By Denise D. Resnik, Founder & President/CEO, First Place® AZ
We just closed a very big and long chapter of Matt’s history—and our own. Last week, we delivered more than 400 of his childhood VHS tapes to Bookmans Entertainment Exchange. We received a whopping $33, along with their commitment to share the donated collection with nonprofits.
In those boxes were Matt’s most prized childhood possessions acquired over two decades from the Dollar Bookstore and Target. Tapes included favorite stories and songs from Schoolhouse Rock!, The Busy World of Richard Scarry, Berenstain Bears, Thomas the Tank Engine, Fievel’s An American Tail, Rugrats, National Geographic Kids, Care Bears, Dr. Seuss and every Disney Sing-Along tape ever made.
For Matt, one of each was never enough. His closet shelves were always meticulously organized with as many as a dozen of the same video. Reminding him in the checkout line that we already had multiple copies never worked. We also wanted to give him the chance to make his own decisions for these sought-after rewards, especially when using his allowance or as an incentive to get through a doctor’s appointment or therapy session.
Giggles and big smiles reflected Matt’s pure joy as he inspected each cassette. They kept him entertained when family members needed a break from one-on-one activities. They also helped him learn things like the Preamble to the United States Constitution, world geography, nursery rhymes and songs. Excerpts made it into our family lexicon; my husband Rob and I still recite many familiar lines to him (e.g., “We don’t do that in the jungle!” from The Jungle Book)—and to each other!
Several years ago, Matt broke his last VHS player—one of dozens purchased through the years—ruined by his repeated pressing of the fast forward and rewind buttons to capture his favorite parts or chewing through the buttons on the remote control. When the tapes lost their purpose without the player, he learned to find the same content on the internet.
Over the years, I persisted to insist we transport a dozen boxes of video memories between several locations. The tapes survived the move to a new family home before being relocated to Matt’s SMILE Biscotti office and then to a storage area at his First Place–Phoenix home where I so wanted to believe he would use them again. Well, that didn’t happen!
For me, planning and actually carrying out the Bookmans outing sent me to the proverbial rewind button, returning to three-plus decades of life with autism and its countless rewarding—and stressful—times. While we try to slow the unavoidable fast-forward of life, Matt continues to help us pause, stop, reflect on and enjoy more real-time moments.