Last summer, I often found my sister, Emily, standing at the front door and looking outside. She would be carrying her CD player in one hand, listening to Barney or Sesame Street or some Disney classic. Many times she would just start to laugh and laugh, seeing something or perhaps remembering something special or joyous. You see, Emily has profound multiple special needs. She cannot talk, she cannot feed herself or get water when she’s thirsty, she cannot run or walk fast, she cannot dress herself in the morning or put herself in bed at night. She needs my family and me for everything. Yet, here she is, with so few earthly possessions and so many needs, enjoying her time with simple songs and a view of a sunny day in our neighborhood.
In contrast, September is blurred in my memory, October whooshed by with all the speed of a runaway train, and November…did it even happen? Winter Break, well, wasn’t really a break. “Busy bee” takes on a whole new meaning. It is hard to slow down and take a break with so much going on. I have to apply to colleges, get SAT scores, send ACT scores, keep up with those studies (because they still count, don’t you know?), make sure to grab every extracurricular activity I can to show I’m well-rounded and open-minded enough for the world, send financial aid reports, and file summer taxes. Isn’t all of this supposed to be for happiness and success later on?
It is not that I object to hard work, and it is not that I resent doing it. However, I know that checking every night for some news about my future education, fretting over the right school or place, is not living, I am not enjoying the present given to me. I am obsessing over the future I can’t control. And here is my sister, who—despite the fact that the world would see her as having everything going against her—able to laugh and delight in the small things in life. I feel it is not her lack of understanding about the world but actually a greater understanding, untarnished by societal expectations of success, that equals her satisfaction. She is my Thoreau, and I am trying to embrace her truths.
I am learning to throw the football outside when it is 60 degrees on a lazy spring day. I am beginning to embrace lounging on a hammock to read a book — not because it’s assigned but rather because it isn’t. I am going to try, maybe not everyday, but as often as I can, to find time to forget all the big priorities and big things that are going on. To relax. I am going to remember the small things in life, especially while I live them.
Emily does. Shouldn’t everybody?