Scott will laugh at just how much of an understatement this next sentence is: I am a really emotional, sensitive, deep-thinking person.
I ask a lot of “what if” questions and I ponder the past — A LOT. It’s just always been in my nature and I find myself going through ebbs and flows of where it takes a hold of me and I’m even more sentimental.
Zack just interjected from kicking his arms and legs out on the brightly-colored blankets on the floor and said “Ah-bah. Gah-ah. Bleeeeee. Meh. Bah!” (I wonder if he agrees?)
Anyway, the recent visit from my sister Shelby and brother Shamus (you’d never know we were an Irish family, right?) prompted me to bring out one of the many large boxes of photos taken by my mother during my childhood. I probably acquire two or three of these boxes every time I see my dad, who is as sentimental as I am, although with more packrat tendencies. I’ve received my mom’s old wallet, a broken watch, her drivers’ license and an envelope filled with my baby teeth, my mom’s lovely script in purple ink across the top. I appreciate it, but I would rather cherish the special or unique (or sentimental?) items of hers — things she made that I can decorate my house with or things specifically written for or about me, for instance.
Shelby and Shamus and I share a biological father (not the man I call my dad) but had different mothers. We never had the chance to grow up together or share in life’s ups and downs — until now. We’re making up for lost time.
There were envelopes filled with photos of people I didn’t recognize in some of my Mom Boxes and I decided to take a stab at bringing them out to see if my brother and sister could fill in some of the blanks.It was great! Shelby poured over the photos, writing names and family connections on the back of several of the photos and sharing stories of birthday parties, road trips and Christmas presents.
There was a point in my life, not that long ago, where I thought I didn’t want or need to know the Irish side of my family. But now that I’m a mother, I feel I owe it to Zack to learn all I can about one-quarter of who he is and where he came from. It’s not all pretty, but it’s all family, all answers.
Among the photos was a school paper of mine from 1992. I was in second grade — an 8-year-old on the verge of losing her mother and lost in herself. It must have been an assignment to tell about yourself and among my being “funny” and a “nice girl”, I wrote about enjoying the mall and wearing a headband. But two lines really struck me:
Line One: “I am half Irish.” How proud I must have been to be that ethnicity, to have that family, despite not even knowing my brother and sister at that point.
And then the second-to-last line: “sometimes scared.” Imagine an eight-year-old girl who describes herself as being scared.
I overcame that fear, although it took more than 15 years to do so. But then, the day I learned for certain that Zack had Down Syndrome, I felt that great fright creeping up through my throat all over again. And just like I would have used “always scared” as an adjective for 26-year-old Wendy, feeling as though I’d never be able to drop that description for words like “happy” or “strong”, here I am, just a few months later, more proud than ever and more comfortable with being the mother of a baby with Down Syndrome than I ever thought possible.
Time heals all wounds.
I am no longer that scared little girl, not knowing who she was.
And I am no longer the frightened new mother, afraid of who she would become.