I noticed him right away. He was sitting quietly in a big overstuffed chair, reading a book. I had wandered into the children's book section of one of a huge bookstore looking to pick up a 'young adult' book for a friend.
The image of a child curled up in a big chair reading a book is a cozy one to me and it always evokes a smile. This time it did more than that, I teared up. The little boy had Down Syndrome and he was just quietly sitting reading, pages turning slowly, concentration on his face, words touching his lips with movement. It's been a long time waiting for this. Waiting to see a child, like him, reading in a place like this.
There really is little more to today's blog than this image. Nothing happened. No one said anything. I never saw his mom or his dad, though I glanced around at the other adults in the area and wondered. I saw several other children, some running and restless, others quiet and entranced. But I couldn't detect who belonged to him. It was as if he was put there, by the store, as decoration, as a symbol of the power of words and the ability of all to enjoy.
But to me he was a symbol of so much more. He was a symbol of where we are now, a symbol of where we have come from, a symbol of ability, if independance, of ground gained. Rushes of emotion ran through me. I didn't know what to do with them. I was born into a time of hopelessness and rejection. A time where children with differences weren't expected to learn, didn't expect to be taught. A time where children with differences didn't have homes they were placed in them. A time where children with differences didn't read in overstuffed chairs, they sat in bare walled wards.
I wondered what words touched his lips and made them move. What the story was that he was reading.
And I wondered if he realized that his story, the one that brought him here to the bookstore, to curl up and read, was more fantastic, more unexpected, more thrilling than any word on any page of any book that I've read thus far in my life.
I saw a child, sitting in a chair, in a bookstore ... reading.