I couldn’t wait to see them. It had been a long day and I’d had enough of the outside world. I enthusiastically threw my blackberry into my handbag, left it on the car seat and slammed the door closed behind me.
As I trudged up the steps, I listened for them.
The door at the top of the stairs swung open just as I reached it, pulled by a tiny little arm.
I stopped short of the second step and found myself eye to eye with Brooke. Literally – as she was looking right at me.
It still takes me back every time, this full frontal view of my daughter. The beauty of her face head-on stops me in my tracks. For so long I only got to see her from the side, always slightly askew to avoid my eyes. But now, more and more often I get the incredible gift of that full moon face.
My mouth and my arms opened simultaneously, but the words didn’t make it out and the arms hung ackwardly empty as she stood her ground in the doorway.
“I would paint now,” was the only greeting she offered.
“Oh. Um hi, love.”
“I would paint now,” she said again.
“OK, sweetheart. Could you say ‘hi’ to Mama first please and then we can talk about painting?”
“Hi, Mama. I said, ‘Hi Mama.’ I would paint now.”
“Ok, Brooke, perhaps you could let me in the door, honey?”
She scooted over ever so slightly. I made my way through the eighteen inches she gave me and moved toward the stairs.
“I would paint now.”
I plopped down on the bottom stair and asked her to join me there. I was exhausted. She reluctantly sat down next to me. “OK, Brooke, here’s what I’d like to do,” I began. “ FIRST, I’d like to have a hug. THEN I will go up and change my clothes. THEN I will come back and get all the paints ready for you, OK?”
She gave me a quick hug – mailed in at best – and said, “I hugged you. We hugged. I would paint now.”
As I laid yesterday’s newspaper across the kitchen table, Katie came running in from the den to join the party. “Oooooh, paints!!!” she squealed in delight.
Two sets of paints, two brushes, two smocks, ten sheets of paper and two happy girls later, I finally snuck up to change my clothes.
As I walked back down the steps I thought of the IEP goals. Yes, the ones I swore I wouldn’t obsess about. Those. The ones that have, over the years, always included some form of ’communication of wants and needs.’
I took a deep breath as I rounded the corner into the kitchen. There she was, hovering intently over her latest masterpiece, her sister at her side.
Having been able to tell me exactly what she wanted and needed.
‘She’ll get there,’ I thought. She’ll get to wherever her ‘there’ might be. All in her own time.