This picture was taken two years ago at the Special Hearts Prom at Christ’s Church Camden. Mary and her friend Victoria, who also has Down Syndrome, were excited to participate! The Special Hearts Prom is for people who have special needs to have a night set apart for them to be doted on. The church arranges for the girls to have their hair done. The boys can get their shoes polished. When you sign up, you can request a date. Mary and Victoria are pictured with the dates that were assigned to them.
Mary was born in the hospital in Fernandina, Florida. She surprised us by being 3 weeks early. She was born the day my surprise shower was planned at work at Amelia Island Plantation. I had gestational diabetes, but my boss had called my doctor to get special permission for me to eat cake!
I left work because I didn’t feel well. When I called the doctor and was told to come in just to get checked out, I looked around the office for the calmest person I knew. I needed someone who wouldn’t freak out! Art Freeman, who worked in Maintenance and shared the office building with Housekeeping where I was the administrative assistant, fit the bill. He got me safely to the doctor’s office, and asked me if I wanted him to stay. I’ve always regretted telling him no! My Mom and my husband Keith weren’t there yet, but I knew they were on their way, so I told Art he could go back to work.
I was put in an examination room by myself. The nurse could see I was upset, so she called my husband Keith at work and told him he might want to come to the office because “I’d feel better if he was there.” I had called my Mom to tell her the doctor had told me to come in. She came straight to the doctor’s office.
When the doctor examined me, he announced, “We’re going to have this baby today.” I started to cry. I wasn’t ready! My Mom got there just about that time, and drove me the short distance to the hospital.
Keith had been called at work, but no word to him on the fact that I was in labor! When he was called, they didn’t know I WAS in labor, and back then we didn’t have a cell phone. As soon as Keith reached the doctor’s office they waved him on to the hospital. My mother was with me when Mary was born, and I was grateful for her presence. Mary was still attached to me by the umbilical cord when her Daddy arrived. She came into the world at all of 4 pounds, 12 ounces.
My Mary has done something I never have…run a 5K. She became interested in 5Ks when her brother, her aunt, and some of her cousins ran one to raise awareness for autism. She decided THAT MORNING that she would run. I told her it didn’t work that way, that she had to train to be ready. Mary’s Aunt Darcy suggested the Bubble Run in Jacksonville as a first 5K. We had several months to get ready.
Mary made the effort every day to get up early and train. She ran and walked, and I walked and rode a bike to keep up with her. There were days we didn’t want to get up and get out, but I always reminded Mary that if she didn’t practice, she would not be able to be in the 5K.
During training I got sick for a bit, keeping us from practicing. And Mary got sick for a bit, also keeping us from practicing. When it got down to the wire, I wondered if Mary would actually be able to finish.
Aunt Darcy and the cousins ran with Mary. It was a walk/run/walk/run. Darcy told me afterward that she had to provide Mary with a lot of encouragement, but knowing my sister that was no hardship.
Mary finished her very first 5K in an hour and fifteen minutes. I am so proud of her!
Down Syndrome is also known as “Trisomy 21” because it is identified by having a third copy of the 21st chromosome. In 1984 President Ronald Reagan signed a proclamation identifying October as Down Syndrome Awareness month.(http://www.downsyndromeprenataltesting.com/happy-30th-anniversary-national-down-syndrome-awareness-month/) It’s fascinating to me that October is Down Syndrome Awareness month, and my daughter Mary was born in October. She has spent 19 years giving us a crash course in dealing with someone who has Down Syndrome.
I think Emily Perl Kingsley explained raising a person with Down Syndrome best in her brief essay, “Welcome to Holland.” If you would like to read it, you can do so here: (http://www.our-kids.org/Archives/Holland.html).
In the days ahead I will share some of the lessons my husband Keith and I have learned on this parenting adventure.
I must say, I was pretty proud of myself this morning. I was on my usual morning route, taking teenagers to school. As I rounded the corner into the neighborhood, a group of children walked toward their school, and toward my car, taking up much of the road. I came to a complete stop, feeling a sense of pride for keeping these children safe. They moved to the side of the road, and I pulled forward and around them. As I went by, one of the boys yelled out “Slow down, woman!”
