posted May 18, 2009 at 1:25pm
“I don’t want to see that woman,” Sophie said sharply as we navigated rain puddles on the concrete path to the little park and rec classroom where they hold practice for Special Olympics cheerleading Saturday mornings.
It had been a whole week, but I knew exactly who she meant. I’d been thinking about that woman, too.
She is middle-aged, hard to say more than that. Looks a bit like a school principal — tall, slender, in a pant suit (a little dressy for a Saturday morning), her straight brown hair cut to her chin. I figured she was the parent of one of the cheerleaders, but I didn’t know which one. Sophie’s one of the only little kids participating in cheer — the rest are adults. And the parents of the adult cheerleaders don’t usually hover in the back of the practice room like I do. Mostly they sit in a separate room and chat.
So although we were several sessions in, I hadn’t noticed this woman til the end of practice last week, when Sophie suggested that all the parents come in and watch a few cheers. The very sweet (and very good) coach agreed.
Afterward, the woman walked over to the gaggle of cheerleaders, pointed a long finger down at Sophie, nodded at me and asked dramatically, “Is she yours?”
“I want her!” the woman said loudly. “I’m taking her home with me!”
Sophie looked up, startled, then backed away.
“Say hello, Sophie!” I said, embarrassed. My typically friendly child shook her head hard, burying her head in my hip as I murmured, “It’s okay, she just thinks you’re cute, she isn’t really going to take you.”
The woman didn’t seem to notice. “She’s adorable!” she said. “And she’s going to stay that way!”
Then she turned on her heel and left. It was a brief encounter, but I thought about the woman all week. I wondered about her and her kid, wondered what diagnosis her kid has. Mostly, though, I wondered what she meant when she said, “And she’s going to stay that way!”
Did she mean that, like her kid, Sophie would be an adorable adult? Or the opposite? I’ll be honest — it sounded like the latter.
Another week’s come and gone, and I’m still not sure. I got Sophie in the door this past Saturday morning by promising she wouldn’t have to go near the woman, and when we got inside, I watched her carefully, trying to match her with a cheerleader.
Annabelle figured it out: The older woman’s daughter is a young, plump woman with Down syndrome — probably in her 20s, maybe 30s — with a blonde bob and glasses. In several weeks, I haven’t heard the young woman say a word. She stands quietly, pays attention, does what’s asked of her. She looks a little defeated. I’m not sure I’ve seen her crack a smile.
Despite the similar hair, glasses and features, the young woman’s not much like Sophie — who talks so much I wonder if the coaches lament recent innovations in speech therapy. Sophie’s a tiny, whirling dervish of questions, demands, jacket on and off, shoes chucked in a corner, always angling to stand next to the coach to cheer like she’s a coach herself, vying to be the one to yell, “Ready, ok!” And, yeah, adorable. I agree that Sophie is adorable.
So what did that woman mean? I don’t know; all I know is that she sort of scared the shit out of my kid.
Maybe we’ll find out next week.