Rowenna is three today.
When she was born and we were swept up into a world we never dreamed we would be part of, all the appointments and therapy and what ifs, it seemed like three was so far away. Three, with its built in transition from early intervention to public school.
It was hard to imagine what life would be like with this child who felt like such a mystery. This child whose future felt shrouded by the trappings of Disability World.
Yesterday, something happened that fully sums up what it’s like to live with this sweet girl. The answer to the mystery of what will be.
We went to the public library to choose some books for the weekend and to allow Rowenna to blow off a little steam. I had forgotten the library opens later on Fridays than other days of the week and we arrived to locked doors and a handful of people waiting to get in. Ever unflappable, Rowenna took this as an opportunity to walk around and chatter with the people waiting to get in. Most were happy to say hello and engage with her.
There was a man off to the side, crouched on the ground, not part of the main group of people waiting. He had his hood pulled up over his head and a large back pack stuffed full sitting at this feet. Everyone was ignoring him. Granted, he was giving off a “don’t look at me vibe.” Maybe he was having a bad day.
Rowenna took to walking up and down the sidewalk, pointing at cars and chattering her stream-of-consciousness as she often does on a walk. She rounded the corner and came upon the man with the backpack. She cocked her head and looked at him, then his back pack. He didn’t say anything as Rowenna approached and she ducked down a bit so she could see his face under his hood. Then she gave him a huge smile and said hi.
No response. Rowenna turned and walked up and down the sidewalk again, then came back to say hello to him. She did this a few more times and got no response.
Finally she rounded the corner one last time and squatted in front of the man, though kept her distance. She looked up at him, right into his eyes, and rattled off a string of delighted chatter, fixing him with a wide smile.
And there it was. The man pushed his hood back, shook his head in disbelief, and gave Rowenna a big, beautiful smile. She said hi again and he said hi back before standing up to head into the library, still shaking his head and smiling. And that “don’t look at me” vibe? Gone.
This girl of mine has the uncanny ability to pick just the right time to do this. She is never pushy, always gentle. She gives people space but seems to know exactly when to give them a smile or a pat on the back, to draw them out a bit and make them smile. And when she looks at you, she’s really looking. She’s seeing you. And at the heart of it all, isn’t that what we really want? To be seen?
I don’t know all that’s to come for my sweet girl, but I do know this: it is a future filled with her kindness and gentleness of spirit. A future of seeing others and of being seen. I wouldn’t want things any other way.
Happy birthday, sweet girl!