…where a brave and beautiful bunch gather every week to find out what comes out when we all spend five minutes writing on the same topic and then sharing ‘em over here.
My story is ever-changing and yet still the same, this narrative that I live and weave and breathe. What I know, what I think, how I feel and what matters to me, it stems from the same words and thoughts that once hinted at my future long ago. That was well over 20 years ago when I sat at our oval-shaped kitchen table with its smooth wood colored surface thumbing through the class catalog for the University I was to attend in the fall.
“I’m pretty social and I’m a hard worker- how about Social Work Mom?”
I still remember those words pushing up out of my teenage-heart and into my head and the unconscious nodding my head answered in reply. At the time it felt like a whim and a lark, not the life defining moment that it was.
I’ll volunteer. I’ll wrap presents for the homeless. I’ll visit the shelters and soup kitchens. I’ll work with children who have disabilities. I’ll help others.
And so my grown-up story began to weave itself out from me. Winding itself into other people’s lives and how they lived. How they are in the world and how to clear a path for them so that I and others could walk alongside rather than leading or following them.
I couldn’t see this current chapter of my story back then. I wouldn’t have even pictured this gabled home in the foothills of the Blue Ridge that my pages would unfold into. I couldn’t imagine the lives of the people I worked for as my own. Their ordinary, extraordinary lives. Lives that required others to step out of the way so that they could do the simplest thing. Live in their home. Go to their school. Shop in their community. Work down their street. Simple, ordinary, daily moments that require the commitment and love of another in order to make that possible. Things those of us without labels are blessed to take for granted in this world that is built for us, not them. The story I was reading and writing, I had no idea how one day it would be my own.
And now, now the narrative has shifted once again. The once energetic, young social worker out to save the world or at least walk beside those in it, has a clearly visible path as a parent and an advocate to take with her family. New characters are emerging. Slowly unveiling their roles to the plot. The sense of our community and their acceptance of us peels off in thin pages as we understand what has changed and what remains the same in this old world. Their personalities full of strong will and generally good cheer. The villains not hooded and cackling. No. They are more ordinary and reasonable sounding as they build fences trying to line my children’s own path into this world and their future.
My path is now the one that I had read about, but hadn’t recognized as my own. It takes shape each morning when the baby cries to nurse one last time before the sun rises. The four year old with her last wisps of strawberry blonde locks falling over her softly rounded shoulders, climbs out of her sister’s bed too early, to pad through the dark and quiet hall in search of her parents asking to start her day, to eat, to drink, to play, to go to school just like Zuzu. A school that is not yet as eager to meet her as she is to attend it. A school that requires us to sit up and focus our attention and feelings and knowledge into one kind and articulate presentation so that our daughter can walk through their door the same as her sister without the weight of the world and these reasonable-sounding decision makers pulling her into self-contained corridors.
My story, that I couldn’t have written yet, as I bumped into a soon to be Lovey while walking through a farmer’s market on a bright Saturday morning.
Our story, whose future words would float through our conversations unbeknownst to us as I would ask questions like, “What would you do if our child had a disability?” while we drove through a Wisconsin countryside.
My story, that flashed visions of dark-haired girls swinging from the heavy oak branches as I pushed the mower meditatively up and back through our mossy front yard around the abelia bushes.
My story, that rattled my nerves and my bones in those first weeks with each newborn and wild tangle of hormones.
Their story, as that once newborn kindly reaches over to grasp the hand of a new dark-haired wonder and nurse in tandem.
My story as I hold tight to Lovey after hanging up with the doctor editing the words Down syndrome into the next chapter.
Their story, as we bring home one last white-tipped, chestnut haired bundle, shifting each of their birth orders into the Sistred formation they now are.
Her story, as we sit around the school’s table on a late spring afternoon, slicing into the cheesecake flavored peace-offering and discuss how this extra-chromosomed wonder of ours will learn the ways of the world she is so eager to be a part of.
My story, I understand now, as the Southern sun sets each evening around us. The back-to-school lists now printed and purchased for two. The legal books and memoirs I will curl up to each evening as we settle into the soft, brown couch. These books, they stack up in between fairy and coloring books. Southern Living magazines and Ipads. Ceramic mermaids and bowls of speech articulation tubes and whistles. These pieces of our lives that cover our families’ worn wood table that creeks under the weight of the framed images of our loved ones. The girls snuggled under their fuzzy cuddle-uppets over brightly colored nightgowns that skim their summer legs with the day’s boo-boos and rainbow sparkled Band-Aids. Red clay stuck under the too-long toe nails.
These girls that accept their story as a whim and a lark without looking too far into the future tonight. These girls, they clamor at me each night to set down my computer, my phone, my legal books and memoirs for the last few lit minutes of their evening and read one more fairytale before bedtime.
My very blessed ordinary after of a story.
(PS: Yes, more than five minutes worth of words. That happens some times.)