In the anthology Special Gifts:Women Writers on the Heartache, the Happiness and the Hope of Raising a Special Needs Child, I wrote about a day at the pool six years ago. Riley was two, and her sensory issues were just starting to become full blown. I didn't understand. I was trying to give her a fun day, and she was reciprocating by tantrum, after tantrum, after tantrum. I wound up losing it on her.
It was quite possibly, the worst day of my life.
But this summer we tried again. She isn't "swimming" yet, but she is comfortable in the 3 ft. water and she is having a good time. We're getting there, baby steps.
Yesterday while we were in the water, a little yellow butterfly showed up and landed on Riley's head. Repeatedly. This is Riley's dream come true. Earlier this summer she sat in a field for 20 minutes with her finger held out wishing for one of these winged creatures to land on it. It didn't happen.
This little yellow butterfly did not land on anyone else. Riley stood perfectly still in the water, big grin on her face showing off the dimple in her right cheek. She didn't dare move. She didn't want to drown it. She attracted a little crowd and the grin just kept getting bigger. Every now and then the butterfly would fly off, and land on the ropes dividing the swim lanes. Riley stood there staring at her little friend, memorizing its features. Then it would fly back onto her head and the grinning would resume.
After swimming we headed over to the concession stand for some ice cream. Riley walked with a huge colorful beach towel wrapped around her. Her pink Crocs poked out the front, the back dragged along on the concrete.
She looked up at me, again with the grin and that dimple,
"This is the best day of my life!" she said.
And that's the thing about kids like Riley. We do have our challenges, but a simple day at the pool and a comment like that can leave you high for days.