There is a kid at Moe's former school who looks just like Moe. He is maybe a year or two older and has the same curly hair and fair complexion, though I never saw his face. This boy was not in a special education class but I would often see him as school let out for the afternoon. As I waited for Moe, this boy would walk by and for a brief moment I'd think "why is Moe over there by himself?" Sometimes I'd allow the fantasy to go a little bit further, imagining that this was Moe, walking nicely by himself, looking for me. I imagined that the last five years had been a dream, that I would wake up and that this child would be my own, just as beautiful, just as sweet, but just another typical kid in the crowd.
There are a couple of families in the neighborhood with developmentally disabled kids. The girl, who is maybe twelve or thirteen, often has vocal tics or stims, possibly Tourette's. She yelps and shrieks as she walks by (not an unfamiliar sound, though different from Moe's). The boy, who is probably around 18, usually holds a child's toy when he walks. I think it might be a radio. I don't know them, have never exchanged more than a passing nod, as they walk around the neighborhood. They all seem happy enough, or at least content, but I can't help but notice how old the parents look. They look so very tired, like they haven't slept in years. They look like my future. I wonder, when we stroll by, if they look at me and see their past.
Earlier this summer, I was invited to the graduation ceremony for Moe's playgroup. Moe hasn't done much with that group since he was two, though I'm still friends with several of the women. The ceremony was a way to celebrate the kids moving on to kindergarten, graduating from babyhood into their school years. The invitation tore me to shreds. I knew we couldn't go. Moe wouldn't sit still for a ceremony. He wouldn't understand why we were there, wouldn't behave appropriately. And I didn't want to see him there, surrounded by typical kids, the only one not full of words and readiness to take on this new chapter. These children were all babies together; Moe used to be just like them. But didn't he deserve to go? Didn't he make it through five years just like the rest of them? On his own path, different in so many ways, but here nonetheless. Didn't I deserve, maybe more than anybody, to say "I survived. Am surviving?"
We didn't go.
Today is the first day of school in this area. My Facebook feed is full of first day of kindergarten pictures. Friends with kids I've known since they were babies, since Moe was a baby. I didn't expect heartbreak today, didn't prepare for the crushing emotion. Today, I am having a hard time breathing, having trouble finding solace in the small crumbs of progress Moe throws me occasionally. I don't begrudge anyone these pictures. I posted my own "first day" picture as Jelly returned to preschool. And I will take a photo of Moe next week, when he starts his new school. I am hopeful about this year, anxious to get started. But it isn't the same. We are different. He is different. And there is always something there to remind me.