Monday, June 4, 2007
Booties and Burgers
I attended a baby shower this past weekend that was a bit unconventional. The mom-to-be is a woman who worked after school with my daughter, Ashley. She is also a high school special education teacher. Dad-to-be works at the same high school and assists students with special needs find supported employment. They seem to be one of those couples who are perfectly suited for each other.
The shower was billed as a shower/cookout and was held at the couple’s home in the country, although in this case, country was only about 20 minutes from city. But, it was indeed country. The drive to their house wound past cows in the field, the Gospel Chicken House, and huge country estates with bright white fencing surrounding the property. After a series of twists and turns, I approached their driveway - a long, unpaved, washboard, bump-inducing road. The barbecue grill was going, folks were playing horseshoes and volleyball, and the mosquito-repelling lights were lit. Other than the couple themselves, and Amy who accompanied me to the shower, I knew no one there. And, it was indeed an interesting group of people.
Besides the grandparents-to-be, an older woman who had been the babysitter for the mom-to-be was there. Large families whose children had grown up with the parents-to-be were also there. The instructional assistants from the mom-to-be’s classroom were there as was a special needs bus driver. Also, several participants from Special Olympics teams which the parents-to-be coached were there. There were young children, very senior citizens, and all of us that are in between. I’m used to baby showers attended only by women, arranged by someone other than the mother-to-be, with silly little shower games played. But, the food on the grill at this shower made my mouth water, something that can’t be said for the pastel colored mints in the shapes of rattles and booties usually served at baby showers, and the tunes from the outside radio were current and fit for a party!
As I often do in settings where I know few people, I chose a seat on the periphery of the action and observed. Some of the adult Special Olympians were playing volleyball with the children and neither team seemed fazed by the height differences. Groups of ladies were sitting and discussing their own grandchildren, and several teenage girls were realizing that heels, fancy clothes and outdoor barbecues don’t really go together. One of the more interesting discussions on which I eavesdropped was between the father of the mom-to-be and several of his older, male buddies. They were discussing children born with special needs, and how these children should be considered gifts from God – not burdens. All I could wonder is why I haven’t met a man who shared the views of these incredible fathers.
While I was in my observation mode, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that one of the Special Olympians had pulled up a chair beside me. He didn’t say anything but smiled sweetly when I noticed him. He seemed to be in his mid-20’s and he was built very much like the rain-catching barrel at the corner of our host’s house. When he and I did chat, his intellectual disability, though not extreme, was obvious. What was even more obvious was that this man was flirting with me! Having not been flirted with in quite a while, I admit I was embarrassed. Fortunately, the blushing on my face was obscured by my near-heat exhaustive condition brought on by the temperature and humidity of the day. I was not embarrassed because this person with an intellectual disability was flirting with me. I was embarrassed because I was old enough to be his mother! Speaking of his mother, she had, in my opinion done a fine job of raising her son. He was polite and considerate, not only to me but to others as well. He was not obsequious or submissive as many people with disabilities can be after years of oppression. He was honestly and politely well-mannered – qualities many of us Southerners find quite charming. The time for opening baby presents arrived, and as I stood to move closer to the circle of people surrounding the mom-to-be, my admirer gallantly pulled out my chair, smiled sweetly again, and walked away.
The unconventional people at this unconventional baby shower were quietly making a huge and positive difference in the world. I was proud to have been included in this affair, and I know without a doubt that these parents-to-be will raise fine children.