I hear her before I see her.

Or at least that’s the way I think it happened, looking back now. It’s the sound, the joy, that I remember first.

The familiar squeal, the thrum of her fingers, the tap tap tap of a foot gone rogue.

I know the kind of joy that fills a space far larger than one can be expected to contain.

My girl’s body does her happy too.

The young woman looks to be in her late teens or early twenties. She is shopping with a woman I assume to be her mom. As Mom peruses the racks of clothing, Daughter squeals and thrums and tap tap taps, marking her path, claiming her space, heralding her being.

I am overwhelmed with a desire to connect with them, either of them, both of them. To tell them that though we are strangers, so too, we are family.

Pharrell William’s Happy comes on the store’s sound system and I can’t help but smile. That song is my girl’s anthem. She owned the stage with that song.

The young woman sings along. Her words are three beats behind the music and are, to be fair, loosely approximated, but they are no less beautiful for their artistry over accuracy, perhaps more so because they ARE art. Swirls of sound in music need not be words to say all that they are meant to say, and far more. She doesn’t stop moving, thrumming, tap tap tapping as she sings.

I watch her mama smile at her. “You like this song don’t you?” she asks. I can’t stop watching them, reveling in their freedom to be who they are. I want to tell them. Too many mamas would quiet her. I want to thank Mom for not quieting her. I want to thank Daughter for being so beautifully, deliciously loud. I want to tell her that by unapologetically carving her space in the world she is allowing my daughter to fill the expanse of her own.

I worry that they’ll think that I’m staring, judging, leering. I want to say, “I’m watching for the right reasons. I promise.” If there’s a way to do that, I don’t know what it is. The song ends and she goes back to humming.

Our paths cross. Mom looks at me and I her. I smile self-consciously. I turn to Daughter.

“I loved hearing you sing,” I say. “Your joy was contagious.”

She jumps ever so slightly into the air.

Mama smiles – a big, real smile. She tells daughter to say, “Thank you.”

There’s no immediate response. I linger, smiling, pretending to be looking at a rack of shirts. I don’t want her to feel pressured, but I want to give her the time that she might need. Eventually, she says what I know is a thank you.

I want to tell her that by unapologetically carving her space in the world she is allowing my daughter to fill the expanse of her own. But the tears are coming. It’s too much – one of the moments in which my body does my feelings too.

“Thank YOU,” I manage, my voice beginning to break, “You made my night with your Happy.”

I smile at mom.

She smiles at me.

I manage, barely, to leave without vastly inappropriately hugging them both.

6 thoughts on “familiar

  1. I love this. My son likes to make instrument noises (usually trumpet) to music. Recently someone stopped him and said “that’s amazing. How do you do that?” Love when others enthusuastically join our world 🙂

  2. My little guy sometimes gets a little loud at the grocery store. He’s usually having fun and being good – he gets excited pointing out the numbers of the aisles or the letters on things (he’s not quite 4 and loves pointing out letters and number), and he sometimes sings or just makes car noises and pretends to drive the cart (we always use those carts that look like race cars with the steering wheels for the kids). One day he was having a lot of fun and being particularly loud about it. I just let him as long as he stays in the cart. I sometimes get looks, but I try not to let it get to me. This day a lady in maybe her mid 50’s kept smiling at him. He was making all kinds of car noises “vroom vroom, beep beep!” When she walked by, she smiled and looked at him out of the corned of her eye and quietly said “beep beep” He gave her a look back like she was crazy. I couldn’t stop smiling. We passed her again and she did the same thing. This time he started laughing. We must have passed this lady three more time while shopping and she beeped at him every time and he loved it – cracked him us every time. It made us both so happy. I love that lady – whoever she is – she got my little guy.

  3. I ran into a young boy about 9 or 10 standing in front of me in line at Barnes and Nobles. He had the hood of his sweatshirt up and was humming to himself quietly. At first I thought he had ear buds on and was singing a song, but then I realized he had his fingers in his ears and was doing his best to block out the noise around him. His mom was in front of him and as the line moved he didn’t notice so I silently waited not wanting to disrupt him until mom turned around to give him a tug on the shirt. She made eye contact and started to apologize but I stopped her and asked, “Does he have trouble with the noise?” She said yes and that he had a plan that he follows to get him through the visit to the store. I told her that he was doing a fabulous job regulating himself in an uncomfortable situation and waved hi to him. This lead into a great conversation with mom about resources and events in the area and I told her about the sensibility Gym in Hopedale that he might enjoy. I could see her relief not having to explain or apologize and that her son was recognized for the strength it took him to even be in line meant so much.

    That’s acceptance and sharing that we all need to have with each other.

  4. I love this. Every word. I remember taking my daughter just this past fall to a social skills group for the first time. I saw this table of girls who, any one of them, could have been my daughter, even though they didn’t look anything like her. It was the mannerisms, the specific kind of awkwardness, the talking a bit too loudly, the bit of unease…but it made me happy because they were just all so beautifully different, like my girl.

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