She Picked Me

She always picks Daddy–always–so on Wednesday night, when Christian asked Julianna which parent she wanted to take her down to “church school” (religious ed), I rolled my eyes and wondered why he bothered. She didn’t answer at all, and we went about the craziness of clearing dinner and getting kids rounded up for the weekly trip to church.

Somewhere in the middle of the chaos, we realized Julianna was trying to say something. “Go…dyoo…goo…Bah-ee,” she said.

“What did you say?” Christian asked her, but I took a wild stab. “You want Mommy to take you to church school?” (dyoo=church; goo=school, and Bah-ee is, well, me)

“Yeah!” she said, her voice about three octaves higher than usual, and threw her arms open to me with a huge smile.

“You picked ME?” I shouted. I ran to her and scooped her up, and she locked her arms around my neck giggling with that wild abandonment of dignity that renders her beauty angelic. I can’t capture that smile on the camera, but it knocks me out.

At church, I put her on my back and carried her down the stairs as if she was a much younger child, shaking her from side to side to make her giggle again. When it was time to leave her in the room, she came running to cling to me again, not out of anxiety, but just an unselfconscious display of love.

The standard stereotype of a person with Down syndrome is that they are very social, very loving children. That very afternoon, I heard from a fellow parent who picked her up for me when the bus broke down while I was teaching lessons: “She has quite a following at that school,” he said. “She was waving and yelling ‘bye’ to everyone.'”

But my children are all very loving, and very demonstrative about it. This is not about Down syndrome, per se, but about mothers and daughters. As a mother I adore boyhood. (Most of it. I can’t stand the propensity for breakage, but yanno.) But there’s some part of me that craves the love of a girl, and it’s not a gift I get very often. I used to have regular dreams in which Julianna called me “Mommy.” I have yet to hear the word in anything resembling a true form; it’s special, and it’s cute, but “Bah-ee” doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. So this night was pure gift. And I guess that’s all the conclusion I need for this post.