A Mother’s Day Surprise – Celebrating Down Syndrome Awareness Month
Telling a story about Mother’s Day in October may seem a bit odd. But in an effort to celebrate October as Down Syndrome Awareness Month, it seemed appropriate.
Come at 3:00, the invitation said. Sofia couldn’t wait to give it to me when she brought it home two weeks before the big day. Unzipping her backpack as soon as she jumped in my car, she grabbed the paper out of the bright blue folder and handed it to me, before we’d even turned down our driveway. “You’re invited to a Mother’s Day Tea Party,” it said. It was an annual event thrown by the kindergarteners for their mamas.
In the previous four months, Sofia had missed quite a bit of school, the result of six bouts of strep throat. All together, it had meant lots of days spent home, often feverish, throat burning, tummy churning and all around miserable. No parent wishes that for his or her child.
She was scheduled for surgery the next day to remove her tonsils in the hope that once the tonsils were gone, the strep would be, too. After surgery, it was expected she’d have about a week and a half of recovery. We might be able to make it, I thought, if all goes well and she doesn’t get sick again.
Thankfully, the surgery did go well. After a week of rest, jello and ice cream, she regained her strength and returned to school a few days before the party.
Tea Party day came quickly. Sofia could barely contain her excitement, reminding me for the third time that morning, as she boarded the bus, “Come to school, Mama. Party.” Her reminders were unnecessary. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. To see my daughter happy and healthy was more than enough. A celebration was in order.
I promptly walked in at 3:00 and was met by my piggy-tailed little girl, grinning like the Cheshire cat. “Mama!” She bounced up and down as she ran to me. Taking my hand in hers, she walked me to her seat, which would be my seat for the party. Sitting on the placemat were gifts.
Pointing out an enormous carefully designed card, along with several other glue-spattered, glitter-covered pieces of art, Sofia described them in great detail. All of the gifts were made just for me, by little hands, with the artistry of much love. She was proud of her work. And, rightly so.
The table she shared with five other children sat in the far left corner of the room, at the end of the long greenish black chalkboard. After admiring her artwork, we nibbled on cookies and sipped “tea,” along with all of the other mothers & proud artists. Sofia sat on my lap, pointing out the pint-sized “kitchken,” not surprisingly one her favorite spaces in the room.
Teatime was interrupted by the teacher asking the children to line up at the chalkboard. “The kids have prepared a special song for you,” she said. All of us mothers sitting knees high in tiny red chairs turned to face the front of the room. Kids scattered to line up. Sofia turned in my lap, but hesitated to take her place. By now, the line of children reached a foot away from my chair.
“Sofia, do you want to line up for the song?” I asked. I was cautious, realizing her reluctance may have to do with not knowing the song, after many missed days of school.
Standing directly in front of me at the end of the line stood a little girl. Upon hearing my question, the girl caught my eye. “Oh, she won’t be able to,” she said. Surprised by her boldness, I looked at her again to gain some understanding. “She won’t be able to,” she repeated, shaking her head. It was a statement of fact, as far as she was concerned. Perhaps, she too, thought Sofia wouldn’t know the song after having been absent so often. Or, maybe she simply had counted her out.
Immediately, but not necessarily in response, Sofia slid down off of my lap and took her place in line, directly next to the little girl.
Little voices began singing. “Mommy, mommy, I love you.”
Standing close enough to touch me, Sofia placed her hand gently upon my shoulder and sang. Looking directly into my eyes, she searched my gaze, as if to make sure she had my full attention, wanting to convey the full meaning of her words.
“Mommy, mommy, I love you. I love you. Yes, I do,” Sofia sang, her voice chiming in with the others.
My daughter sang every last word of the song…to me… in her sweet singsong voice.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see other moms with phones held high, recording the memorable performance. Stunned and overcome with emotion, I didn’t dare move, not even to grab my phone to capture the moment for posterity.
Instead I sat, staring into my daughter’s eyes and watching the dimples on her cheeks dance as she smiled and sang. I wanted to drink it all in, to be filled to overflowing with my little girl’s expression of love.
All the moms were filled with pride and joy in that moment. For me, it wasn’t just a performance. My daughter sang her love to me. She sang. And that is a gift I’ll never forget.
Happy Down Syndrome Awareness Month!
Sofia celebrating her 7th birthday with her big brother.