Saturday, July 13, 2013


This evening I took M and Miss J to the pool to cool off from a sticky July day.  Much of the time was spent in the main pool until Miss J said that she would like to go on the drop slide and M said he wanted to watch her.We made our way out of the main pool and over to the slides.

The drop slide consist of a short, near vertical slide that ends several feet above the water's surface, plunging the rider into the water below. Being such a hot evening, the pool was busy this evening and a line, deep with waiting children, had formed at the drop slide.

We noticed a young man, perhaps in his late teens or early twenties, sitting at the top of the slide, waiting to take his turn.  He sat, hesitating, to take the plunge.  He glided his hands along the sides of the slide.  He watched the water swirling around him.  He peered over the edge to the water below but he did not go down.

It was apparent that he had some sort of special needs.  Autism, perhaps?  As he sat, his father called to him from the side of the pool, coaxing him to take his turn.

The young man continued to sit and the line of people waiting behind him continued to grow.

Finally he lost his nerve.  He pulled himself awkwardly to a stand and the line of people behind him shifted and shuffled out the way so he could make his way back down the stairs.

Once at the bottom, he stood by the edge of the pool watching as one person after another dropped into the water with a splash.  He watched, and then, he climbed the stairs a second time.

When his turn arrived, he seated himself again in the chute.  Like the previous time, he sat.
And sat.
And sat.
Once again the line grew longer and somewhat impatient.  The lifeguards seems a bit uncertain of what to do next.  His father called out to him again to go.

He continued to sit.

The father called out again, growing impatient and told his son to either go or move out of the way so the rest of the people could go.  Once again, the young man pulled his body out of the chute and off the slide and made his way down the stairs.

He stepped off the last step, and just as before, stayed at the water's edge to watch one person after another drop into the pool.  And just as before, he made his way up the stairs for a third time.

This time I could see the slightest hint of exasperation on the father's face.  I saw the annoyed looks from some of the people waiting in the line, knowing that yet again, their turn would be delayed.

Again the time came for the young man to attempt the slide.  Again he sat.

And then, from the people waiting in the line:
"Come on!
You can do it!
You can do it!"
"You'll be okay!"

A small gathering of people had now assembled around the pool, everyone wondering if this young man would ever get up the nerve to tackle the drop slide.  The crowd shouted to him too, "You can do it!" Some people clapped and some people cheered.  The lifeguard gave him a thumbs up.  

And finally..he did it.  The place erupted loudly with cheers and applause.  The young man emerged from under the water beaming. His father, still standing at the edge of the pool, greeted him with a high five.  I watched many of the people who had been stuck waiting in line behind him come up to him with congratulations and pats on the back.

Together and with loud exuberance, we all shared the joy of this young man's acheivement. I looked at M, who was clapping wildly and Miss J, who was cheering loudly and was grateful for them to witness the amazing good that exists in this world. 

Friday, July 12, 2013


The other day, I read a blog post about a woman who was cleaning out her daughter's closet.  She was clearing out coats and boots and tutus and dresses and deciding what to donate and what to pack up and keep.  She wrote about the hand knit blanket she brought her daughter home from the hospital wrapped in.  The kimono sent from a friend in Japan.  A green fairy costume.

I have been there myself..pouring over my kid's belongings trying to decide what to part with and what to store in the attic in plastic Rubbermaid containers.  I have sat on the floor, undecided, about the fate of certain items and stuck on a memory of where and when my child wore the particular garment.  I've held tiny dresses and socks in my hands, trying hard to remember my children ever being so small.

I have cleaned out closets too...except there is a big difference between this mother and myself.

Her daughter is dead.  

She was four and it was a brain tumor. This mother has only the physical items to fit within the space of her hands where her child no longer is.

I read the post in my living room, coffee in one hand and a pile of laundry I had been trying to delay folding piled way too high on the couch beside me.  It was about noon and my own girl lay sleeping in her bed, knocked down with a fever and sore throat; the latest virus that happened to be making rounds in our neighborhood.  It was day four into  Miss J being sick and clingy and whiney.  It was day four of me growing restless and feeling cooped up and stuck in the house during a beautiful stretch of July weather after seemingly endless days of rain.

Four days and I was climbing walls.  This mother fought cancer with her daughter for two years.  

