Image created by Max. Eric (right) shares his world with his friend Leo
Exposure’s autistic author, Max Ferreira‘s short story about appreciating what we have in life
One Saturday afternoon, a 13-year-old boy called Eric was about to go to a sleepover for the very first time at his friend Leo’s home.
“Hey Eric, ready to have some fun at my place?” Leo called from the door. Eric was a little nervous at first, but he knew he was safe. Leo had been his best friend for a long time. When Eric got out of the car he smiled and replied, “Yes I am Leo. Yes I am.”
During the sleepover, Eric told Leo he was amazed with his family luxury; from the master bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms to the enormous garden with its very own gardener.
Firstly, they did a lot of activities in Leo’s room which featured a huge Scalextric track with a big collection of cars displayed on his wall.
Next, Eric joined Leo and his family for lunch at their in-house sushi bar. They had such a feast of hosomaki rolls, noodles, tempera and many more dishes. The Japanese food might have been new to Eric, but soon he was really enjoying it.
You know, ever since I entered your home it’s like being in a wonderland where your wishes come true
And finally, before going to bed, they watched a movie together on the family’s recently purchased huge flat screen TV. Boy, Leo must have been very proud to show off his family’s well-to-do home and lifestyle. But what did his friend Eric think of it? Well let’s find out…
The next day, Eric was having some alone time in the garden, whilst looking at the early morning sky.
Leo came out with two bowls of chocolate cereal for breakfast. “Morning Eric. Did you sleep well?” he said as they both sat at the garden table.
“Really good thank you, Leo. The most comfortable sleep I ever had,” Eric replied, as they had their breakfast.
“Boy, Leo. You are so lucky to have a big mansion with your successful family business,” said Eric.
“Thanks, Eric. I’m just like a little kid in a sweet shop,” Leo replied.
“You know, ever since I entered your home, it’s like being in a wonderland where your wishes come true,” said Eric as he had a sip of apple juice.
“Oh really. Why’s that Eric?” Leo asked with curiosity as he tucked into more of his cereal.
In my household it’s all about buying the essentials, making do with what we have
“I admire your bedroom, filled with video games and toy cars. But for me, listening to the calming sound of the garden stream and enjoying your company outside school is what I like the best. In my household it’s all about buying the essentials, making do with what we have, like not wasting food, switching lights off to save energy, and generally saving as the cost of living is so high and my parents are not wealthy. Living in a two bedroom flat we have very little luxury. Even with my pocket money I only save up for something I really want or need, rather than splashing it all in one go.”
What Eric said made Leo want to find out more about how his friend and his friend’s family coped with not having much money.
“We used to go to Alton Towers when I was a child,” explained Eric. “But since moving house we stopped due to it being expensive and too far to drive.”
Eric paused for a minute and said. “At first I thought it was unfair. But seeing my dad working very hard to pay the bills and my mum telling me how she’s helping with my education by finding something suitable for my learning condition – called autism – I began to understand how grateful I am for what we have around us, which can sometimes be taken for granted. It’s like my mum always says, we should be grateful to have a roof over our heads with accessible entertainment; and the most important gift to have is a supportive family that can help us along the way.”
Eric even explained to Leo that doing chores, without hiring a cleaner, was not too difficult
For the rest of the day the two friends chatted away about how Eric’s world was so different to Leo’s.
Eric shared some money saving tips. For example, whenever they find something on offer or reduced in the shops, like pork belly strips or a cherry pie, they can store it in the freezer and then defrost it for when it’s needed.
Eric also reflected on the time he and his parents were feeling very thankful to Aunty Dora, for letting them stay at her place last summer, while their family home was being refurbished.
She may live right next to the magnificent Kew Gardens but Eric enjoyed spending time with Aunty Dora and his younger cousin, James away from his usual surroundings. The activities they did together were watching cartoons, making smoothies, and playing games like marble run and football.
Eric even explained to Leo that doing chores, without hiring a cleaner, was not too difficult. It was an important key skill to have, whether washing dishes or hoovering the floor.
You’ve taught me so much about what really matters in life
This made Leo realise the importance of being grateful for his family fortune, without being too spoiled, and to see how lucky Eric also was, in having a very good life also, despite the changing world around them.
When it was time for Eric to go home he said, “Thanks for the wonderful sleepover, Leo. I’m very grateful to you for having me.”
“You’re welcome Eric,” replied Leo, as they went to the car where Eric’s dad was waiting.
Before Eric set off, Leo had one more question for Eric. “As you can imagine, our house has air-conditioning but how did you and your family manage to survive the unbearable heatwave last summer?”
“How we stayed cool was very simple. We had portable air conditioning, and plenty of ice lollies, water and thin clothes.” Eric then paused and whispered into Leo’s ear with a smile. “Sometimes, when it got too hot to sleep, I just threw off all the covers. One time, I accidentally saw my cousin, James, rushing out of bed half-dressed, with no pyjama pants. It was so funny.”
This made Leo raise his eyes and start laughing.
“Thank you for coming, Eric. I’m very grateful to you,” said Leo. “You’ve taught me so much about what really matters in life.”