I know the cashiers comment would have angered some people but I know she wasn't trying to hurt Beth. She was trying to be nice, nothing more. Maybe she hadn't had many encounters with people with Down Syndrome. Maybe she kicked herself after we left, 'Why did I say that?!' (I think we've all been there.) The way we reacted to it set the scene for the rest of the afternoon. We said thank you and went on with our day.
But her comment reminded me of a situation that happened when Beth was born.
We found out that Beth had Down Syndrome after she was born and I had had a full day of doctors and specialists. The next morning I woke up to my roommate talking back and forth with her doctor. There was a curtain pulled between our beds, but I could hear her whisper, "Does my baby have Down Syndrome?" Her doctor laughed, "Does your baby look weird? Downs babies look weird, you'd know it if you had one."
I froze. I literally held by breath for a few seconds. I couldn't believe what I'd just heard! But then I somehow knew that this was just the first in a long line of comments we'd hear over the years. It was like, okay, here we go, and I knew how I responded to this would set the presedence for the rest of our lives.
I didn't move. I wanted my roommate to think I was still asleep and that I hadn't heard what her doctor said. She went home a couple days later but I never said anything about it. As far as I know - wherever she is all these years later - she believes I never heard that conversation. I do remember one of the days I was holding Beth she told me Beth was beautiful. I hope that seeing me and my family love on Beth showed her that children with Down Syndrome weren't weird and were worthy of love.
And I believe Beth's smile and interaction with the cashier at the ferry terminal showed her that Beth - like everyone else on the planet - is special and worthy of love and kindness.
(Beth is in the long black dress with white jacket tied around her waist.)