Originally, our reason for taking this trip was a severe lingering cough that was racking my body for over two months. It was also a good opportunity to get away from it all. Yes, I am very honest. I've heard some people say that vacations are made for people who want to run away from reality. I'm not even blushing as I admit that I wanted to do just that. The fifty messages blinking on my answering machine when I returned home told me that it was a vital getaway. While in Miami Beach I pursued one of my passions in life: meeting and talking to new acquaintances. And as the palm trees swayed in the breeze and golden sunshines changed to pink dusks, many life stories were exchanged. Our new bonds of friendship broke all age barriers and first time mothers felt perfectly comfortable in the company of great grandmothers. At first, the conversations were light, filled with laughter. As we got to know each other better the talk turned more serious. Of course, the issue of "Moishey, Down syndrome and my magazine" was discussed. Did I detect sympathy in some of the women's eyes? Oh Hashem, please don't let them feel sorry for me. I know I carry a heavy load, but I'd still not change it for any other baggage.
Over the course of days, with the opportunity of private tete' a' tete's with some of the women, I learned a lot more. Young women, beautiful bloomers, "vacationers" at best, were walking the face of the earth, their lives darkened in despair.
One woman is raising a young child with a rare chromosomal disorder, in a large family that has already been dealt many blows in life; another woman, her face the picture of serene sweetness, is struggling with a hearing impaired child. Another woman, a relative of a teenager with Down syndrome, seemed overly enthusiastic about my status as a "Down's" parent. She then showed me photos of her youngest child, a gorgeous 'yingele' of five years. There is a long scar going down his hairline. The left side of his brain, which was recently removed, was totally destroyed as a premature newborn, caused by massive hemorrhages. This gorgeous 'yingele' cannot walk, talk, or eat by himself. 'Ribono Shel Olam', all of this within one hotel away from home. And these were the "special needs children's" parents. The "famous" problems. Then there were the women form the "intact" families whose faces were somewhat prematurely lined and they spoke knowingly of "Kleina kinder kleina dagas, groisa kinder, groisa dagas" (small children, small worries, big children, big worries) and "When they're little we carry them in our arms and when they're grown we carry them in our hearts and on our heads".
So, I am still considered a "baby" in the are of living. The road behind and ahead is scattered with lots of baggage of various shapes and sizes. Hey, you know what? I'll stick to my own luggage, even if the edges may be a little tattered and even if our family picture features a little boy with slanted eyes.
This article first appeared in issue #3 of Down Syndrome Amongst Us