The River

I went to a Garth Brooks concert with a friend when I was a sophomore in high school. It was one of those events where the stars above were aligned in my favor, and every thing went our way. We were walking around the concession stand prior to the start of the show, and a production manager offered us front row seats…

I thought life didn’t get better than that moment.

I remember that night like it was yesterday. Screaming and singing along, thinking we were the luckiest girls alive to be given such wonderful seats to such an unforgettable show. There are so many of his songs that I love, none more than The River. So now, after an unspecified, but several years later, it is no coincidence that I found myself crying and screaming at another performance of The River.

It isn’t what you think, Harry and I didn’t fly to Vegas to see Garth Brooks’ new show, nor did we sit outside at a wine bar and listen as an acoustic performer gave it his best shot.

Instead, today we found ourselves with the most valuable tickets in town. We were in the front row at the City of Houston Metropolitan Multi Service Center, as we watched our children perform in a Global Journey produced by the staff at The River Performing and Visual Arts Center, an affiliate of Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS).

The River is a summer camp which provides children of all abilities the opportunity to experience fine arts in a therapeutic yet fun and entertaining manner while allowing each child to literally shine.

As a parent of special needs children in Houston, I struggled with the idea of what to do with the twins when we were out of school. There are tons of camps designed for children like Noah and Sammy Sue, yet each of these require the child be at least five years of age. After months of research and discussion with those in the special needs community I decided to enroll the twins in the only program that offers enrollment to special needs three year olds, The River.

I must admit, I was initially less than overwhelmed with the idea of sending the kids to a performing and visual arts camp. I couldn’t picture the kids at the camp, nor could I imagine any sort of enjoyment or value they could gain from such an environment. Visual Arts and visual impairment does not a perfect match make, or so I thought.

What I came to learn after our first week at camp, is no different than with all the other new transitions we have made in the past.

It was evident early on that I was the one with an impairment; not my children. I don’t know if this is true for all moms, or moms of special needs children, or hell if it only pertains to me. But when presented with new opportunities for Noah and Sammy Sue I freeze. I initially pounce and enroll them in every possible therapy, class, lesson and group, and then fear sets in and I freeze. Every time, I just freeze.

Two days before camp started I called and expressed my wishes to withdraw them from the class. They weren’t sick, we weren’t away on vacation, nope, I was just scared. Scared to try something new, scared that they couldn’t do it and scared to see them try and fail.

The River allowed me one day to reconsider my decision, one day to get it together, step up and do the right thing. There were a dozen kids on the waiting list and they needed to be notified if two spots became available. My hand was forced, and thank goodness it was.

After a brief conversation with my wise dad, it was final, the kids were going to try this camp and I was going to get my shit together, pack their bags and have a little faith in my kids and the program.

The first day was nothing that needs to be detailed in any form of the word. I was a disaster. I was the token crazy mother that the instructor knew was coming. I had duffle bags packed as if they were going to Thailand and enough options in their lunch boxes to last them through the summer. The kids were brave, they are always brave. I was far from brave. I left the camp in tears and drove to Harry’s office where I cried until it was time to pick them up.

As I walked in the door Noah was saying “YAYYYYYY!!!” and jumping up and down. Sammy Sue had the hugest smile on her face, and again I cried.

The week that followed was another one of the many unbelievable gifts that we have been given. It was a reminder of what’s really important. It was a reminder of the common link between all of us. It was a reminder that the only way to fail is through a refusal to try.

So today, as I headed to the auditorium an hour before the start of the performance with a camera, video camera and a dozen of Noah and Sammy Sue’s fan club members, I felt like I did that night at the concert.

We had first row tickets to the hottest show in town. The crowd was thrilled to be there, cameras were flashing, people were clapping, and I again found myself crying.

The most ordinary scenes aren’t ordinary to parents in our situation. Quite frankly, there was nothing ordinary about today’s performance. The performers were stars, unknowing, unassuming, and unlike any others before them. Their smiles were simply indescribable and the performance was a thousand times better than the concert all those nights ago.

I don’t know the origin or meaning behind the camps name, The River. I am sure there is a profound meaning behind it, something I am overlooking. Or perhaps it is as simple as one of my favorite songs.

You know a dream is like a river
Ever changing as it flows
And a dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes

I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry

The dream for any parent, special needs or otherwise, is for their children to be happy, to be independent and to be loved. This week, this experience, and most importantly today’s performance was the fruition of a dream. A dream that almost slipped away, a dream I am so thankful I refused to let sail by.

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  1. Posted June 24, 2011 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Looks like y’all are going to have to invest in some maracas! :-) SOOOOO cute. . . and there are tears here too! :-) They are growing up SOOO much! 😉 Give them a big hug for me! :-)

  2. Tia
    Posted June 24, 2011 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    The River runs wide and the river runs deep…..just like the journey of these four incredible individuals known as the Fabulous Folloders…..just when I think I have read the best entry…that I have seen the most amazing thing, they come right back and knock me on my behind! One of my good friends, Dee Dee Dochen, is on the board of the River….to know that my babies have benefitted from their services is just incredible…life does take you full circle….as one of the caretakers who was able to be there in your earliest months , I want to shout from the mountain tops, LOOK AT OUR MIRACLES!!! God is alive and God is good…..anyone who does not believe just needs to see you all in your first official recital to know that you are taking us on the ride of our lives….thanks for opening our eyes to the true beauty of life…to the words of wisdom and courage from your mom…to the strength of your daddy…and to the joy that you bring to everyone who comes in contact with you….Your tia is so proud of you….I always carry you close to my heart….every single day of my life…..te adoro mis angelitos…besitos….tu tia….

  3. Karen Cooper
    Posted June 25, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful program – gosh, the kids have grown up sooo much!!! Loved seeing Noah and Sammy Sue rocking out to music – Mrs. Fincher would be soo proud! Love to all the Folloders – you have such a special place in my heart – hugs to all…

  4. Aunt Laurie
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Good on you for forcing yourself through your fears. Once when I told a smart friend that driving down a particular street made me so sad I avoided it, he told me I should drive down it every day. He was right. Confronting the scary or sad helps us deal with stuff we try and hide from…never a good thing.

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