The title, of course, is a modification of one of my favorite book titles, "These Happy Golden Years" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I hope some day I'll have a whole golden year, but for now, golden moments are enough, and last night, I had two of them, the kind of moments I think of in my head as movie-ending moments---moments that if you wanted to show a happy ending, you could freeze my life at, and you'd have one. Life doesn't freeze like that, but that probably makes the moments even more of a treasure.
Movie-ending moment one----Freddy and Janey are playing in the back yard. Freddy is fooling around with a long stick---balancing it on one hand, and then one finger. Janey is watching him with admiration, really paying attention to him, with the kind of look that younger siblings get when their older siblings do something that looks amazing to them. I am sitting watching them. The sun is low in the sky, and it hits a point where it lights up both Freddy and Janey's hair---Freddy's curly mop and Janey's blond straight tresses. For an instant, they both look like they are lit up from within, a flash-bulb scene of childhood and happiness.
Movie-ending moment two---Janey comes up to me and says "Do you want teat?" I am surprised. We are mainly coffee people, although we have tea on occasion, and I had no idea she knew that word. I ask her to show me the tea, and she goes to the kitchen and first points to the cold coffee in the coffeemaker. I say "Oh, you want coffee?" and she then points up to a high shelf, where weeks ago we put 4 small teacups she had picked out at the thrift store we loved, bagged together. We had washed them but then put them out of reach, as they were delicate, and hadn't mentioned them since. I get them down, and she eagerly takes two and puts them on the table, and leads me back over to the coffee, saying "Would you like some tea?" and finally the dense me gets it. She wants to have a tea party. I pour some cold coffee in both teacups, and she hands one to me, politely saying "Would you care for tea?" I take my cup, she takes hers, and then raises it to me and says "Cheers! Salute!" We toast, and we take a sip---hers not actually reaching her mouth, as for the first time, we are playing a pretend game. We are having a tea party. And I am crying.
When you first realize that you have a child with significant disabilities---which is different than when they are diagnosed, as it's the moment it becomes real, the moment you realize they aren't going to ever be "cured", the moment you see that you have taken a very unexpected turn and are indeed headed for Holland instead of Paris---you give up a lot of dreams. I'm not afraid to say that's hard. I don't dream of Janey getting a high school or college degree. I don't dream of her getting married, or having my grandchildren. And for a while, that can feel like despair, like a life of giving and not ever getting back. A perfect mother would say that's what a mother should do, but I think in real life, every mother dreams of the moments that seem like rewards. I am here to say that those moments do happen with children like Janey. There are wonderful moments, Happy Golden Moments, and they are as sweet as moments can be.