a gift given twice


Katie has been hanging out with me and my dear friends, Drama Mama and Mom-NOS in the kitchen. She’s buzzing around sprinkling electric energy in her path.

She is offering up ‘Spa Services’- clutching a mesh bag full of nail polishes and another stuffed with makeup, eager to find someone – anyone – who will surrender her fingernails or face to her. Bless their hearts, they both say yes. Oh, how I adore my friends. She sets up shop and goes to work.

While she works, we talk about our children. We talk about their struggles and we talk about their gifts. We talk about the obstacles they’ve overcome and share strategies we’ve used to help them.

Katie motions for Mom-NOS to dunk her hand into the water bowl she’s set up for soaking.

We talk about how proud we are of these amazing children. We talk about their uniqueness. Their very THEMness. We talk about what they CAN do. We talk about what they DO do. We talk about how they have changed us. We talk about the incredible people that they are turning out to be.

Mom-NOS tells Katie about a game that Bud plays in school every morning. How he spells his name for the class – B-U-D! – and the class responds by saying his name – Bud! – and he then says, “That’s me!”

Katie asks questions. How old is Bud? He’s eleven. What grade is he in? Fifth. She decides immediately that she’d like to meet him. He sounds like fun. She’d like to play the B-U-D game with him.

As Mom-NOS is getting ready to head home (and I’m getting ready to grab onto her ankles and beg her to never, ever leave), Katie disappears up the stairs and into her room. She reemerges in a flash, breathing hard. I notice that her fist is clenched.

She grabs my hand and with all the subtlety of a bowling ball in a bathtub, pulls me aside. “Mama,” she says, nearly breathless, “I need to ask you something QUIETLY.” She stage-whispers the word ‘quietly’ so that it is actually louder than any other word. I try to look serious.

“Yes, baby?” I ask. “What’s up?”

She opens her fingers just enough to reveal a small giraffe figurine from her room. As soon as she’s sure that I’ve seen it, she closes her fingers around it again.

“Do you think it would be OK for me to give this to Mom-NOS to take home for Bud? I know it’s mine, and you probably got it for me, so please don’t be mad.”

As Katie handed Mom-NOS her gift for Bud, my heart split open with pride.

Later that night, Katie and I were alone together in the car. I told her how proud I was of her. How I never cease to be amazed by the incredible person that she has already become. We talked about getting together with Mom-NOS again sometime soon and meeting Bud. Her eyes lit up. She reminded me of the B-U-D game. “Mama, that would be the first thing I’d do because then he’d know that I knew it and he’d be comfortable with me, ya know what I mean?”

I smiled. “Yes, baby, I said, “I know exactly what you mean.”

I don’t know why, but in that moment, something shifted. My perspective broke open and everything looked different. I had to share the revelation.

“You know, baby,” I said, “you will have a richer life than most people on this planet.”

She asked what I meant.

“Katie, your life will be so full because you are willing to SEE people. You want to meet them, know them, play with them, understand them, share joy with them. Your life will be full of people who not everyone was willing to take the time to get to know. And it will be immeasurably richer for their presence. You have a lot to look forward to. You are a very lucky girl.”

We drove in comfortable silence as she processed my words.

After a quiet minute she asked, “You mean like Bud?”

I choked back the tears yet again.

“Yes, baby. Like Bud.”

Then softly she said, “And Brooke.”

It wasn’t a question, but I offered affirmation anyway.

“Yes, baby, like Brooke.”

Yes, a child who lacks prejudice – who is open and accepting, loving and compassionate – is a gift to the world. But so too, what will come to her as a direct result of her lack of prejudice is a gift to that child – a life FULL of incredible people – some with challenges, ALL with gifts.




37 thoughts on “a gift given twice

  1. That young lady is more than something special. She is amazing. You are amazing. And the gifts that you, and Drama, and Mom-NOS have given to all of us go beyond what any one of us could have asked for. You are helping to create a whole new world – your whole family is. Thank you for everything.

  2. When I was fortunate enough to have you share this beautiful story on the phone with me last night, I was also deeply proud of Katie. I also remember telling you that she was very much like my own daughter and she is, you know!

    I love you both so much,

  3. So true, Jess. So many people don’t know what they’re missing when they don’t stop to truly SEE other people. Katie IS a lucky girl, and so are so many that get to have her in their lives!

  4. Once again, Oak Trees and acorns”. The model for her generosity and compassion didn’t start and develop in a vacuum. She is surrounded by a wonderful and beautiful mommy who works deliberately to teach good “stuff” in each teachable moment as it appears.
    Love you,

  5. The giraffe. How many times did I replay that image in my head? And frankly, being on the receiving end of Katie’s loving hands painting, soaking, and massaging? This is a child who vibrates on a different plane. She gets IT. I credit you, Luau, and Katie herself for her amazing grace. Let’s not forget, of course, who the real teacher is…and with a sister like Katie, she will never, ever walk alone.

