Sometimes the most amazing thing happens -- when you least expect it. Sometimes your breath is just sucked away from your body. Sometimes you are required to squeeze your lips together so as not to squeal, so as not to cry, so as just to stand there and absorb; freezing the moment forever in time. Sometimes life here on this planet is just too amazing to make up. This is a true Debbie Clement story, honest-to-goodnes it is! Or perhaps it is an episode of Kweezletown? You decide.
So there I am visiting with the Heart & Hope participants when around the corner comes a woman who takes one look at my display of quilts and her mouth literally falls open. As she moves closer she has visible tears in her eyes. She is pointing to the top of my display. She is pointing to my quilt of the fire house. She is pointing and her tears are visible.
As she gets close enough to speak, she is obviously emotional and is working to bring her thoughts together. She takes a deep breath and begins to tell her story. It turns out that her story turns out to be the story of her son. It turns out that her son Eric has been transfixed with fire stations since he was young. His love for firemen is so great that he has officially been "adopted" by their local fire station -- FIRE HOUSE TEN!!!! They live right there in Orlando and her son Eric has a plaque mounted in their local fire station, House 10, as an honorary fire fighter, as their volunteer, their friend, their something of a mascot, their something of a hero, a hero to the firefighters: Eric.
Her son Eric has a plaque in the Orlando House 10!!! My quilt is of House 10, in my mind it was a reference to the 10 House across the street from the Twin Towers and now I learn that Orlando has it's own House 10 -- a station near and dear to this mom's heart. A station near and dear to this mom's home. A station to be worthy of an illustration in a book!
She would like to purchase my House 10 fire fighter quilt. I explain that the quilt is not for sale, but the very same image is inside of my book, "Red, White and Blue". She can purchase a copy of the book and I would happily personalize it for her son, her Eric. We have a long heart-to-heart about why that will not work. It turns out that he likes to cut images up with scissors. So we do some further brainstorming and I promise that I'd be happy to send her a pdf of that particular illustration and she can print it and frame it...... give multiple copies to Eric for his own use. How's that? She ponders.
I turn around to get something to write with and in the blink of an eye she is gone and I'm in the midst of other conversations and other opportunities and other introductions.
Lunch is served. I begin looking at my watch and thinking about my workshop. I look up from my watch and there is mom and she has Eric in hand, wearing his Orlando Fire Department sweatshirt. Mom has gone home to pick up Eric and bring him back to the gym to meet me, to meet an illustrator and to see the quilt and to talk about Fire House 10 and to talk about pumper trucks and to talk about fire hoses and to talk about Dalmatians and to talk about fire extinguishers and to talk about fireman flashlights and to talk. Eric is most delighted with pumper trucks. We talk a long while about pumper trucks. I learn a lot about pumper trucks. I learn a lot about the House 10 pumper trucks in particular.
After our long and animated discussion Eric promises that he would like to keep my book with his precious things and that he will keep it safe. So I get to personalize a copy for him and we take pictures and we practice hugging and we talk about using scissors on magazines. We practice hugging some more. In between the hugs Eric's mom prompts him to swallow. All I can imagine is a firehouse full of heroes who recognize in Eric what a brave young man looks like in earnest, IRL, in real-genuine-actual life.
As I sit here tonight looking at the pictures I have to keep my head from spinning on it's axis. How many serendipitous stars aligned for this 'Eric-encounter'? As I sit here tonight I realize what a fortunate person I am. As I sit here tonight I am so grateful on so many levels.
Thank you Eric for sharing your great joy with me. Thank you Eric's mommy for sharing Eric with me -- and with a wider world. I am so proud of you. I am so very proud. You are a hero in my eyes, too...... you and mommy, too. You & all the other mommies & daddies that face parenting a child with differences. You are my heros.
Heroes. All around us. Listen to their story. Offer a listening ear. Offer a helping hand. Heroes.