Sahuarita, AZ; Sandy, UT, 2005-2015
Timothy sat down to play at the grand piano in his pajamas. At age 4, he wasn’t taking lessons yet, but his siblings had taught him to play the tune that Big Ben chimes and the opening notes of “Jingle Bells.” It was the night of the filming of the annual Christmas video and we asked him to play his songs for us. We could tell that he wanted to because he was nervous at the thought of doing it. “I only know how to play the first part,” he said, twirling the hair near the crown of his head with his fingers. With our encouragement, he played for the camera, and when he finished, he quickly slid off the bench, trying to hide his smile of triumph and began twisting his hair again, nervously.
Timothy’s challenge while growing up is to reconcile his natural sweet disposition with his desire to be independent. Of all the children, Timothy gives himself up to joy and humor and love the easiest. But to smile is to be vulnerable, so when he was little, he would jam his tongue into his cheek to suppress it if he thought he was the only one smiling. Sometimes, even now, I will catch him doing it again, hoping to avoid detection. He’ll tell me something funny with tight lips to keep himself from giving up the joke too soon.
He was best friends with the girl across the street in Arizona who had some developmental delays. She was 4 years older, but their matching sweetness, humor, and open hearts made them close friends. He played with Littlest Pet Shop animals with this girl for 6 years, even though he preferred Legos and other games. He never teased her. He never asked her why she didn’t play with the girls in Paige’s room. I saw a degree of strength in Timothy as he dealt with her, but it wasn’t an effort for him. He just loved and played and enjoyed his time with her. One day he realized that she was growing older, but didn’t act like other girls her age and he mentioned it to me. As I explained that she just grew at a different rate, I felt foolish. He wasn’t looking for an explanation. He was just making an observation and it didn’t matter to him that she was different. I suspect that Timothy will have many people in his life that will be drawn to him because he provides a safe place.
When he was in fourth grade, I met Timothy and Mark after school each day to walk with them. Without fail, Timothy gave me the biggest smile and a hug every day when he saw me, right in front of his friends, even if they were talking to him. Without words, he said, “Excuse me, but I see my mom and I always give her a hug. Your story will have to wait until tomorrow.” With these hugs, all of his attention shifted from his friends to me and Mark and we walked down the hill together. This touched my heart each day.
In February of his sixth-grade year, he hinted to me meekly that he was playing his trombone in a band concert during school. I wasn’t sure if he wanted me to be there so I asked him on a scale from one to ten, how much he would like me to come, helping him avoid having to say the awkward, “Please don’t come, Mom.” To my surprise, he said, “8 or 9.” So, I went, and I was one of four guests, three of whom were grandparents. In other words, I was one of the privileged few. He even let me take a picture.
He is growing up, but he still lets me be in love with him. I am glad when his sweetness wins out over his independence. It’s a strength that will make a difference for others.