Alex is participating in Challenge Aspen’s music and dance camp this week. The week long camp culminates in a very professional and well attended musical production. The camp attracts people with disabilities from across the country and is one of the regular events in our summer. The families come for vacation and the kids go to camp. It is a win-win for everyone, including me!
This year’s production is Grease and Alex got the part of Sandy #5. Scouting reports say Alex has a solo and is very sexy in it. This is such the opposite of type casting that I am chomping at the bit to see the performance. As usual Alex will not share anything with me, although I did help her download “You’re the One that I want” from I-tunes so she could practice.
Music and Dance camp provides so many opportunities for Alex. First, it is so popular that there are volunteers galore to help with the production. Many of these volunteers are teenagers or young adults, which makes for a rambunctious, active and fun day for everyone. The smiles from the campers and the volunteers say it all when I pick-up Alex at the end of each day. Everyone had fun and was included and respected for who they are, isn’t that the way it should be every day?
The second opportunity is one that a girl from a rural area with not a lot of friends needs – friends! These kids come from cities like Chicago, Nashville, Denver and Dallas. These are people that have access to more services and more peers than Alex will ever have in our rural community.
Alex has been going to camp for the five summers we have lived here and each year the same kids, I guess I should say actors, attend. These actors have built relationships over the years and remember each other as friends. Alex is even friends with some of these actors on facebook. When they reunite they hug, chat and giggle, it is very special.
This year’s special opportunity and the best one - Alex has a camp boyfriend!
Alex’s old “boyfriend” or as she describes him, her ex-boyfriend relocated to CA at the end of the school year. T has down syndrome just like Alex and they were like two peas in a pod. I have tried to encourage other relationships for Alex, but she is just not interested. Silly me, Alex needs to pick out her own man – not me. But to do this, Alex needs a bigger pool of applicants to meet her requirements for a boyfriend. Camp gave her this pool.
One of the campers who we see every summer is a very delightful young man named J. He is polite, tall and handsome, just the person a mother would like her daughter to meet. J came to camp this year and the two renewed their previous friendship as if they had never been apart for the year.
I had no idea anything was going on between these two until the following conversation transpired:
Alex – “Mom, J has a new girlfriend, and I cannot tell you who it is”
Me – “Why not?”
Alex – “Because no one at camp can know – it is a secret”
Me - “But you can tell me” (I love other people’s secrets – especially my kids)
Alex – “I cannot, J and I will not tell”
Me (light bulb going off in my head) – “Is it you?”
Alex (huge smile) – “Ssh, do not tell Mom, pinky swear!”
Sometimes I just have to call myself Sherlock.
Alex has a camp boyfriend, just like thousands of other teenagers across the county. They talk on the phone every night and are very sweet to each other at the end of the camp day. This life of relationships, angst about expected phone calls and sweet looks is what I want for Alex and more importantly what Alex wants for herself. This is not on the Disney channel- it is real and in Alex’s life.
Alex and J will part at the end of the week but I believe they will stay in contact all year. Think of all the skills Alex will use to manage this relationship – speech, writing, fine motor for the computer and the list goes on. It is a win-win for everyone!