    You are beyond blessed.

  6. DOAM, it’s always about perspective and how we choose to see things. YOU have been given the opportunity and YOU have made the most of it, kudos to YOU! This didn’t happen by accident……apple/tree DOAM:)

  7. The warm fuzzies I have from reading this will carry me through this difficult day! Thank you for ALL of the gifts that you give to our ever growing community. Your girls WILL change this world. I have no doubt. After all, YOU are their Mama!

  8. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, she is an amazing little girl, and I know just where she gets it from. 🙂

  9. I think sometimes hearts recognize each other, even when the bodies that house them have never before occupied the same space. My heart did a lot of recognizing this weekend.

    You probably don’t know how Katie and I met. I was in a small group of people, most of whom Katie didn’t know. She had been in the next room looking at Drama’s birthday cake – which was really more a work of art than it was a confection.

    Katie walked up to me and in a tone that conveyed “I have known you forever,” she said, “Seriously. Can you even believe that cake?”

    “Seriously!” I replied. “What is UP with that cake?” Then we went to check it out together, pointing out the intricate details and marveling that such a cake could be – that WE could have the privilege of seeing such a cake. And while our mouths were speaking cake, I could hear, just as clearly, the dialogue of our hearts – “It’s you, right?”; “It’s me. And it’s YOU! I can’t believe it’s you.”; “I know. I’m so glad I found you.”

    That’s the thing about Katie. With her astute observations, her high intelligence, her quick wit, and facility with the well-placed eye-roll, she could be the most precocious child in the world. But she’s not. Her generosity of spirit and her genuine ability to CONNECT are what drive her. She is not just a great kid. She’s an incredible person – from the inside out.

    And Brooke. It took everything I had to keep from scooping her up, because though she is lithe and breezy in all the places that Bud is stocky and solid, I saw my son in the way she negotiated the world. I felt an instant connection – an instant kinship – and I turned to Luau and said “She feels like a relative. A cousin.” But I didn’t scoop her up. I kept my distance, but sat in her line of vision, hoping that my body language and my silence said “I’m safe,” and thinking that someday I would be able to sit in the doorway, another day, on the floor nearby, and someday – someday – on the couch beside her.

    When I was leaving, Brooke said “Please come again sometime.” I knew it was a script. But I also know scripting well enough to know that I got “Pleased to be in the presence of a girl wise in the ways of the frog,” and not “My dragon badge! It’s gone! FOREVER!!!” And I treasure the message in that script. I also got a pinky hug – the Brooke equivalent of Bud’s high five – the very beginning of contact – the jumping off point.

    I can’t wait to keep jumping – to get our kids together – to introduce Bud to his cousins. I know that at first it might be messy – it might even be explosive. But we’ll manage the landmines, giraffes in hand, with Katie as our guide. We’ll learn, and revamp, and keep trying, and keep getting better. We’ll let our hearts do the talking. We’ll be great.

    You, Luau, Katie, Brooke. You are all such gifts. I feel lucky that my heart has found you.

  10. What a beautiful young lady, Katie has already become. I wish I had moms I could spend time with and who are on a similar journey to mine. It would make it feel less lonely. I have a neurotypical daughter and I am still trying to train her to treat people without prejudice. But then, I have to remind myself that I have 11 years of bad training to undo that she learned from her bio family. SIGH. You have such treasures and are such a good mom, Jess. God Bless you and your beautiful family.

  11. What a lovely story about Katie and her wonderful heart. I know how much more compassionate and intuitive my children are because of their brother J. When I look back and think of all the things we couldn’t or didn’t do because of him, I also realize because of him they have an insight into the world that most people will never have. What a wonderful family you have. Thank you once again for sharing.

  12. Your family is amazing. I think this is exactly one of the gifts that autism brings to those it touches—the ability to SEE people, the ability to experience them for who they are, not what we feel they should be. Most people don’t learn that until much later in life. You should be very proud of that Katie of yours.

  13. Aw Jess, and mom-nos, and drama and niksmom and boy wonders mom and all the other mamas…when we share our children with each other and with those who are willing to really SEE them (as Jess says), I have to believe that beautiful, amazing things will continue to happen.

    And that Katie, well she’s just something else.

  14. thank you all so much for your incredible comments. i am moved to tears by the love and support that you show my family. thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

  15. A union of spirits- and all who can see them. Sooo glad that you all got to meet in real bodies and extend the love. And yes, Katie is blessed because she’s learned how from grownups who SEE. It’s the Velveteen Rabbit.

  16. just beautiful. and so true. katie always reminds me of this verse:
    “Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.
    She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.”
    Prov. 31: 25,26

  17. Another beutiful story. I hope my daughter grows up to be as special as yours. I think she will cause she really gets and loves so much her brother.

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