Thursday, July 1, 2010

Tonight on the Green

I had this whole post typed out last night, and at the last minute I hit delete accidentally. Don't we all hate when that happens?? And so I sit here ruminating...hurting a little inside...smiling a lot inside...feeling at peace but restless, too.

I took Ethan to the town green this afternoon just to walk around. He's had this stomach thing going on where he's just not eating much and having messy diapers and I thought I'd push him in the stroller rather than make him walk. We looked for the train, which failed to arrive; watched the geese at the pond on the road to Loomis Chaffee; had water from the fountain splashed on us from the force of a huge wind gust; quickly checked out the Farmer's Market. I love Windsor on days like this and appreciate the small joys of living in a mid-sized town rather than the city, as I did for 18 years.

I hadn't realized tonight was the first summer concert. People began to arrive on the green with their chairs and picnic items. Kids were gathering early for a story session before the concert began. I looked out at the families and felt so many things churning around. The first thing that often hits me is the old stuff. Hardest of all is to see kids Ethan's age or younger doing things he can't or won't do (i.e. sit for a story; hold a bit of a conversation, back and forth, looking at you). When I keep my eyes on the other kids, the tendency is to feel a sadness as the ones even younger catch up and then leap over where he is developmentally. And when I look just at the little families gathering on blankets my tendency is to jump into, "That's what I wanted. A neat tidy little family that can do things together without complications, without stress, unlike the family occasions of my childhood."

That is my tendency, I have to say. That's where my mind wants to go. But tonight. Tonight, past the achy feeling and everything I can't necessarily change, I looked out at the people on the green with different eyes. I saw the man in his forties who seems to be a little slow, who I always see walking around town and talking aloud to no one, and said hi. I wondered about his life as he sat eating and watching the fountain. I saw the little girl with Down syndrome running on the grass as the music began. I watched the mentally challenged folks from the group home arrive with their chairs and sit down to relax and listen to the music. One woman got up with one of the group leaders to get some ice cream, her body bopping in unusual ways, her face full of smiles anticipating her treat. When I forget my feelings and long-held desires and preconceived notions I am better able to see people who I used to see past. Or who I used to pity without thinking I pitied them. I am thankful for this new set of eyes.

They're just green apples, I was thinking, thanks to my friend Amy. She talked about a mentor who had said people with disabilities are more similar to the rest of us than we perceive. It's like the difference between a red apple and a green apple, rather than an apple and an orange. They're people, and they have likes and dislikes and there are things that move them and things that hurt them. The details may be unconventional, that's all. Green apples.

The story reading with the kids was going on at the same time as the sound check. It'd be so nice if I could get Ethan to sit and pay attention for a story time type thing, I started to think in my usual downtrodden way. I looked at the kids on blankets listening to someone try to read a book over the blare of a guitar and then Mamma Bear kicked in. He's not ready for that yet and you don't need to get bothered by that, I told myself. Don't expect a kid who loves music and who has supersonic hearing to sit and listen to a boring book while the music is playing. Get him over to watch!

And so we went right up close to the sound check. "Drum! Drum done!" Ethan was calling. Drums are his favorite and they hadn't really done much of a check for the drums. He sat right there with the speakers blaring and watched the keyboard, guitar and saxophone. He listened intently while the lead singer did the mic check. We walked around a bit and when the concert began we watched them launch into oldies hits that got everyone bopping. Ethan was shivery from the fountain, tired and hungry, and asked to go several times. But when I asked if he wanted to go home and began to get up, he kept glancing back at the stage. "La Bamba" kicked in and he started dancing with his feet while in the stroller, all smiles. Every time a different instrument played, I'd tell him what it was. I tapped out rhythms for him. My boy loves music and rhythms and patterns and sound. He could be a sound engineer someday.

"Find out early what their strengths are and help them develop them," Temple Grandin had said in a video I watched online the other day. Temple Grandin, the most famous person with autism in the world, who still doesn't like to look people in the eye but has distinguished herself in the field of cattle handling, in addition to the field of autism.

And so we sat and listened for a bit, me and my boy who loves the same songs I do, who taps out the same beats at the same moments. He's not potty trained like Stella who's four months younger than he is and no, he's not going to sit still and listen to story time. We can't go to the fireworks yet and I'm not sure about a 4th of July parade. Maybe, if we don't have to wait too long. Maybe can't isn't the right word. Maybe the questions are: Is it the best thing for him at this time? And if the answer is yes, then how can we make it work?


Amy said...

This is beautiful! I am struggling with the words to describe how I feel. All I can come up with is: Ethan is so blessed to have you as a mom!

My desire is for every human to look at people, who may be a little different, with these kind of eyes! Don't look at the CAN'TS - look at the CAN'S!!

Awesome post!

Anonymous said...

I love this. I can "see" you and Ethan enjoying the music.

I know that achy feeling well and the tendency to dwell on what I think I've missed. Thanks for reminding me to see others around me, to see all that I have to be thankful for, and to see the wonderful gifts in my girl.