Down syndrome

One Hand Clapping

I’m holding Finn today in the kitchen, his ginger hair and blue eyes peeking out from beneath an orange-banded crocheted hoodie. He is typically wide-eyed and drop-lipped, a look of either perpetual amazement or bewilderment. At the moment it’s bewilderment, I think. His reach is halfway there, and he has discovered Daddy’s beard.

When Findlay encounters something new, he claps his fingers in excitement and, always–like some cosmic Zen joke–it’s invariably one hand clapping. Clap-clap.

My palm has three creases, Finn’s has one: a trisomy-21 single traverse palmar crease (in case you were looking to increase your vocabulary).

Finn claps his one hand and smiles: instantly his face transforms, his eyes become little parabolic slits, his smile that of the muse Thalia, except with a slightly protrusive tongue. There’s no Melponome counterpart. Finn’s rarely upset. No one has asked him: ‘Why the long face?’

He’s an unwaveringly happy kid and I have absolutely no idea what that must be like.

I set Finn’s carrier down on the ground today beneath a curbside banner while I fumbled with car keys and grocery bags. A lady actually ran out of a storefront and exclaimed: ‘Oh my God! I’ve never seen anything like that! Look at how he looks at that flag!” And Finn was hugely intent, wide constellated eyes taking in the furling fabric. “He likes trees, too,” I say, “Movement.” I’m not sure what else to say. I put away the groceries. Beer and salsa.

I hold Finn. He gnaws on my shoulder, and there are those ever-present blue eyes. His body is limp save for his trembling reach, this time for my glasses. He is hypotonic: part of the diagnosis. Cayde destroyed my glasses when he was eight months. Finn is polite–he bats at them.

Last week, I took Finn to the PT. She had a hawkish nose and wore some essential oil or other. Finn was floppy. He wore his Thalia smile and curled armadillo when the PT tried to sit him up. We were on a cushioned mat in front of mirrors. Finn laughed every time he caved into a somersault.

“Well, he’s not near crawling.”

“I know.”

I’m staring at myself in the mirror, just above my son’s reflection. I consider: I look haggard. Were it not for the hat and scarf, I’d present as unkempt. Not the insouciance I was going for. My hair is greying.

“You know he may not walk until he is two, perhaps four.”

“I know.” I need a haircut. Crows have made tracks beneath my eyes.

“You know you can’t compare him to your first-born. Fin’ll get there. But in his own time.”

“I know.” I smile for pretend at first. Then I smile for real. “I know.”

We always worry about our babies growing up too fast, don’t we?

Finn and I sit on the porch and remark the plants. I out-loud blame him for my grey hairs. He babbles.

And his one hand claps.


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