Traveling mercies

Austin was lucky enough to have the touring Architects of the Air Luminaria interactive exhibit in our town and our son wanted to go. That’s the good news.

The bad news is the very very long line for this super cool experience. Friends, you know one of the biggest challenges of traveling with autism is difficulty with waiting. Oh, the waits and the fits and then the stares of other parents. It’s enough to make you want to stay home. But, this blog (and life) is about travel and adventure, so we prepared ourselves for a several hour wait. Bringing along an iphone loaded with games to pass the time, off our family went. We left an hour before the exhibit opened in hopes that we’d get a jump on the crowds. When we got there the wait was going to be around two, possibly three hours. So, wait and wait, we did.

Our son had even tried waiting the day before, standing in line with a therapist for an hour before giving up, unable to manage the crowds and the noise. He was determined to try again. I was proud of him for trying but not sure we could do much better. For more than an hour we walked and ran around and tried to entertain him. At one point, I headed off with my daughter and struck up a conversation with a lady out walking her dog around the park we were waiting in. I told her about our two-day attempt to walk inside the exhibit.

“Oh, there’s a line for special needs. I’m sure you can go up there and ask.” But seeing all of the people waiting in line, I didn’t want to “cut” even though our son was getting precariously close to giving up. While I was standing there debating with myself about asking for an accommodation, the dog owner (or was she our guardian angel?) strode up to the front of the line and got us a special needs pass. I let her. I never even got her name. When I went to retrieve my son and husband, our helper was already gone. I wanted to thank her and didn’t get the chance. I did get to thank the touring manager who O.K.’d our request but not the mystery dog walker.

I’ve had experiences like that before and it always make me certain that fate, or luck, or guardian angels is on the side of special needs families when they travel. Traveling mercies indeed.

My son, oblivious to the negotiations involved to get us near the front of the line said, “See I told you waiting isn’t so hard for me.”

So, what’s Architect of the Air exhibit anyway. According to their website:

“Each luminarium is a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring domes where Islamic architecture, Archimedean solids and Gothic cathedrals meld into an inspiring monument to the beauty of light and colour.

The luminaria are designed by company founder, Alan Parkinson, who started experimenting with pneumatic sculptures in the I980s. They are made of a plastic produced uniquely for Architects of Air. Only four colours of plastic are used to generate a great diversity of subtle hues.”

When you step into the inflated “Luminaria” with its different “rooms” there is a wonderful glow from the colored plastic walls allowing light to filter in at interesting angles. One room has colored windows, like stained glass, and my son exclaimed in happiness, “Look at the stained glass. It’s a cathedral.”

My son was motivated to wait in line (not something he will normally manage) by his deep love and obsession with visual forms. The “Luminaria,” as the inflatable creation is known, looks like an inflated cathedral of colored plastic that you enter and walk around in (without shoes) or lay down in against the soft inflated walls. There is calm music playing in the background and the constant whoosh sound of the entire structure being inflated is quite relaxing. Listening to the music he said, “I hear beauty. I am in a lullaby land.” The whooshing and the near silence of the participants gives it a very spiritual feel. Or as my son said as we entered, “This is a new kind of synagogue,” and he got down and bowed in prayer. It was a beautiful mystical moment.

Thank you guardian angel of Austin for helping us have this wonderful experience.

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