Recently my fellow friends and writers began determining roommates for the 33rd Annual RWA conference in Atlanta, Georgia… which of course resurrected all my oldest insecurities about fitting in. When I was in 6th grade, my parents took me out of Catholic school and sent me, a very sheltered girl, off to public school. It was…umm, different. Those private school students had been more like siblings and the public school kids—it took some adjustment on that score. My best friend in private school was a boy. We spent half the time in recess playing GI Joe and the other half, playing ‘pretend wedding'. He didn’t care that it was absurdly silly that I spent our recess waiting for a limo that was never coming. He was just my friend and accepted me, little-girl dreams and all. Fast-forward to my first foray into public school. The kids were picking kickball teams and I remember sitting on the sidelines. No one wanted to ‘pick me' because I was the new girl.
I was picked second to last, which in hindsight, I imagine was a good deal harder for the girl who went last, even behind the unknown girl. On my first kick, I drove the ball down the third base line and ran hard for a double. It was the last time I was picked last. Instead I became the girl who could run. And the girl who could kick. I loved being picked at the front of the line.
My son, by nature of his disability struggles with many things. At this point, his speech is unintelligible to most, his gait a bit more awkward than a typical child…and through it all, there are so many things to worry about.
So what do I worry over? I worry about when he’ll get picked for kickball. Or will the kids invite him to join in their reindeer games?
When we lived in a bucolic New England town last year, it seemed the epitome of familial and neighborhood perfection. Except, in two years, the students in his class never invited him on one play-date. No birthday parties. And all my earliest fears; would he fit in and would he have friends, seemed to have been realized in those days.
Until last February, we moved our tiny family of three to a new town. And I found that what we waste our days worrying about, yes, those events can come to fruition. But more than that, sometimes, something better happens. People surprise you.
What I’ve been amazed at through my relatively new journey is just how much we can learn from children and just how desperately I want to freeze-frame these little four-year-olds and forever keep them as the kind-hearted, beautiful souls who don’t need words. Or to win. Or to come in first. They just love. Because inherently that’s what we crave. We want to love and be loved, and you don’t need words for that.
All you need is the touch of a hand,
Or the reassuring arms of a friend.
You need friends who, just like you, appreciate good Mexican food.
And friends who aren't ever too big to get into a crib, just to be beside you.
You need smiles and laughter.
And if you have all those things? Well, then nothing else really matters.
Not even if you get picked last.
So how about you? Were you picked first or last? And how did it impact your life?