There is such joy in Lucy. I don’t always see it. Sometimes I’m too focused on improving her, reminding her to stand up straight, to look a person in the eye when she’s saying hello and goodbye, to slow down her words when she talks.
“Can you say that again, Lucy?” “Where are your shoes?” “Did you brush your teeth?” “Do you have your seat belt buckled?” Always on her case but for her own good, right?
Lucy, my first-born grandchild, is 11. I worried so about her when she was born. I still do. She has Down syndrome. There are plenty of reasons for worry.
But I worry about my other grandkids, too. You love someone and you want to protect them. And you can’t. So you worry.
In the beginning, I worried most about Lucy’s health. She had a heart problem. That colored everything. But I worried, too, about her life. What would it be like? Would she have friends? Would she go to school? Would she be happy?
She was a brand new, pure soul in my arms, and I was worried about the whole rest of her life. I wish I had stayed in the moment and focused on the sheer wonder of her.
Lucy is in the fifth grade at the John F. Kennedy School in Canton now. In a typical classroom with typical kids. She has an aide, and the classwork is modified for her. But there she is, with all the other fifth-graders, at her desk, out on the playground, in the lunchroom, in the gym.
All of Canton’s elementary schools had their annual winter concerts last week. I went to the Hansen School concert Monday morning for my grandsons, Adam and Matt, and to the Kennedy school concert Tuesday morning, for Lucy.
I’m a sucker for little kids standing up on a stage doing anything. But dress them up in white shirts and black pants, comb their hair, give them a few songs to sing, add a music teacher plunking out some notes on a piano, and it’s the Ziegfeld Follies to me.
Fifth grade. The toothless grins are gone, replaced with teeth now that are a little too big for children who have yet to grow into them. Some wear braces to keep these teeth in place and when they open their mouths to sing, their braces sparkle.
The children stand in place, too, braced by age, habit, a budding maturity? There’s less fidgeting this year, a reserve to them that wasn’t there in first or second grade or even last year.
You can almost see, in the tilt of their heads, in their frowns, in the way they smile, a glimpse of the adults they will be.
I watch Lucy singing and smiling, keeping beat to the rhythm of the music, standing in the front row next to her friends and her classmates, part of it all, just another kid up on a school stage.
And I am so grateful for the moment, grateful that she was born in this country, at this time, into a culture that not only accepts her but nurtures her. Grateful for all the people who have come into our lives because of her. Grateful for her teachers in and out of school, who go the extra mile for her, who include her and applaud her and love her. Grateful that there she is up on the stage with all the other fifth-graders, singing and smiling.
It’s such an ordinary thing, a school concert. Except when it isn’t. Children like Lucy were denied this for so long. I watched my granddaughter sing. I watched her spy me in the audience and wave.
And as I waved back, I had to try hard not to cry.
Beverly Beckham’s column appears every two weeks. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.