The place was packed with cold weather coffee drinkers and the line started at the back door. I took my place in wait, aggravated, anxious, and feeling extremely worn down. I grabbed a Folio, read the front page, stuffed it under my arm and looked around at all the happy, smiling people. Young couples snuggled on the sofa, whispering and giggling in love; another at the table sitting laptop-to-laptop, each lost in their own space, but together in it. Families gathered for the holidays, glowing in each others company, and me standing alone, wishing I was anywhere but there.
I took a mug down off the shelf, trying to distract myself, tune everything and everyone out, but it seemed the happy din only grew louder, ringing in my ears, getting closer to the trigger. Did I really want coffee bad enough to put myself through this, I thought as I placed the mug back on the shelf. I decided that I didn’t and when I turned to leave, there she was; sitting at a table right there in front of me, completely oblivious to everything and everyone, but for the blueberry muffin she held in both hands and raised to her mouth.
She was wearing a little Burberry plaid dress with a dropped waist, white anklet socks and black sparkly Mary Jane’s. Her mother wore a purple cashmere sweater with a pretty patterned scarf adorning her neck that flattered her stylish hair and brought out the color in her eyes; eyes that never wavered from her little girl, eyes that sparkled with love; eyes that reflected her truth and concern, as she reached out and caught a crumb that fell from her child’s mouth.
The line moved and I stepped forward without thinking. I watched as the mother set the crumb on the plate then reached up and stroked the little girl’s face, which lit up with a smile as bright as a Cheshire moon; a smile familiar of children with Down’s Syndrome, but a smile most certainly all her own.
The line moved me further away, and as I was finally standing at the other end of the bar waiting for my drink, I saw the little girl get up from the table. There was nothing graceful about the way she walked through the crowd, seemingly unnoticed by everyone she passed, and yet I was drawn to her presence, as was her mother, tuned in her chair watching her all the way. When she reached the corner where a young girl was standing and said, “Pardon me,” as she made her way past and deposited her muffin wrapper in the trash, I felt something warm begin to grow inside me, and soon recognized it to be my heart.
Tears filled then spilled out of my eyes, as I watched her give her mother a high five when she got back to the table, for having successfully completed her independent feat, just as Tiffany called out my name and wished me a good day.
I walked outside and the chill hit me hard, and I felt the tears cold on my face. I got in my van and just sat there; unable to move forward, unable to move at all, for I was caught in that moment, still looking back. I finally placed my cup in the holder and saw the candy cane neatly wrapped where I had mindlessly left it. I picked it up, got out of the van and made my way back around to the back door and went inside. I walked up to the table, the little girl had her drink in her hand, her mother was holding her own cup and was telling her that the pretty little piece decorated with stars was called a sleeve and it was there to keep her from burning her hands.
The mother looked up and our eyes met only briefly, I looked down at the little girl and said, “Excuse me?” to which she immediately turned her attention to me, looked up and said, “Yes?”
I leaned down to her level, so that my face was right beside hers and said, “You look like a Christmas angel in your pretty dress and sparkly shoes,” she looked into my eyes and said, “Thank you.” I held out my hand and gave her the candy cane, wished her Merry Christmas and stroked her silky hair; her eyes grew wide and that smile covered her face, only this time that smile was for me, and I inhaled it deeply and let it fill me. I stood up and looked at her mother, whose eyes were now filled with tears of genuine gratitude, “Thank you,” she said, “that was so very sweet and kind.” I smiled back at her and nodded, hoping that I had somehow conveyed what my heart was feeling. I turned and walked out, only this time I felt no chill, and as I walked past the window, I turned and looked in, the little girl was wrapped in her mother’s arms, candy cane in hand and though I couldn’t see it, I knew she still wore that smile.
As do I…
©2012 jill terry