I was taken aback. Didn’t he know I had just kept him and his friends safe by stopping while they got out of the way? But then I smiled. I hadn’t really been that heroic. The boy was right. I came around the corner quickly, and stopped completely when I saw the children. When they were out of the way, I turned my steering wheel away from them, and stepped on the gas…not realizing how fast I was driving. Yes. I needed to slow down. Truth from the eyes and heart of a child.
So where do I go from here? Tomorrow is a new day. I will work at having a lighter touch on the gas pedal. I will try to be more aware of my surroundings, and of speed limits. I will concentrate on being present in the moment rather than allowing my mind to wander as I drive. And so we shall see what tomorrow brings…
I’ve been 50 for ten whole days now. I’ve hit the half-century mark. My 30-year-old daughter planned my party (a Sound of Music theme). My 70-year-old mother made my birthday cupcakes using my great-grandmother’s carrot cake recipe. I collected my Facebook birthday greetings and printed them out…64 pages worth!
I don’t remember what I thought “50” would be like when I was younger. But I don’t think this was it. I recall at some point thinking 50 was “old.” I’m not sure what constitutes “old” now, but I don’t even consider my 70-year-old mother to be “old.” Perhaps my 89-year-old mother-in-law is old, but I’m not even sure of that.
I’ve enjoyed musicals ever since I can remember. In my 50 years of living, I can identify with the emotions lines from musicals bring on. “I could have danced all night” from My Fair Lady. “To every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and, snap, the job’s a game!” from Mary Poppins. The entire song “A Puzzlement” from The King and I. “Tomorrow” from Annie. All of the songs from Fiddler on the Roof have become dear to me since my family and I performed in the community production at Camden County High School in 2012.
I have accomplished much in my 50 years. Most importantly, I am a wife and a mom. I have held many different jobs, from fast food restaurants to offices. I have volunteered for causes I care about, like the Special Olympics, the Salvation Army, Care Net, and Justin’s Miracle Field. I graduated from college with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology in 2015.
I have learned much in my 50 years. I have learned the importance of kindness. I have learned the importance of offering and accepting forgiveness. I have learned that things done for selfish motives fade quickly, but things done from a heart of love last. I have learned that love conquers fear. I have learned that you don’t have to agree with people to be polite and kind to them. I have learned the importance of investing time in the people we love. With all I have learned, I think the most important is that I still have much to learn!
When I was growing up, my family moved every three or four years. That gave me lots of opportunities to be the “new kid.” To this day, when I find myself in a new situation, I quietly observe for awhile before I make any effort to join in.
As a child, I would hide behind my parents or my little brother and follow their lead. Thinking back, I realize I always thought my brother (two years younger than me) was braver than me. He would enter a new situation and make friends. I would become friends with his friends.
As I became an adult, the need to hide behind another stayed with me. For many years, my children were the ones I hid behind. I didn’t feel like I was “enough” on my own. I have grown more confident as the years have passed. I received counseling for some of my childhood insecurities, and studying the Bible helped me learn who I am in Christ. My years as a student at College of Coastal Georgia also helped shape me into the person I am today.
My mother and I lead a second grade Sunday school class. I enjoy watching to see how new children respond to us. Of course we always greet each child with a smile, and a “we’re glad you’re here!” My heart always goes out to the bashful ones who come in nervous. Mom and I do what we can to make every child in our room feel comfortable, and to feel they are an important part of the group.
This past Sunday our class was combined with the first grade. Not being very familiar with the first-graders, we didn’t know who was a regular attender and who was new. One of the first graders I will call Lana. Lana was very respectful. She also had a song in her heart and was almost constantly moving! She felt she just had to dance, and she would. Mom and I told her that in the Bible many people praised God by dancing.
I loved watching how comfortable Lana was with herself. I loved her even more when she told us she’d only lived here for two weeks! Talk about the new kid being ready to take on the world! I hope nothing comes up to squelch her self confidence. I hope she always praises God with her body, and her heart!