I tried to stop myself but couldn't.
I knew that I shouldn't feel anything - but I did.
Toronto is Canada's largest city. Yonge Street has some of Canada's busiest intersections, there are cars, people, wheelchairs and strollers everywhere. We had picked up a tea and were heading over to sit and drink it in George Hislop parkette. I had to pause before rolling over the cut curb to head to the east side of the street to let a woman pass. I glanced at her only so that I could see when I could safely move. And I noticed.
She was maybe twenty years old. She walked with a hurried pace. A smile indicated that something fun had just happened or was about to. She had a blue backpack slung over a turquoise tee. Her jeans were tight with intention not weight. She stepped past me, not seeing me, only seeing her destination. She was alone.
She had Down Syndrome.
It shouldn't matter to me. But it did. As I drove across the street I found my eyes filling with tears. My life flashed before my eyes, it's not death that brings rapid memory - it's life. I flashed to an elementary school with no children with disabilities. I flashed to a high school with no teens with disabilities. I flashed through my teens to my twenties to my thirties. People with disabilities existed only in a professional capacity. They did not exist in public. They did not exist without wearing the uniform of helpless captive - a staff or parent beside them. The certainly did not exist, alone, on city streets, wearing turquoise tees and sexy jeans.
Instantly I wanted every doctor who would tell an expecting parent that people with Down Syndrome have no hope, no future, to see her. Instantly I wanted every educational expert that thinks that people with difficultly learning, don't, to see her. Instantly I wanted every parent that worries that their child may never live freely, to see her. Instantly I wanted history to shout 'WE WERE WRONG!!!!!' from the rooftops.
Her jeans that dad would disapprove of.
They mean something.
They mean that Hitler was wrong. They mean that genes may form us but not define us. They mean that a medical degree does not a shaman make. They mean that the crystal ball that geneticists use to see the future needs to be grabbed from their hands and smashed to the floor. They mean that we all need to redefine possibilities to mean ... possibilities.
They means that all those years of parental love and support, all those tears cried by mothers who struggled to teach, all those hours that father's spent encouraging, well it means they mattered.
A few hours later I asked Joe if he had seen her. He had not. He quickly apologized saying he was talking with Tessa who was along for the trip. But I didn't want him to have seen her, notice her. It makes sense that she just blend in with all the rest. Because I don't want her to be 'other' I want her to be simply 'another'.
And she will, one day, to me. The day when it is no longer remarkable to see people living their potential. To see people with Down Syndrome simply being who they were always capable of being. To see freedom as the end result of climbing a steeper slope.
But for now, to me, I need to see her.
And I'm glad I did.
Even though, I shouldn't have.