Ethan's class had a party the other day. Not a Christmas party, mind you, as this is a public school, but some kind of "festive gathering with cocoa."
Ethan didn't understand why I had picked him up from school at 11:30 only to come back with him for the party at 1pm. The room was crowded and full of parents. Some of the kids were making ornaments or decorating cookies. After awhile Mrs. Mullin gathered the kids on the rug, then got up and put her arm around a little boy a bit older than Ethan, who was holding a cane.
"Everyone," she said, "this is Anthony. I talked to him a little while ago and he said it was okay to tell you all that he's blind. He can't see anything. But even though he can't see, Anthony has other special talents, and he wants to share one of them with you."
Some of the aides were pushing a large keyboard into the room. Anthony sat down in front of it and you could sense he was at home. The room filled with expectancy, and he began to play "Jingle Bells." All of the little and big voices that could joined in:
Dashing through the snow
In a one-horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way
Ethan sat mesmerized, watching Anthony, who played not in a savant, blow-your-mind way, but as a child who loved music and who had practiced and who was very good. Anthony sat rocking like Stevie Wonder as he pounded the keys, and I wondered if was the blindness or his autism or whether he was just feeling, soaking in the music with every part of him.
As Anthony played he was no longer the boy I'd noticed sitting hunched at a table, leaning over a musical toy, face almost pressed against it, trying to hone in on the sounds from the toy to escape the sounds of chaos in the packed room.
He was sharing his gift.
And although it had been a hectic week and hectic day and Ethan seemed stressed and I was starting to feel holiday fatigue, as we belted out "Jingle Bells" while Anthony played, everything was absolutely perfect.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
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