It is all too easy to take language, one's own language, for granted---one may need to encounter another language, or rather another mode of language, in order to be astonished, to be pushed into wonder, again.
--Oliver Sacks (Seeing Voices)
Sometimes it takes a jolt to wake us up and make us see the ordinary in a new way.
At other times, life surprises us sufficiently to allow us to see beyond the ordinary--to explore ideas, concepts and beauty that were previously invisible. It is like seeing new colors, speaking a new language, or entertaining a stranger from another planet.
In the words of William Channing, I find myself creating a new symphony, allowing "the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, to grow up through the common".
When Wade was born with Down syndrome, I looked at his slanted eyes and felt, strangely, that I had given birth to someone who was not my own. Would we, I wondered, always feel that he was an alien who had happened to land in our family?
Now, 4 1/2 years later, I can look back and laugh (or shudder) at my narrow perception of the power of love. For our stranger, the alien, is perfectly comfortable in this family and in this world. In fact, with open hands he reaches out to a world in which he knows no stranger. Shopping trips, family excursions, and doctor's appointments all become new experiences when Wade is with me.
I would be most comfortable sitting in my corner of the waiting room quietly reading a book, or zipping through the grocery store like a zealot on a dietary mission. But Wade waves and says a cheerful, "Hello!" to the other shoppers; he bends over and lovingly pats the hair of the baby in the waiting room; he politely says, " 'Scuse, me!" to the cleaning lady in the thrift store.
Amazingly to me, they all respond with smiles and kind words offered back to the alien, my son. And then the cleaning lady and I enjoy a laugh together. The mom in the waiting room shares parenting tips with me. The grocery store becomes a place for adventures in human nature on Aisles 4, 5, and 6.
And everyday I am learning more words in this new language, my symphony.
It's all so very beautiful that I wish I had some way of describing these brilliant new colors, this pure, sweet music, this lovely lilting language.
But yesterday I read an article in the Boston Globe written by a grandmother who is also learning from an alien. And she described it all so well. It's called "Right Planet, Right Child".