Monday, July 27, 2015

Not a New Thing

The Adoration of the Christ Child
Flemish Painting circa 1515,
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 
I John 4:7 (NIV)

I purchased a doll for my daughter, Sierra, years ago. Of course it wasn't her first doll, and it wasn't to be her last. But I thought this particular doll was important for Sierra to have, so I gathered up some rare-at-the-time money and I sent for her, Dolly Downs, through a mail-order site. I think my daughter may have just turned two.

Up at the top of this blog, is a list of my pages. My home page carries posts in backwards chronological order, the further down you scroll, the farther back you go. There is a page of stories, I pulled out the titles and first paragraph or so and linked them to the original post so they wouldn't get lost in the archives. There is a page for poetry as well. Then, there's a page of old posts from a blog I started and discontinued years ago. I just couldn't let them go away, so I saved them here. But the first link on that page list is titled Down Syndrome. See, my daughter has Down syndrome (DS); this page includes links to every post I've written about my girl. And it includes links to other websites and blogs by and for people with DS.

Sierra was developmentally delayed. This is typical for kids with DS. In fact, I suppose that at age 24, she continues to be developmentally delayed, but I just don't tend to notice it these days. Our world focuses on her CANS and not so much on her CAN'Ts (but that's another post). So, back in the early days, she was barely sitting up on her own, she wasn't walking, she wasn't drinking from a cup, she wasn't crawling. But, I had placed a mirror sideways along the wall where she could see it. She scooted up to it and looked and looked. I wondered what she saw. I wondered if she recognized the girl in the mirror. I wondered if she needed a role model, if she needed to see another face that looked like hers, with the button nose, the bright smile, and the epicanthic fold that crinkled her eyes to nothing when she laughed. That's when I ordered the special doll with the special features.


Then the doctor said she'd need glasses. At two. I went right out bought a couple of packages of those party-favor sunglasses from Walmart. I took them home and popped out the darkened lenses and put them on every single face I could find. Mine. My husband's. ALL of Sierra's dolls. I put a couple of pairs of those crazy frames in the bathtub with Sierra so she could get used to wearing them. She was finally wearing her real glasses by the time Dolly Downs arrived, so I drew a pair of glasses right onto that doll's fabric face. My daughter was, quite simply, delighted.

Here's the point. A lot has been written about models and role models and diversity. No one really wants to be an island. From the rising representation of diversity in advertisements, to the recognition of worth and accomplishments of people of all races and ethnicities, male and female, typically-abled and challenged, we (meaning humanity in general) want to see ourselves. We want to know that we're not alone. We want to know that we matter. We want to feel like we're somehow important enough to notice. And this isn't a new thing.

I recently came across this painting from early in the 16th century. The artist is unknown, but by the style and subject, thought to be a follower of Jan Joest of Kalker, a Flemish painter. There are two figures in this painting with Down syndrome. Imagine! One is the angel just to Mary's left. The other is the shepherd directly behind (and above) the angel centered on the manger. One a heavenly being, the other, salt of the earth. Included. In places of honor.

We want to see ourselves. We want to know that we're not alone. We want to know that we matter.

Linking with Monday Musings, and Small Wonder


  1. Wow, Janet, I love that you discovered that painting. How did you find it?
    I was observing my daughter today. She, like me, is terribly, almost at times painfully, introverted. The world, especially for school age children, isn't set up well for introversion. I really hope she finds ways to make space for herself to be who she needs to be. Thanks so much for sharing this special story with #SmallWonder.

    1. Hi Kelly - Oh gosh! I think I was doing some kind of research about how people with Down syndrome were treated in the way back when and this painting showed up. Imagine my surprise! Most of my research had shown that these children and babies were not treated well - to say the least. And then I find this painting that INCLUDED them, in beautiful ways. I think I actually cried.

      I hope your daughter's teachers are sensitive and compassionate to her needs - I was a teacher for many years and I really respected my teacher friends. They were loving, and they were kind - but I also know that school can be a rough environment. I pray that your daughter feels safe and that she enjoys true friendship. Thank YOU for hosting.


I know we probably haven't met in person, but I believe that the sharing of our ideas and thoughts, sometimes our hearts and souls, makes us more than strangers. I would like to say friends. Thank you for taking the time to contribute to my little space - I appreciate you.