Wednesday, 2 April 2014

And we kept on walking.

If the interaction hadn't started with "Well HELLO!  Aren't you just GORGEOUS!!" there's simply no telling how I would have reacted. She had a shock of dyed red hair - like RED red, not auburn or 'ginger' or 'copper sunrise' or anything by birth or by L'Oreal, but RED red. That hair and that face which could've been foe. Could've been all foe.

But no.

Still knocked the wind out of me, though. Like the 12" softball that took a bad hop and clobbered me in the collarbone back in the day, in my head I stumbled a few steps in reverse and leaned over to compose myself, hands on knees, shoulders slumped. In reality, I was frozen in place. Ironically, I had been studying a rack holding DVDs of the Disney film with that very name, and here I was playing it out in charades.

After a week starting with bad and shuffling its way towards catastrophe, a week in which I thought 'how can it get any worse?' there she was, with that question we'd eluded for nearly twenty-six months falling out of her face as if she was merely asking me the time. That question we hadn't yet heard, but I have expected to hear every. fecking. time. we leave the house.

"Is he a Down's child?"

(Kick) Phoooooooooooooooooooooooo.

And somewhere from maybe behind my lungs (seeing as how they were empty now) or perhaps my left elbow, hell, maybe even from behind my right kneecap where that persistent nagging has been lingering the past few weeks - somewhere - my body delivered up a smile. That grin crept up like the old itsy bitsy spider and curled its way across my face. I wasn't yet sure if olditsybitsy was going to be a tarantula or one of those slow pokes you smash into a pulp with your slipper, but there it lay.

I summoned my voice and spoke through it. "Yes, he has Down's."


I don't think I was clenching teeth, or muscles, or fists but possibly only because I was trying to balance an overloaded basket on the stroller handles to prevent our intrepid hero from flipping over like a wayward turtle. Perhaps that overloaded basket was a blessing.

And then she and Rukai went and grinned at each other. My eyebrows peaked and my grip loosened. My boy was cool. Chill mama, chill.

Ok skippy, you're in the driver's seat. Go forth and conquer.

Red pointed her grin at me and went on to tell me how she had done some work with people with DS, and save a few unfortunate stereotypes (among them that "ah they're all so nice and loving" chestnut again, and still not really sure why that bothers me so much but it does) it was a fairly pleasant conversation for something that had started with a kick in the guts.

All in, the duration of that episode of 'as my stomach turns' was about 3 minutes, max. Yet it took me the remainder of my shop to shake it off. And she was NICE. That's all I could think of as I left the store. 'Thank God she was nice. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.'

What will I do when that one comes along who isn't nice? Well that, friends, is for another time. Today we are here. Today we had nice.

One left turn outside and Rukai and I were strolling in the sun towards the house. I found myself feeling a bit small. I realized the ridiculousness of this and rolled my shoulders back. I pressed down these shoulders that sometimes feel altogether too heavy with the world, and I stacked my vertebrae upright again. I felt strangely proud that I'd been able to get through that conversation without disintegrating.

The road is long. The road is unpaved and bumpy. The road trips us up and bloodies our knees and draws tears that streak through the red tinged dirt, leaving us as painted warriors, post battle.

This road is Life. And no matter how many chromosomes we have in our fragile bodies, we travel this road together. Highwaymen and vagabonds, bankers and bin men, children and grandparents and cockatiels and grasshoppers, every one runs the gauntlet which is this road called Life.

I looked at Rukai and thought 'you are Rukai. You have Down's syndrome but you are Rukai.'

And we kept on walking.

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