I left Durban two Sundays ago to go on a course in Johannesburg. It was the first time except for two nights hospitalisation and one night where Xavier had a sleep over at a birthday party that I have been away from him. I arrived back on Wednesday night and he was already asleep.
I woke him on Thursday morning and he proceeded to read me the riot act. He was so angry that I had gone to Johannesburg and he hadn’t got to go to Paris. It turned out that he wanted to go to Paris to see The Scream – a painting by Edvard Munch. It seemed on asking he also wanted to see the Mona Lisa and Dali’s The Persistence of Memory which he calls the Melty Picture or perhaps its the Melting Picture – sometimes his diction isn’t that clear.
So at work that day, I printed colour copies of each of the paintings and added two versions of The Last Supper – one by Da Vinci and the other by Dali. I brought them home, much to his delight and when bedtime came, he didn’t want a bedtime story, but to look at the pictures. We spread them on the bed and he was not allowed to touch them as my wife decided they should be laminated. Oh, wow, what a time! I explained that these two pictures were both by Da Vinci and these two were both by Dali and of cousrse the one by Munch.
“And the other Munch?” he asked. I told him of the Old Masters and Surrealism and Expressionism. He discovered Munch and I think Dali through a Looney Tunes DVD and Da Vinci through Little Einsteins. He loves the orange and blue of The Scream which he does not see as nightmarish because as he once explained to me about the picture – “Someone stood on his toe really hard!”
He asked why Jesus was a man in the Da Vinci and a girl in the Dali. This was because the Dali Christ figure unusually lacks a beard. I pointed out that Christ is transparent in the Dali and we studied what the figure had behind him.
I told Xavier there was a song which went, “Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa.” He asked what song there was for The Persistence of Memory. I told him I would have to think about it and asked what he thought would be a good song for the painting, He started to sing, mirroring the Mona Lisa song, “The Persistence, The Persistence,” and then went on to say, “It’s very short.”
“Well, let’s see if we can make it longer,” I responded and then continued, “The Persistence, The Persistence of Memory – OK, what’s the next line?”
He paused for half a minute and then added the next line, “It melts down.” I don’t think he understood why I burst into gales of laughter at the irony of an autist singing “melts down.”
And so after reciting a variation of A.A.Milne’s bedtime poem Vespers, the paintings put away, I ask him as I always do what he will dream of and his response is immediate, unhesitating, “The Smurfs.”