When I was a baby, in Springfield, Missouri, my mom's next door neighbor, Karen, became her best friend. A few years after we moved away, Karen had her third child, Dusty, who happens to have Down syndrome. We ended up moving back to Missouri when I was in third grade. We lived four hours away from Springfield but went there about every six months to visit my dad's family, and to see Karen & her family. I remember the anticipation and excitement my brother and I felt pulling into Karen's driveway. We knew that while our parents visited in the kitchen, our day would be full of rumble, tumble fun in the country, riding four-wheelers, and getting into all kinds of messes with Dusty and his brother, Matt. I knew Dusty had Down syndrome but don't remember perceiving anything as being"wrong" with him. I never saw him that way. I just saw him as the coolest kid we knew. He was so stinking cute. I loved how he sat with his flexible little legs flopped, knees out on the floor, legs crossed at the ankle. The tops of his feet would effortlessly touch each other. I loved how he melted into me when I carried him or got a hug and how he'd wrap those flexible legs all the way around me and hook his ankles together when I picked him up. I loved his sweet little exaggerated movements and how he made me laugh. He used to give his mom "soap opera" kisses. To do so, he would pucker up but put his hand between his mouth and hers. He would twist his head back and forth as if he were giving her a mad, passionate kiss and always had us roaring with laughter.
|This is me with Dusty a few years ago, about six months after Levi was born. I did a seminar in Springfield and got to visit for an afternoon while I was in town.|
I've had other experiences with people that have Down syndrome in my life. All of them were positive experiences. My hope for Levi is that he will give others the same understanding that Dusty and others gave me: that Down syndrome isn't something to be disappointed about, it is something to treasure.