I don’t know how she does it.
Everywhere she goes, people see her.
This seems like a stupid thing to say–of course people see my daughter. But in our quest-for-the-perfect-body-without-sacrifice, grab-a-Botox-shot and erase-your-wrinkles world, we don’t really see people with disabilities. Our eyes slide past, because we’re uncomfortable, or because we don’t want to be rude. Even though ignoring is its own form of rudeness. We build walls between Them and Us. (And I do mean “we.” Even now, I sometimes do it, too.)
Julianna is a one-toddler wall demolition girl. Somehow, she walks right through them.
If you don’t have a connection with Down syndrome, this post is one more set of syrup-sweet platitudes. I used to skim, or skip things like this altogether. How can I make you see my girl the way you see the children of every other friend, neighbor or acquaintance?
Aside from the ordinary triumphs of each dearly-bought stepping stone, these are my favorite things about Julianna:
Sympathetic cry-er (you know…as soon as a sibling starts wailing, her face screws up and she follows suit).
Bibliophile extraordinaire. She’s not picky. Given the chance, she’ll choose Child of the Moon or Brown Bear–better yet, a scrapbook–but if they’re not available, she goes for whatever’s close at hand. Batman, Lego instruction manual, hymnal, phone book (I kid you not).
Mommy wannabe. Right down to sitting in front of the computer and making a Really.Big.Mess.
Tomboy and girly girl–a girl after my own heart. Alex can’t stand getting dirty. Julianna? Glories in it. Butt planted in the creek. Mud on the legs. Fingers in the mouth.
Miss America in training. Walking is her favorite activity, best enjoyed when pushing a toy. But if we’re someplace where there are people, but no push toys, she waves. Loudly. What do I mean by that? I mean she tears through the available space, waving and yelling, “AAAAAAAAAA” (translation: “Hi hi hi hi hi hi!”). And everyone smiles.
She’s a button-pusher, “for good or for evil,” as Gandalf would say. If she wants to see you ticked off, she knows just how to do it. In two seconds. But when she wants warm fuzzies, she can do that, too.
One word: Hugs.
Oh…my…goodness. Nothing so heavenly as those plump little arms…squeezing. I’ve waited three years for that sensation. I get goosebumps.
The not picky audience member. She loves music. Any organized sound will do. Jackhammer. The roll call bell at the Capitol. As long as it’s not so close that it deafens, she cheers.
And she does it for “yay,” too. Yay for the food. Yay for Daddy’s homecoming. Yay because everyone else is. She doesn’t need to understand why she’s applauding. She just does. It makes her happy. And at the baseball game, when she claps and yells for five seconds longer than everyone else…people see her. And smile.
But my absolute favorite moment was a school bus moment. One afternoon Miss Holly, the driver, told me that the bus barn was moving Julianna to another driver’s route in the mornings. “Okay,” I said, “great, thanks.”
“Well…” she said, and when I saw the crestfallen look on her face–crestfallen for losing my daughter from her afternoon–my heart went, thump.
Oh, my beautiful angel. What wonders will God work through you?