i sit next to her in the lunchroom.  we are at a table off to the side and an aide hovers, helpful, watching. the little girl next to us tells me for the thirtieth time that umbrella starts with the letter u and it is beginning to bug me.  usually i don’t mind.  when monique recites the unceasing march of the alphabet and the corresponding words of her mind, i usually feel fine.  

but not today.  

today i’m watching mazzy because she’s watching the lunchroom.  she’s watching everybody else.

she tells me that she needs to go to the bathroom.  when we cross the cavern of tables and children and boots and hats ready for recess. a girl calls out.

“hi mazzy.”

i think maybe she’s been waiting for this?


mazzy walks up and starts receiving hugs from the table of girls.

“hi mazzy!”

each one says it in turn and they reach for a tentative hug from her. mazzy slips her arm around my waist and says, “hey guys, this is my mom.”


they smile shy at me and make the mental match of mazzy and this woman standing here.

“mazzy, i like your boots.”

mazzy stomps down and lights blink out from the front of fashion winter boots, the likes of which any nine year old girl would be proud.  we say bye and when we sit down at the supervised seating at the far side of the lunch room, i want to flip over the table and scream.

a girl can watch a ballet performance and she can dream.  she can watch from the audience and imagine a day when she might take center stage.  

my girl watches from the edge of the lunch room or the classroom or the sunday school room.

her dreams of sitting with the others and chatting before boots flash lights outside on the playground as they run and laugh together are as grand as the hopes of the spotlight.

the unfairness punches me in the face and there is nothing to be done.  i sit in a plastic chair and hear monique tell me that ukelele starts with the letter u.


she looks at me cautious with her juice box in her hand.

“are you lonely?”

“no.  no, mom.”  she looks around at the table we’re sitting at.

“i have my class.  i have monique.  i have angela.  i have my girls.”

she recites the names of her girls from the special ed class and i will never truly know how mazzy comprehends the world around her.  i can’t know how deeply or if she even feels set apart.  i don’t know if it makes her sad and she makes the best of it or if it hardly bothers her.  

there are barely words for her experience in this world.

it’s time for her to go outside.  it’s time for me to go home to my other daughter. volunteering at her school on a tuesday morning is done for now.

“i love you mazzy”

“i love you too, mom.  everybody!”  she calls to her table, “mom is leaving.”

the aide who is kind and the kids who i have come to know, look and smile and say goodbye to mazzy’s mom. i look one more time at my girl staring out into the sea of children who make up the majority and she looks at me and she waves.

repost from the archives for world down syndrome day

8 replies on “ clara ”
  1. You need to write a book Zena. Your words are beautiful. The message makes my chest tighten but it needs to be said.

  2. Zen a…I love to read what you write…you have the gift…..I don’t and that’s okay. I get to read your words today with a mothers heart. ( my iPad won’t let me keep your name together it keeps separating the e. I’m new with the iPad so not sure ……love xox

  3. thank you ruth. i know your mother’s heart and i’m humbled by your consistent kindness for my trying to tell mine.


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