And I laugh at myself
While the tears roll down.
'Cause it's the world I know.
~ Collective Soul
So Amy and I decided to celebrate Super Bowl Sunday by participating in another time-honored, All-American past-time: shoe shopping. Amy’s tennis shoes had definitely seen better days and we needed some mommy/daughter time, so off to Nordy’s we went.
As I’ve gotten older, my tolerance for shopping has waned. I much prefer to point, click and just be done with it already. I’ve got things like laundry, e-mails and insurance claims to worry about. But when it comes to items like shoes for the children, I feel that there should be at least some sort of occasional attempt at proper foot measurement. Unfortunately that requires driving, parking, browsing, buying … the whole excruciatingly long process.
I must confess that as we browsed the prominently displayed collections of pink and patent, I felt a warm sense of motherly pride well up, observing Amy’s shoe prowess.
“It’s innate” I smiled to myself. “Genetic.”
She quickly and efficiently settled on three possibilities: a Puma, a Geox (my favorite) and some crazy Chuck Taylor’s.
About that time the Nordy’s shoe lady sauntered over to offer her assistance. She measured Amy’s foot (size 3 ½) and “headed to the back,” returning quickly with a teetering stack of shoe boxes. I admired her super-cute haircut and her red-patent wedges as we chit-chatted. It turned out that she had just moved back to the Boston area from, of all places, my beloved Texas. (We just moved here from Dallas. She just moved here from Houston. I should have picked up on that … what with the cute red shoes and the fabulous haircut…)
Somehow, as it always does with me, the subject of Jack’s autism came up. Immediately her eyes flickered with recognition.
“Oh yeah...” she said. “Isn’t Doug Flutie from around here?”
I opened my mouth to answer; the mouth I had actually applied Bobbi Brown lip gloss to just moments earlier in an attempt to appear minutely with-it while shopping; the mouth that had been happily chit-chatting mere seconds before. Much to my surprise, nothing came out.
Throat tightly closed.
I stammered. Shoe lady awkwardly stared. Amy, fully accustomed to the freak-show her mother can be, focused on walking around, modeling shoes.
I attempted to regain my composure as shoe lady ran to get a Kleenex.
“I’m ssssoooorrry…” I blubbered. “You see, the Flutie Foundation has been an incredibly generous supporter of Jack’s school. They are very much part of the reason the school has been able to expand. Because of that, our sweet Jack has a spot there. We are so, so, so … ggggrrrrrateful” I sputtered.
By this time, other shoe employees were closing in, trying to not be obvious with their rubbernecking. I sniffled, embarrassed by my loss of dignity.
I cleared my throat and declared, “I’ve never met Doug Flutie, but I love him.”
I managed to pull it together and sheepishly handed over my credit card. Of course, in my moment of breakdown I bought not one, but two pair of tennis shoes for Amy. (What can I say. The girl’s brilliant. She knows that if mom’s distracted it’s easier to talk her into unreasonable purchases.)
Nordy shoe lady smiled, handed me my bag and wished us well. I’m sure she thought I was an absolute nutcase.
And she would be right.
In this world of IEP’s and diagnosis, of bullies and blogosphere bickering, of long commutes and sleepless nights, I’m just plain thankful.
Thankful for the Doug Fluties of the world, who don’t have to, but take time to make things easier … better for kids like Jack.
I’ve encountered generous people like this throughout the journey. It reminds me of the feeling I had right after September 11, when we as a country realized we needed to look out for each other … and we did in ways too amazing and inspirational for me to capture on paper.
Anne Frank was right. Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.
So thank you Doug Flutie.
And thank you cashier at Roche Brothers who says “Hi Jack” every weekend as we check out. She remembers his name. So sweet.
And thank you Liz Martineau, mother of 5, Harvard MBA, who chucked it all to start a school for kids like Jack. Your vision is our reality.
And thank you fellow moms, friends, family and blog readers for listening to me drone on and on about anything and everything autism.
And thank you teachers and therapists who are overworked and underpaid. Who endure the budget constraints and parental complaints along with the hair-pulling and face-scratching, all with a smile.
And thank you members of various autism organizations who never fail to respond to my never-ending queries about the politics and direction of autism research and services. What can I say. I'm a world-class worrier.
And thank you to my sweet neighbor who I saw the other day while I was out running. She told me she reads my crazy blog every day, even though she is not personally affected. I was so incredibly touched by that.
Mount Judith occasionally just has to crumble with gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to experience the beauty of human kindness.
Hopefully next time I can crumble somewhere other than Nordy’s shoe department. My pride and my credit card would be grateful for that.
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