Marcus and I very nearly, almost, kind of, attended our first Buddy Walk
Before I go on, I have to confess my biggest downfall as a writer, perhaps as a person if I’m truthful, is that I am incredibly selfish. Well, maybe a better term is self-centered, because it is not that I don’t care about others, I hope it’s clear from my actions that I do care about others. Where I fall short is that I notice myself first and sometimes, I can’t see past my own feelings to notice others. There. I said it.
Even as I settled into bed the night before the walk, I nurtured a lot of anxiety. As the alarm woke me, I hit snooze several times, alternately talking myself into and out of getting up and getting going. I told myself, Watch other people. Use this time to hone your observation skills, take mental notes on others. What are they doing, look like, enjoying…be the watcher that the best writers are and everything will be fine, I told myself. Marcus and I actually have very little experience interacting with other people/families with Down syndrome, I mean in real life, we’re ready – let’s learn from this.
October had other plans.
The morning wind swirled about, blustering, and the wind is not our friend. To make a long story short, the wind is perhaps Marcus’ number one nemesis. Although he bundled up in his winter coat and a scarf (the scarf helps). it’s not always enough. The wind catches in his throat and causes him to gag. It pretty much sucks for him a lot. He said it best with, “This lousy city is choking my neck!”
Let me interject that Marcus was not negatively anxious in any way about the walk, in fact, he kept calling it the Fun Walk, instead of the Buddy Walk. If the day was not windy, he would have embraced every point along the way. New T-Shirt, snacks, music, people, being Elvis, he had it all planned out. But, again, October.
So this brought me all back to the worry zone and another confession. I do as much as I can to facilitate people meeting Marcus at his best, allowing him to give a positive first impression. Because the fact is, Marcus doesn’t get the benefit of a real first impression; many people who meet Marcus already have a first impression set. And these impressions are ones of extremes. These impressions are not of Marcus but of Down syndrome in whatever capacity they know or don’t know about that one bit of Marcus.
Now, you may be thinking, But this is the Buddy Walk! These people are on Your Team. Where could you be less nervous? Um. No. More nervous. For so many complex reasons that I will articulate.
For now let’s all agree that the last thing I want to have is Marcus in a situation where the first thing people see of him is him gagging on the wind. And by the way, the other last thing I want is for Marcus to be at that level of discomfort, that he is choked by the wind. (Lousy City)
We stopped in a very busy shop for chocolate milk, halfway between the car and the park. We made a plan: Get his t-shirt. Go back home. He was very happy with that plan. What I saw there were many families, teams, of folks proudly wearing their T21 regalia. I saw a few really cute babies. Did I see many other anxious faces? Was that my filter? Or was it the wind?
Once we reached the park and Marcus saw all the people and the dancing, I asked again and again, “Do you want to stay?”
“Next time.” He said.