Katara & Holly

  • Posted on October 2, 2010 at 3:11 AM

Sometimes, when life gets difficult it takes focusing on the simplest pleasures to help you take a step back and see progress.  Really, think about that word for a moment.  Progress.  We live our lives moment to moment, day by day.  Yet, our dreams often involve transformative shifts.  We want the big changes.  But it’s the small, incremental changes that get us there.

Once, what seems a long time ago, I sat in a sterile room, holding my writhing child in my arms.  I was physically and emotionally and mentally exhausted; and, had I only known then, he was over-stimulated and unable to cope with all the new things, all the people, and all the ridiculous demands those new people placed on him.  After it was all over, the doctor sat across from me, assaulting me with his words.  He told me many things that day.  One of those things was that my son—the child writhing in my arms—would never practice pretend play.  He also told me that I should institutionalize my son.

The child from that memory has undergone some of those transformative shifts we so often long for.  He’s now a talkative, happy little boy who seems to be doing quite well in middle school.

He also has a helluva imagination!

Never practice pretend play?  Well, he leapt over that hurdle with Thomas the Train.  But, now as things seem rather difficult, I go back to that accomplishment. 

Today (though, not for the first time), Willy introduced us to his sisters.  You see, apparently I gave birth to two young girls that I have never met and cannot see.  Katara was my first child, according to Willy, and is now fifteen years old (which means I was fifteen when I had her).  She’s also a star on Avatar: the Last Airbender.  Holly is fourteen.  She is a star on Monster Rancher, the anime show.  (Yes, apparently, I am able to bear cartoon characters as well as live, flesh-and-blood children.)

These two young girls are my son’s sisters and they play with him regularly.  They’re never mean to him the way his older brother can sometimes be and they never think he’s doing the wrong thing.  In fact, Katara was quite helpful today as Willy rowed his canoe across a lake, because Willy was terrified they’d go too far, but Katara wasn’t scared a bit.

Imaginary friends are simple pleasures that some would claim are denied to autistics because of their inability to exercise their imagination—or their entire lack of imagination.  I know now that’s just rubbish.  But it’s nice to have such a bright, spirited little boy who’s always willing to give me a reminder when I need a lift.

Those big transformative shifts do come.  In a way, they’re kind of like imaginary friends—you can’t see them if you look at them straight on.  But if you step back and open yourself to the possibilities, then you just might find they were there all along.

11 Comments on Katara & Holly

  1. Kathleen says:

    Ha! Great post..love that you gave birth to cartoon characters..really made me laugh..It is the small things…things you don’t always notice at the time..and then one day you look and say “Wow-when did that happen?!” I had an imaginary friend named “Gengi”…I don’t know where she went…but a perfume of the same name came out a few years ago..So I’m guessing she’s been successful. ;0

  2. Mom says:

    I remember when Willy first started talking about Holly, as if she was a “real” girl, about his age – I thought she was in his class at school. and maybe there was a real girl in his class named Holly. But it’s nice to know Willy has a friend/sister who can calm his fears, real or imaginary to us – his fears and friends/sisters are real to him. And the fact that Holly is so much older now, and that Katara is wise and can help lead the way, sometimes, isn’t all bad. Sometimes we, even as adults, have to imagine it before we can make it real 😉

    Kathleen – I’m so glad Gengi is doing so well 😉

  3. Stephanie says:


    I had an imaginary friend/sister, too. Her name was Crystal Lynn. I’ve considered using it as a pen name, but a perfume line would be nice, too! 😉


    Yeah, I remember it took us a while to realize that Holly was imaginary–there was never a girl in his class with that name. It is wonderful that he has such a vivid imagination!

  4. Clay says:

    I think you should go back to that Doctor who told you Willy should be institutionalized, and show him how wrong he was. He should learn to think twice before giving his dark prognoses. He’s probably still doing it, scaring the bejeezus out of parents, maybe convincing a few of them. He needs to be taught better, needs to be stopped.

  5. Stephanie says:


    The doctor has since retired, and he did change his tune before he did. But sometimes forgiveness comes hard.

  6. Mom says:

    and sometimes it isn’t the forgiveness that is so hard, it’s the forgetting… maybe I’m wrong, but I’m thinking you’ve forgiven the Dr already, but you can’t forget what he said – and who could… Willy has come SUCH A LONG WAY from that little boy screaming at the slightlest change, and disruption to his schedule, and noise. Losing his speech down to 5 words. I still remember going to therapy with you two, and neither of us could leave the room w/o Willy having a major meltdown, or if there was too many people (therapists) in his private therapy room. Or the countless times he’d scramble out of a shopping cart even with both of us there, so he could “escape” being in a store, and we’d have to chase after him – him only slowing down just long enough to keep us in sight at the end of an aisle before he turned a corner. I don’t miss those days 😉

  7. Mom says:

    Crystal-Lyn Ann is what your Dad wanted to name his daughter, until you had 2 cousins born before you, Christy-Jo and Christine – and I thought that was too many Chris’ and talked him into Stephanie Michelle Marie — he still called you Crystal-Lyn for a long time, and Stephanie too of course – but I think that’s where YOU got Crystal Lynn from 😉

  8. Stephanie says:

    Oh, I remember where the name came from–I just took it farther than Daddy ever did. Remember, I’m the storyteller in the family. 😉

    And I agree–Willy has come a long way and I don’t miss the days when we didn’t know what to do. That was hard on all of us. Sometimes we still don’t know what to do, but in those first few years we didn’t have a clue.

  9. […] you just might find they were there all along. Stephanie Allen Crist blogs at Embracing Chaos.  Katara & Holly appears here under the terms of this Creative Commons […]

  10. Yes, this idea that autistics lack imagination… I don’t even know how to respond to that… I have myself to always remember how wrong it is.
    And not to forget that there is a big variation to the definition of imagination.
    I’m happy to learn that willy has such a great imagination and that you have such a great reception to it

  11. Stephanie says:

    There are big variations when it comes to imagination. Somehow, at least in the U.S., the word got narrowed to the creative arts. To be imaginative you have to write stories, act, paint pictures, or the like.

    Yet, progress is founded on imagination. We imagine something better, and try to make it possible. From civil rights groups to businesses, from government workers to doctors. Humans exercise their imaginations on a regular basis. But, we don’t necessarily see it.

    And to claim anyone is denied that ability…it’s just awful.

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