Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Beauty of "Hi"

We were in the very same Target, I believe, the first time it happened. I remember pushing the cart up to the check-out counter when Ethan was maybe nine months old, sturdy enough to sit up on his own, little legs kicking.

I remember the way the cashier tried to coo and make faces and flirt with him the way most of them (the ladies, at least) do with babies and toddlers. Only Ethan looked the other way. In fact, every time we shopped and would get to the checkout, he'd look at the cash register and the amazing beeps, blips and lights. Or -- and this is what would make my blood run cold -- he would look straight through the cashiers and their overtures as if they weren't there.

The other day we were back at Target. Sometimes I think we live in Target. We certainly have the layout memorized and I'm probably personally keeping our local one in business. Ethan wanted to get out of the cart and walk. We went up to the counter to pay. He stood right below the cashier as she punched in numbers, completely focused on what she was doing. He looked up at her and said it.


Then again, a little louder. "Hi?!"

He was trying to get her attention. He was trying to make a connection.

The woman looked up. "Oh, I'm sorry!" she exclaimed. "I didn't hear you saying hello."

At three years, nine months and 24 days, Ethan said his first unprompted hello to a store employee. And I was about to do a happy jig all the way out the front doors. I was probably grinning as ridiculously as the Cheshire cat.

Every single person who has ever said that once you have a child with special needs, you appreciate every teensy-tiny milestone is absolutely right. And so I am celebrating Ethan's "hi"s: the unsuspecting cashiers in Target and Big Y, innocently scanning my groceries and having no idea of the miracle I am marveling at the kids on the school playground, running to do what kids do, usually not answering, but not deterring my son the boy at the park yesterday, the boy who I learned from his mom is just three weeks older than Ethan.

"Hi," he said to Ethan, standing below as I pushed Ethan on the swing.
"Hi," Ethan answered.
"What's your name?" the boy asked.
"My name is Ethan," he replied.

An introduction. A conversation.

Grasping a pencil and writing a letter. Sounding out words and reading them. Saying "I'm sorry." Drinking from a big kid cup. Saying "hi" to another person without being prompted. I cannot forget now, I will never forget, how precious each of these moments are. And I am grateful for that.

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