The joys of a “child on the fringe”
posted at 12:31 pm on November 29, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
This may be the best read of all today, which mostly (but not entirely) doesn’t pertain to politics. Cristina Nehring offers a painfully honest look at herself before and after the birth of her special-needs daughter. There are many compelling points Nehring makes, but this is one of the best:
It is sometimes said—and Solomon’s book often echoes this bias—that autism is mysterious, Down syndrome is not. Autists are prodigies, introverts, misunderstood; people with Down syndrome are just dumb and dull. And yet, Eurydice has always been mysterious to me. To this day she does not speak—or, rather, she does not speak any publicly recognized language. But she has an enormous amount to say, uncanny capacities for observation, and startling social intelligence. In the French-English-German universe she inhabits, she has invented a vernacular all her own in which she makes orations so self-assured, well-inflected, and precisely punctuated by rhetorical gesticulation that strangers often inquire which language it is she’s speaking.
Wherever she goes, she brings people together—imperiously gesturing to cantankerous couples to sit down together and lifting their palms onto each others’ thighs, reconciling warring classmates by joining their hands, and charming child-leery adults with flirty smiles and studious imitations of their idiosyncrasies. Her gifts are the opposite of my own: Where I am shy, she is bold; where I am good with (known) words, she is good with drama, dance, and music; where I am frightened of groups, she loves them, and the children in her preschool compete hard to sit by her side at lunchtime as the nurses in her hospital petitioned to be assigned to her room.
Am I “cheerily generalizing” as Solomon says of other Down syndrome parents, “from a few accomplishments” of my child? Perhaps I am. But one thing I’ve learned these last four years that possibly Solomon has not: All of our accomplishments are few. All of our accomplishments are minor: my scribblings, his book, the best lines of the best living poets. We embroider away at our tiny tatters of insight as though the world hung on them, when it is chiefly we ourselves who hang on them. Often a dog or cat with none of our advanced skills can offer more comfort to our neighbor than we can. (Think: Would you rather live with Shakespeare or a cute puppy?) Each of us has the ability to give only a little bit of joy to those around us. I would wager Eurydice gives as much as any person alive.
Be sure to read it all.
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