This morning Miss J awoke, fever free and able to talk without pain for the first time in days. M would be at summer school for the better part of the day and it would be just Miss J and I.  I wanted it to count and I wanted to imprint her beautiful, healthy brain with a memory of a day spent, present, together.

"Let's go" I told her.
"Where?"  she asked.
"Anywhere.  Where would you like to go?"
She thought for a moment.  And shyly asked, 
"Do you think we can go to the beach?"
I didn't hesitate.  Didn't think about laundry or dishes piled in the sink or errands that needed to be run after four days of being hunkered down in the house.
"Yes.  Go get ready.  After the beach, what would you like to do?  Anything."
"Really? Lunch?  Maybe sushi?"

We went to the beach and walked the shore.  We collected shells and driftwood and seaglass. We dug holes in the sand and chased seagulls and sat on the blanket, and for a time, said nothing at all.  I couldn't have wished for a more perfect moment.

We finally made it to our favorite restaurant, still sandy from the beach and our shoulders and cheeks pink from the sun.  We filled up on miso soup and salad with ginger dressing and ordered more sushi than we could finish.  

Miss J thanked me later.
"That was fun, mom.  But...I thought you had stuff to do?"
I kissed her head.
"I did have stuff to do.  Very important stuff.  I needed to be with you."

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sunshine and Cupcakes.

I have been told, "Life is not always sunshine and cupcakes" and I do agree.  Life can be hard, frightening, challenging and, at times, cruel.

When M was born and I was suddenly the parent of a child with a considerable list of special needs, I was afraid.  Too many nights I have laid awake filled with worry about all the troubles and challenges that M would face throughout his life.

One particularly all-consuming fear was how the world would treat him.  I feared he would be teased mercilessly.  Bullied.  Taunted.  Made fun of without ever realizing he was the butt of the joke.  I imagined, at best, he would be ignored and left all alone.

I am a mother who can usually call it....but on this, I was blissfully, thankfully wrong.  In fact, it has been quite the opposite.  I can say now, that one of the blessings that has come with parenting M is being witness to the goodness and grace of people.

I have noticed that frequently, people go out of their way to do something kind for M:

The girl, one grade above M in school who is moving on to the middle school next year and wrote a letter to M telling him how much she would miss him.

M's peers who cheerfully greet M when we are out in the community or who find a way to include M in a game on the school playground or at the park.

The Santa who sat child upon child on his lap and gave each a candy cane...but who gently removed a bell from his suit and gave it to M and told him to 'always believe in Christmas'

The Amish farmer who took a liking to M and let him drive his buggy and gave him a tour of his dairy farm and gave him two helpings of ice cream. (*This one got its own post, "Mantra")

The owner of the horseback riding ranch who insisted that M be able to experience a full trail ride and did everything possible to make that happen (after I suggested that M have a simple pony ride) and  gave M (and Miss J) horse shoes...just because. (*This too got its own post too, "In the Saddle)

The barber who also volunteers at the firehouse and invited M (and Miss J and my very excited was-going-to-be-a-fireman-when-he-grew-up-but-became-an-engineer-instead husband) on a private tour of the fire station.

The zoo keeper who invited M (and Miss J) to come behind the scenes to hand feed raisins and cheerios to the lemurs.

The checker at Trader Joe's who noticed that M was fascinated by the scanner and invited him behind the register with her and let him scan our groceries.

It is the people who walk in the parades who notice M and make sure he gets one (or two, or ten) of whatever they happen to be passing out.  

It is the people who throw an extra handful of candy in his bag at Halloween.

It is the servers in the restaurants who show up at our table with complimentary ice cream or cookies.

It is the complete strangers who talk to M in check out lines at Target and hug him tight before he leaves.

And then there was today....

I took M on an outing today to a local kiddie amusement park.  During our visit I had M sit and rest on a picnic table in the shade.  A few tables over, a girl was having her birthday party and cupcakes were about to be served.  As I sat with M a woman came over and tapped my shoulder.

"Excuse me, " she began "We are about to have cupcakes.  Can you son eat them?  May I offer him one?

M answered for me, "Yes, please!" 

He sat there at the picnic table, happy to have been given a cupcake.  

I sat there watching him, happy for that gesture of kindness and surprised that a mom, busy with her own child's party, noticed a little boy sitting several tables away and took a moment from that party to invite a stranger for a cupcake.

Sometimes life isn't all sunshine and cupcakes...but thankfully, some days are.