We were looking forward to this years "Christmas Showcase" more than ever. Last year, we opted to have Keira participate, but we weren't sure whether she'd enjoy herself or steal the show by retching and vomitting. I'd hung a small string of lights across the tray on her chair. By pushing a button, she was able to make the lights flicker on and off, giving her a "part" while the other children sang. It turns out she was delighted. Not only did she enjoy herself, she held up her arm and stuck out her tongue. More please! I want to play! What else can I do?
More excited this time around, I found a longer strand of lights and wove them through Keira's chair so that they could stay put for the remainder of the season. The video shows her proudly trying them out. They are attached to the yellow button by her head and stay on for as long as she is holding the button down.
At the showcase, the kids had to arrive 30 minutes early. I figured I'd stay with Keira, since volunteers sometimes look like fish out of water if they aren't familiar with her. I wheeled Keira into a classroom, where a few kids had already arrived and were quietly coloring at a table. Immediately, I hear, "Keira's here!" and before I know it, Annie has taken Keira from me and pushed her chair over to the other kids! Slightly taken aback, I count my blessings and remove myself to go find a good seat in the sanctuary.
I take a seat with Jeff and the boys, where I sit semi-anxiously, worried that we've sat too far back, where it will be too obvious if and when I have to swoop into the performance to help Keira out.
The kids enter the sanctuary. The "big" kids (kindergarten-6th grade) sit near the front to watch the preschoolers perform and await their turn. Annie wheels Keira up to the edge of the pew next to a row of girls and sits down next to her. It isn't long before I can hear Keira squealing with laughter. It makes my heart so happy. But she keeps getting louder. She'll quiet down when the music starts, I hope. A couple of girls ask the children's' pastor if they can sit on the floor next to Keira and she approves. Keira and a group of 4 or 5 other kids. Just giggling and laughing.
The program begins. The congregation sings. The preschoolers do their part. And all throughout, the music is punctuated by Keira's happy squeals. I turn to Jeff, "Should we go tell her to be quiet?" We are actually talking about reprimanding our daughter! "Just let her be," he says.
It's transition time and the big kids go up on the platform and find their places on the risers. Liam and Jeff hoist Keira in her chair up onto the platform, right up next to the risers. The children begin to sing. Keira cranes her neck, looking to see her friends who are standing next to her, but up on the top step. She looks adoringly at her friends, then brings her head down to smack her lights on and off with gusto. Off and on. On and off. Watching her friends. She can't get enough of this. She seems completely comfortable up there. Like being on stage, she's in her element. I couldn't be more proud.
The show is over. A merciful sub-60 minute showcase. No sooner than Jeff and Liam carried Keira off the platform, had her friends run up to Jeff, "Can Keira come with us?" Of course!
There is a cookie reception and as we join our church family in the reception hall, I flit from one conversation to the next, greeting old friends and new. I am scarcely aware of Keira's presence in the room somewhere. Not much more than I'm aware of Liam and Ronin.
You know how it is. Your kids are comfortable enough with the community, and you are comfortable enough with the community, to loosen the tether and let them range free a bit. You enjoy the moments where they are entertaining themselves, making their own fun. You just hope that their unsupervised cookie eating won't result in some late-night carpet cleaning for you.
So though I wasn't with Keira, I was relishing this moment for us. And for her. The girls pushed Keira through the line as they got their refreshments and sat her up close to them at the table while they sipped hot chocolate and nibbled cookies and demonstrated for the 27th time how they could make their skirts twirl. When I finally went to check on Keira, she was happy and relaxed, continuing to display her lights whenever they were mentioned.
I am so happy because she is so happy. I'm so grateful that she can have a real, fun, Christmas pageant experience with other kids her age. Heck. She's enjoying this more than either of her brothers ever did. I'm so proud of the other kids. I'm proud of Keira. Love is a beautiful thing. The fact that you can be just as proud of your kid who pushes a button with her head as you can be for your kid who sings in the choir or the one who has a lead role in the skit.
At home that night, Keira, exhausted, is tucked into bed. The boys are back at their games. In the living room, I perch on the arm of the couch next to Jeff. "That," I say, "That is what life is all about."