I want to preface this story with a couple things: Firstly, I am autistic. Secondly, like many autistic people, I have special interests—the first of which was books. Those two things combined meant I was fairly odd compared to my classmates, and I had a much broader vocabulary than I’d expect a child to reasonably have. Now that you know these two things, let me paint you a picture of Central Massachusetts in the Fall of 2000. 

I was four years old, and the elementary school in my hometown had a pretty good playground setup. My mother would often bring my brother and I there when she was overwhelmed by us running around our house. I was a fan of swing sets in particular. I would have full-on meltdowns if I was unable to swing at least once a week. So with that in my mind, I swung on the swingset for about an hour, before I inevitably got bored and switched to wandering aimlessly around the fenced area of the playground. 

One day, for some inexplicable reason, I decided to put my ear to one of the poles on either side of the swing set, and I heard a very loud gear shifting sound. Even though I was reading adult books by this point, I did not understand the inner mechanisms of swing sets and engineering. In my little four-year-old brain, I conjured up an image of animals doing construction. I figured that in order to fit in there, the animals had to be small, but insects would be too small. So I visualized little mice on jackhammers, which seemed totally normal and reasonable to me. I wasn’t confused about that; I was convinced they were working very hard in there. 

No, what child Maxx was worried about was this: Were these mice earning a fair wage? I couldn’t let this just fester because I was a small child and I didn’t have room to store this anxiety. So what did I do? I went up to my visibly exhausted mother and asked her, with zero context: “Are the mice getting paid?”

When my poor mother looked down at me, mouth agape, I could see the wheels turning in her head like, “What the FUCK is my child on about?” So she did her best and told me that yes, they were getting paid. I did not buy that explanation; it felt like she was placating me. I knew I had to take matters into my own, tiny hands. 

With this determination in my head and passion in my heart, I grasped my crayons, and on the back of my coloring pages, I had all the other children make signs to start a mouse union. After all, we had to ensure the mice could bring home the cheese to their mice kids and mice wives every night. I had to tell them how to spell “union,” but still, they made for nice picketliners. I was on my way to being the youngest union representative for mice construction workers.

We marched around the slide five times before the other children gave up, and my mother told me we had to leave. I said goodbye to the mice, made my way home (after our weekly Happy Meal stop), and dreamt of the mouse union to come. 

So, unsurprisingly, I am a raging anti-capitalist now. To think it all started on that playground!