The story behind “How Down’s Syndrome Made me Kind.”7 2 June 26, 2015
A big “Hi!” to all your sweet faces,
I’ve finally put this story to metal and it’s time to share it. It’s a story about being, a story about kindness, and a story about being kind.
First. I have a big family. I’m the second oldest of 8 kids. Abi is the youngest.
Abi is 14 and really loves the idea of being in a band. She’s decided that she’s moving to B.C. when she’s 30. She is REALLY big on birthdays and all parties in general. Every present is the best present she’s ever gotten. She sings loudly (and really off-key) on the swing set in my parents back yard…every day. She’s always looking for a new best friend to add to her collection of best friends. She loves Alvin and the Chipmunks (much to my parents dismay).
She’s a pretty awesome person.
BUT…It has not always been easy. In the beginning it was extremely difficult.
When Abi was born I was 15. I dove into loving her with all my heart. But, the world around me didn’t understand how it shook our family. She had a heart defect from birth and kept losing weight as her little heart took all her energy just to keep living. I can’t count the nights I crept downstairs at 4 in the morning to see my mother weeping beside Abi’s little stroller in the kitchen. She had to stay in the stroller to accommodate the IV that was keeping her alive. This went on for almost two years.
Pretty much right away I started losing all my hair from the stress. I started wearing a bandana to school to hide the fact that every morning in the shower, handfuls of my hair were falling out. Two weeks after Abi was born I was “pulled aside” and told that I had to take off the bandana and that a hat wouldn’t be allowed in my staunch private school. I was too ashamed to tell the male teacher that I was wearing it because I was losing my hair. I went to the girl’s bathroom, looked at myself in the mirror, removed the bandana and looked at my patchy hair. I started shaking, and promptly peed my pants.
I put on my gym clothes that were sitting in my bag in the change room attached to the bathroom, and went to class.
I got a “uniform violation”.
That night I went home, walked past the permanent fixture of my mum and the stroller/IV, went up to my room and cried. I was so angry at that teacher. At the legality of my school. I felt abandoned by my community. There was an actual moment that night that I decided (in my VERY dramatic 15-year-old way) that I was never going to be like that teacher. That I believe in kindness. I believe in kindness to the ends of the earth. Something shifted in me that day. A seed was planted.
This is how Abi taught me to be kind. Her being alive led me to the experience. The situation was negative but the “take away lesson” was strong and true. Choose kindness. Choose kindness when it hurts and choose kindness when you are angry and choose kindness when you are full of joy. Let it temper you like the very finest steel. Folded and folded and folded again.
At two years old, Abi got the open-heart surgery she needed and she got all chubby, bubbly and happy. I have this vivid memory of her 3rd birthday. My mum put the cake in front of her and she SHRIEKED with joy and dug both hands into the cake, followed by her whole face from chin to forehead. I think maybe that moment was the moment I knew she would be sticking around. I thought, “We’re out of the woods.”
Here we are together shortly after her surgery. I’m wearing a pretty badass wig.
Until someone with special needs shows up in your life, it’s very hard to imagine what it would actually be like. There are lows that crush you and there are the highest highs.
When Abi comes over and we eat ripple chips and watch movies…that is THE BEST DAY OF HER LIFE!!! And so are all the other days when she feels included. When she feels necessary. When she is accepted for both her flaws and for all that she offers. And the lessons she offers are never ending. Here’s a few…
Live with joy. Be here now. Show your love. Try, try, and try again. Don’t limit yourself. Choose kindness. Don’t have me over if you don’t have ripple chips and sprite at the ready.
Abi taught me to look deeper when I meet people. She took my sharp edges and rounded them off. She is a gift that keeps on giving.
So, here is the cuff bracelet. I’ve made it to look like a birthday cake to celebrate the pure moments of contagious joy that come with having someone with Down’s Syndrome in your life. But, I’ve titled it “How Down’s Syndrome Made me Kind.” to denote the hard, and wonderfully poignant lessons that come with the situation of living with someone with special needs. Both “sides of the coin” make up the experience. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The cuff is solid sterling silver with gemstone “sprinkles” in blue, yellow, and pink sapphires, emeralds, rubies, amethyst, and smoky quartz.
This cuff has already gone to a new home, but if you are interested in a commission, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .