On Easter weekend we had a little party for Rhema at a local ice cream shop.
The rather last-minute e-mail invitation to a small group of family and friends said,
“Ice cream makes Rhema SMILE, and we wanted to invite you to eat, slurp, lick, or paint yourself with ice cream. With us.”
Most of the standard types of birthday parties simply don’t work for her. We wanted to do something she would enjoy, and this was it!
It turned out to be a rather cold day, but no one seemed to mind. The ice cream was de-lish. The adults talked and laughed. The kids ran and played.
Rhema stayed parked on a bench with a cup of vanilla ice cream the entire time. She never moved for an hour; she just smiled to herself and giggled and stirred her ice cream. Never once did she get up to greet friends bearing gifts. She was happy and content as adult friends took turns sitting with her. But besides a couple prompted, barely audible “hi’s”, she did not ‘speak’ directlywith any of the children atthe party.
A boy named G attends school with Rhema, and his mother told me that he recently saw a picture of Rhema and said “That’s Rhema!” She said that when he says her name it sounds like “Gramma”, but the way he responded to her picture you could just tell that he really enjoyed a friendship with her. She really wanted me to know that, and for me it was like donning a fleece bathrobe on a cold morning.
Another classmate of Rhema’s is E. E is so dear to us. She and Rhema love to go on community trips together with their teachers. When Rhema went into the hospital for an EEG, E and her mom gave Rhema the BEST Dora music book. They just knew it was the perfect gift. E’s mother tells me that E calls Rhema her “best friend.” And I love it, but honestly I’ve wondered how? How can it be?
I’ve written before that I wish Rhema could know what it is to have rich, meaningful relationships. And again, God is showing me she can and she does.
I’m realizing that Rhema and her precious friends have a lot to teach me about friendship.
They give and don’t keep score. G will happily and faithfully say “Hi Rhema!” every day whether she looks at him or not.
In my simple way of thinking, friendship involves/includes reciprocation. For a friendship to exist she would need to do something for them; acknowledge them and talk to them and play with them. In my simple way of thinking, she doesn’t do any of those things.
But maybe she does. And even if she doesn’t, they don’t need her to. And maybe they know each other better than most and get each other in a ‘girl, you don’t have to say a thing’ sort of way. Maybe they share a bond I cannot begin to understand.
The realization has been liberating.
So I didn’t fret or worry at the party when she did not interact with the other kids in the way I would want/expect.
In the end we all gathered around her. I’d prayed at the beginning of the week that she would feel special and as I looked around at all our friends, her friends, I felt overcome with gratitude: Rhema is so enthusiastically loved.
It’s a joy to this mama’s heart… the kind that makes you want to weep and do cartwheels all at once.
We sang Happy Birthday, and Rhema looked up from her ice cream. She knew we were singing to her.
There’s this thing she does when she’s feeling the music, enjoying the song. And she did it then.
She lifted her hands in the air and bounced them up and down. Almost like “hooray!” And “thank you!”
Almost like a conductor, only with a big vanilla bucktoothed grin.