the final one last year. We then got onto the Lord of the Rings films and I think it was at that time that I invited another friend. Before long there e were six of us taking a few hours out of the wider world to spend in each other’s company.
There is a mum and daughter who come. I met them through the women’s group I facilitate for Autism Asperger ACT. The mum is very sensible and practical and very kind and thoughtful. Her daughter is uniquely talented, a great artist already and always keen to do some show and tell. I was delighted tonight when she offered to make me one of her beautiful hand-drawn bookmarks and asked what sorts of characters I like (Dr Who and Star Trek plus Mr Kitty and flowers was my response). I love show and tell too, in fact I am often found reading out one of my latest articles or poems. I even practiced my resilience talk for the Asia Pacific Autism Conference at one movie night. I should probably lay off the Jeanette show and tell.
More entertaining than the movie at times is my little furry fella, Mr Kitty. Everyone loves him and he loves everyone. One of the women is as much a fan of the feline species as me and Mr Kitty has taken a particular like to her. She plays with him and he smooches her and her backpack. He also likes to get into anyone’s handbag and come up and sniff them to enjoy the scent of cats, dogs or guinea pigs. He really is the star of the show (and he knows it),
Movie night was not really my idea. It is something which seems to have happened quite organically, driven by all of us (and probably Mr Kitty too). I just love it because everyone is just themselves and there is no judgement. Movie night is the highlight of my fortnight. I remember a few months ago I was attending a dinner at Parliament House (incidentally with one of my movie night friends). At the end of the same week, movie night was on. I looked forward to movie night much more than I did going to a dinner at Parliament. I’d pick my Autie friends over dinner with a bunch of dignitaries any day. I can be completely myself at movie night, surrounded by real friends who value and care for one another.
So we just finished watching the Back to the Future films. There was some talk or Star Wars for our next series which sounds good to me. Next movie night will be a birthday celebration for our youngest attendee. Movie night demonstrates to me the value of my peer group. And is also demonstrates that whatever idiot said that Autistic people don’t want friends or are deficient friends or any amount of rubbish like that has obviously never been to movie night at Whimsy Manor.
The star of the show…