This morning I was mentally meandering over my cup of coffee. Random rememberings. I started thinking of a little boy I used to know.
When I was a single mom, I worked part-time as an autism assistant for preschool children. I worked with this little boy four mornings a week, sitting at a tiny table in a tiny kid chair, teaching him to count, to sequence things from smallest to largest, teaching him colors and shapes, teaching him to play. He was adorable. Big shining brown eyes. He didn't make eye contact, just glanced quickly at my face now and again. Beautiful smile when I cheered for him. He didn't like to be hugged, or even patted on the back, but he loved to be praised and given stickers for work well-done.
One day we'd finished a successful session, lots of cheers and high fives and "Way to Go!" My young friend went to the toy shelf, right behind me, so he had to pass by my tiny chair. He stopped. Leaned against me, back to back, just for a moment. Then he was gone.
Oh. My heart just stopped.
It's one thing to be loved by a child who adores the world. Those brilliant shining children who greet everyone with a smile, who come flying toward you with a hug. Truly precious to be loved so openly. But for this child, a child who could not speak "I love you," a child for whom body contact was a daily challenge...he was finding his way to shout "I love you!" and wrap his arms around me.
That was ten years ago. I don't remember the shoes I bought that year, or the clothes in my closet, or how much money I had in the bank. But when I close my eyes I can very nearly step back in time to that moment. I can feel as clearly as if I were there again, that little boy leaning for just a moment then gone.