I wrote this post on July 15th, 2007. It was my 4th blog post ever. I got my first comment on it yesterday, and was reminded, upon re-reading, just how important that moment was for me. And how long ago and lost in the mire of the 650-something posts since then it has fallen. I don't know if anyone else had ever read it, and while it's not my finest example of writing, it still brings tears to my eyes to read, to remember my first experience in speaking with an adult with Down syndrome. I think, somehow, she must have known that I needed to speak to her, while I, myself, did not know that at all at the time.
It's funny the impression someone can have on you. I never saw her again, but be very, very sure, I never forgot her. Coincidentally, just last year, one of my friends reported on Facebook that she and her young son met an amazing woman with Ds at the movie theater when the woman approached them and surprised her by addressing her son directly, remarking that the two of them had something in common. Excited by the possibility that it may have been the same woman (description and location were pretty right), I sent my friend the link to that post, and was thrilled when she confirmed. I must apologize, though, I did not have privacy in mind back then when I posted the photo. Now, being older and wiser, I only post photos of people when I've had their permission. But it's one of my favorite photos of all time, and I'm not about to take it down. Unless I'm asked to, of course.
But this post is less about specific people than it is about what we can learn from our interactions. Those of you who may now be the me of 5 years ago, mother to a 1-year old with that little something extra, no clear idea of what the future may hold, so much fear of the unknown, please keep your minds open, please be prepared to put yourselves into situations where you may learn from the others. I have grown to truly enjoy speaking to adults, to embracing their lives, their families, their individuality. I still have so, so, so much to learn, and I'm ready to let Samantha teach me. I've let go of so much of my fear for her and her future, knowing that she can be and can do so much more than I ever thought possible before that one day, back in the summer of 2007.
I've copied that post here for you, minus the photo:
I had a conversation with an amazing woman named J.. yesterday. J. is 39 years old, and has Down Syndrome. Samantha and I attended the picnic for the Arc of Northern Virginia. J.came up to us and introduced herself and asked if she could sit on the grass with us for a while. I said absolutely. Now, I have never spoken to anyone else with DS over the age of about 1. Frankly I was a little nervous. I guess because I didn't know what to expect. I've wanted to speak to an adult, but there's always that fear of the unknown. Will I be able to understand them? Will I be disappointed in the glimpse into Samantha's future? Will it be awkward? I can only say how grateful I am for the opportunity J. gave us yesterday. She is an amazingly articulate, bright, self-aware woman, and I was absolutely drawn to her. I was disappointed when she had to leave. She asked a lot of questions about Samantha's development, and spoke about some of her own. She said that she was glad to see I kept Samantha, as her mother had chosen to keep her. It makes me teary-eyed to think about that. I would never have had it any other way. She, too, had had heart surgery to correct a defect when she was young. I asked her if she works, and she said that she has been working at one of the government agencies downtown for the last 10 years (and just received her 10-year pendant!) and takes the bus and the metro every day to get to work. I wish I could remember more of the conversation, but just the overall feeling of 'fulfillment' for having spoken to her is mainly what remains. I told her and her mother about the DSANV picnic in 2 weeks, and hope to see them there. I expressed my happiness at having met her, but wish I had told her what an impression she had made on me. I hope she knows anyway.