Wednesday, August 25, 2010


We were at the Buckland Hills mall, heading toward the food court, and my heart was actually pounding with excitement. Last year we'd eaten up there and it had been a disaster. For whatever reason, Ethan had a meltdown. I had known better than to even attempt the Merry-Go-Round. But after our experience at the Topsham Fair up in Maine, I knew Ethan would want to ride.

As we were waiting to grab some pizza slices first I saw a group of adults shuffle by at various paces with their caregivers. They were obviously from a group home. One or two were being pushed in wheelchairs. Several appeared to have Down syndrome. All were in their twenties or thirties at least and had that slightly disheveled look, the look that they had been dressed by someone else, or didn't care, really, how they looked.

We sat down with our food (a real chair for Ethan this time, no high chair holding him captive) and I watched one of the women with Down syndrome, plodding ahead towards another table. Her eyes revealed nothing about what she was thinking. In a flash I saw her as a baby, a newborn, with a mom perhaps cradling her, worried for her. I saw her as a little girl in a cute dress, smiling big smiles.

On the ride Ethan sat patiently waiting for everyone to get on. His eyes were so bright and his smile was so big. He didn't try to squirm off, he just enjoyed every single second of the five minutes we went around and around, as his elephant bobbed up and down. I wished I had my camera with me, but I'll never forget the sparkle that was in his eyes as he rode the carousel for the first time.

Thank you, my mind was whispering as we walked away. To God? Ethan? Autism? I'm not sure. What I meant was, thank you for helping me see people as they really are at the core, as they were, as they still are inside. Thank you for the gift of learning to appreciate the smallest of victories. Thank you for the sweetness that resides in the simple, joyful moments that, in another life, I might have missed.

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