February 20, 2010

Smiles and laughter

Alex has the most beautiful smile in the whole wide world. When she smiles she looks like she has a huge, happy secret she is bursting to share. It is one of my favorite things about Alex; she can turn a cloudy day into a sunny day with just her smile.

This has always been the case with Alex; her smile can light up a room, the house and the entire world. It can make anyone happy, and I have often heard from others that it has been successful. It is a gift.

Alex has the most wonderful laugh in the universe. My sweet daughter has the ability to find humor in most situations. Once she finds this humor, it can be difficult to get her to refocus. The situation can go downhill in a good way, very quickly. This manifests itself in a laugh that runs into tears and causes such contagion I become hysterical too. We have made a spectacle of ourselves in many a public place.

This talent was first revealed to me when Alex was a toddler. I remember reading her books before bed, as I would tuck her in she would begin to laugh. This laugh starts in her belly and expands to her entire person until she is shaking with glee. This always causes me to laugh until I cry. It is pure joy.

We have missed this smile recently. Alex’s challenges during the basketball season have put her, and us in a bit of a funk. Instead of picking up a happy, successful Alex, I have been picking up a sad and disappointed Alex. She kept her smile to herself and did not share. We appeased her with cheeseburgers.

Sarah came to visit at the perfect time for Alex, and for us. Alex smiled and smiled and smiled for four days. Sarah was kind and gentle, she made Alex feel special. All was right in Alex’s world and her beautiful smile proved it. She is still smiling, and I anxiously hope this will last through soccer season. More about the later.

Alex’s laugh has also been missing. I know it is hard for a 16 year old high school girl. Every teenager has pressures which make it hard to be happy, all the time. School, social interactions and sports have been challenging for Alex this winter. Her laugh has suffered; it became a quick giggle, not the belly roar I love so much.

Happily, this too, has returned. This rebirth occurred during the Olympic women skiers races. I teased Alex and asked if she could race that fast during her competition. I know I was kidding when I said this, but all kidding aside, Alex found this to be hysterical. The grumbling started in her tummy, and built into a full-fledged body shaking, breath taking howl. Within seconds both Alex and I were crying with laughter. It felt wonderful.

There are many great things about having a child with down syndrome, and there are many not so great things. I always try to focus on the positive, and minimize the negatives. But when I see Alex’s smile return and hear her enormous laugh the negatives just seem to melt away.

The world would be a better place if everyone could see a child with special needs smile and laugh. I am lucky.

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