Down the Drain

16 10 2011

Last Sunday during our weekly family chat, I told my family about Colby upstairs, singing along to a CD. He has a great sense of pitch and loves to sing, but words are hard for him. If things start getting too fast, he likes to insert a favorite word and sing it loud and proud. He’s done this a long time—I remember when he only had about five words. One was ‘dolphin’, which he said, ‘fee’. We heard a lot of songs about ‘fee’ for awhile.

Anyway, he had been singing on Sunday, “Drain! Dra-a-a-ain!” My brother asked, “Did he have a bad experience in the bathtub?”

They don’t know about the drains? I thought.  

It’s amazing I’ve been so remiss in mentioning it, since it takes up a lot of time and attention around here.

Colby loves drains. Not bathtub drains. Not sink drains. Storm drains.


This picture was taken at the beginning of September, hence the bare feet and warm-looking sunshine.

Colby and I go and “see the drains” almost every day. He gets off the school bus with a big smile on his face—not because he’s reunited with his mama, but because he knows that’s when we go do our rounds.

It’s taken me a long time to figure out what he finds so fascinating about them. And I might be wrong even now, but watching Colby with the drains for months (we spend about 1/2 hour a day with them) I think I might have hit on it.

He doesn’t usually look at them the way he is in this picture. He walks by them, six or eight feet into the street, with his head looking over his shoulder and tilted to one side. He’s looked at things sideways and through the corner of his eye since he was very young. It’s called scanning, and it’s a marker for autism.

One thing Colby has always liked are lines (or “lions” as we sometimes call them) and things that open and close. He’s slightly obsessed with garages. I could buckle him in his car seat, hand him the garage door opener, and he’d be content for an hour. He’ll line cards (or blocks or dominoes or anything with a uniform shape) up and then choose a set to be the doors. He’ll slide them different ways, experimenting with how to open and close them.

When he started getting excited about drains, I thought it was simply the lines that he liked—the grid pattern. Also, he’s always liked water, so I thought that might have something to do with it. I noticed, however, that even though he enjoyed seeing the water go through the gutter and down the drain, he liked them just as well without water.

More completely unscientific observation on my part led me to connect the drains with more than just the lines of the grid.

If you look at the picture of the storm drain, you can see how within each line of the grid, the metal is angled in order to get the water to flow down and inside instead of right over the drain. I noticed one day that if you look at it out of the corner of your eye as you walk by, the angled parts appear to open or close (depending on which direction you’re walking).

Figuring it out doesn’t make me understand it, but at least I feel like I’ve unlocked a little portion of the mystery that makes up my sweet redhead.