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post #9
bio: chris

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first post
that week

Previous Posts
On Sting (and other crap)
Things I Say to My Dad, Because (like myself) He Thinks, Irrationally, He's Going to Die Soon
Why Hipstamatic Was Invented
Happy Mother's Day, Y'all
Black Pear Tree (Guest Post from John Darnielle)

Happy Thoughts

I need a good smile today. So I'm gonna tell a little story that always cheers me up when I'm feelin' blue.
I'm warning you though: It gets a little mushy, so you might want to have your barf bags handy.
During my summers off from high school and early college, I used to work at a day camp for children with various "mental handicaps". We had a lot of Down syndrome kids, children with "autistic tendencies" as they say, one particular troublemaker who was an FAS baby… All in all, those summers were a lot of fun. They were all very playful spirits, and we caused a lot of mayhem together.
But one camper will always stick out in my mind. Little Katie.
Katie came to us in the middle of my fifth summer at the camp. I must've been 19 at the time. We had been running for a few weeks at that point, and I had adjusted to the ways and behaviors of that year's troops. You know, there was the one that would always punch me in the balls, and the 6'2 200lb kid who would always poop his pants on field trips. Stuff like that. And Katie, well, I'm not exactly sure what Katie's condition was. I know it had a name. I think it's called the CHARGE disorder or something like that. Regardless, Katie was partially deaf, had difficulty learning speech, and had to be fed through a feeding tube. She was four when she came to us, and she was the most adorable little kid I'd ever seen.
I don't usually use words like "adorable" when I describe children. I think kids are fun. They're rough and tumble and big ol' balls of energy. But I don't think they're "adorable".
Katie was adorable, though. She was tiny and little with a head full of curly brown hair and big ol' brown cow eyes. She couldn't really speak, but every now and then she'd let out a little squeak of joy when she was happy.
Which, in the beginning, was not often.
Katie understood English. She just had a hard time speaking it. So by the ripe old age of four, she had a fairly extensive knowledge of ASL. That's how she talked back to people. She would sign. Unfortunately, none of us at the camp knew how to sign, so we couldn't understand what she was trying to say to us. This made Katie very sad. She was all alone. She couldn't talk to anyone. Know one could hear what she said. So she would cry. Not the way babies cry, but the way grown ups do when they can't hold it in anymore.
We brought in someone who knew ASL, but that didn't work. She'd get frustrated. I'm not sure if he could always understand what she was signing. (She was little and clumsy, and I think she was missing a finger or two.) So Katie would get even more frustrated and angry. She used to pee on things when she'd get pissed off. I always found that funny.
One day Katie brought in a keyboard –- a piano-like keyboard, not a typewriter/computer type – and she'd play it by herself over in the corner. She actually PLAYED the keyboard. She didn't just bang on the keys to make noise. She improvised melodies, harmonized and everything. Not bad for a four-year old who, among other things, is very hard of hearing.
I myself was music major in high school. I could play keyboard fairly well, so I brought my keyboard in. Katie and I would go off and play to each other. We started conversing through music. She'd play something. I'd respond. I play something to her, and she would riff off of it back to me.
Katie liked this a lot. Instead of crying in the corner and peeing on things, she started to laugh and squeak and bounce.
So Katie became my buddy for the summer. I got to watch her the entire time. We could break off from the group and do our own little thing. She loved sliding down the big slide in our yard, so we'd spend entire mornings on the slide or swinging on the swings. Eventually, she even started speaking a little bit.
Then one day we were out on the slide. Katie was laughing and making happy noises. I went to pick her up from the bottom of the slide, and as I picked her up and put her on my shoulders, she stopped me. She looked directly at me and spoke, as clear as day.
She said "Chris. I love you."

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