Have you ever sat and observed a roomful of Special Olympians?
Colin approaches me as I enter wearing a generous smile and with a solid thud on my shoulder (meant to be a pat), “Hello Mum!” Of course, Colin is not my son, I am not his mother, but I am there with Emily, my daughter.
We are at the Fall Dinner Dance for Special Olympians sponsored by the same charitable group that sponsors all the sports for the athletes in this area.
The music is loud and dance-y. Some sway to the music on the dance floor. Others sit and mark the beat. All are smiling.
Pockets of conversation surround me: hushed, heads together in order to be heard, loud, above the noise voices, in order to be heard. “Are you playing basketball this season?” “My mother dropped me off.” “I’m hungry! When are we eating?”
Their physical ages do not matter because they are all eighteen to twenty-four or so socially. It’s a good group in size, more men than women -- the primary reason I sit in the back of the hall, notebook and pen in hand, reading book at the ready -- boundaries are not always known or remembered.
The sheer joy of life in the room keeps me from my book, but does help me to make a few notations.
Mike doesn’t like to dance, but he enjoys showing others how to use his I-phone. James likes Gabby and wants to dance with her, but he is too shy to ask. A little help from a parent gets the two onto the dance floor. Scott and Lauren sit with each other holding hands under the table in order that no one sees. Greg and Will sit with their backs to the dance floor, playing a finger game on the table. Corey, Albert, Dennis, three men with a purpose dance together. There are no rules of social graces in this hall. You dance with who likes to dance. Or you don’t.
Emily sits quietly, a serious expression on her face. There are interesting exclusions and cliques in the group and she is trying to discern which group she belongs with. Jen and Olivia are good buddies and hang out together. Abby and Emily C are best friends and they are together. Kristen and Marcia. Matthew and Everyone. Taylor and Himself. Mark and His Caregiver. Harry sits with Tim. Susan is with Janice. Mae is with Her Housemates. Emily’s best friend was unable to attend this evening and she is a bit lost.
I walk past Harry who looks up at me and asks, “Is something wrong with Princess?” I stop and respond, “She’s waiting to dance. Maybe you could ask Princess to dance?”
Harry is up and out of his seat and asking Emily for a dance before I can count to ten. She accepts, which is what got Corey and Albert up and out of their seats! She officially has a full dance card. They wait patiently and then begin the process of cutting in and it’s all very cute and funny from where I am sitting, way back in the room.
I am amazed at Harry. He is new to this group and already he is as entrenched in the social scene as any of the others. He is observant and thoughtful -- a welcome new addition to my way of thinking.
As I sit and watch my mind wanders to what my dreams were when I was young and carrying Emily within me. I thought of how she would look, who she would become as an adult. Isn’t that what pregnant mothers do? My mind goes over, once again, the surprise and shock after her birth, of this disability and how many times I’ve asked myself the same question. Again and again and again:
If I could change Emily, would I?
The answer is as complex as the life we have lived if I think about it too long. There is a little bit of leftover grief for the baby I was expecting who did not arrive. But there is far more joy in my life over the baby who was delivered instead and who has enriched my life more than I could have thought possible.
I feel honored and privileged to be the mother of this woman-child. I am blessed beyond anything I have ever deserved and I am sure that I am, like other mothers, doing the best I can, but wondering always, is it enough? Have I given her everything I can to ensure her life is full and meaningful and joyous?
I stop making my notes and I look up to the front of the room where they all are donning red and green tee shirts and Santa hats. It’s time for the annual Christmas card photo. They are not that much different than others their age. Well, yes they are. But they aren't.
And surer than shoot, I see the look on my daughter’s face and I know that all is at it should be. That her life will be full and rich and interesting and that yes, it is enough.
cross posted @ http://womenon.blogspot.com