At 6:01 a.m. on a Sunday morning, I trudge down the sidewalk toward my house. It’s almost silent this morning, the interstate a muted distant hiss, and fog hangs heavy in the lowest reaches of the Bear Creek drainage system. The woods hums with insect song, and after twenty minutes’ run, the cobwebs have finally cleared from my sleepy brain. As I angle off the sidewalk and up the driveway, I hear a characteristic “Euh!” I glance up to see Julianna looking out her bedroom window, waving at me.

And I get to thinking about my 3 ½-year-old daughter—this daughter who has familiarized us with hospitals, who does not speak, who struggles even to make her lips obey a specific command. This daughter who has made me a political activist, who hates being cuddled and who charms everyone she meets. I start thinking about what gifts her bonus chromosome has offered to me, gifts to be unwrapped over the course of years.

Gifts as simple as compassion and empathy for a group of people I once felt uncomfortable with.

Gifts of expanded horizons. Of grief that cracked my heart open, making room for it to grow. Of understanding—not just paying lip service to a concept, but actually understanding—that worth is not connected to achievement. Of realizing that beauty wears many more faces than those we typically recognize.

Gifts given through illness and threat of loss: A sense of perspective about which earthly things matter, and which ones don’t. Recognition that joy and peace sometimes reside closer at hand in the midst of pain and fear than they do in everyday life.

Gifts hidden in delays: The simple joy of a milestone reached. An expanded babyhood, an expanded childhood—something almost every mother longs for at some point, but almost no one gets.

In fact, I realize that the very thing that makes Julianna “other” and “less” (smart, developed, coordinated, capable) than the average child—a third 21st chromosome—is exactly what makes her a living gift that no “normal” child could give.

Linking to SteadyMom’s 30 Minute Blog Challenge

holy experience

tuesdays unwrapped at cats