This afternoon I went for a walk to think about my aunt. She just turned 60 but was hospitalized over the weekend. As I raced against the setting sun—it’s COLD in NYC—all I could think about was the time she taught me how to roll socks. My aunt has Down’s Syndrome; I don’t remember when I realized she was different than my other relatives, but I do recall my mother forbidding us from ever using the “r-word.” I still cringe when I hear others using it and always check my students when it flies out of their mouths.
I posted an essay on The Huffington Post earlier today about the need for more “freaks and geeks” in YA lit. And as I walked home I thought about the ways my mother’s extended family taught me to respect and value difference. The setting sun turned the sky violet and I thought about my aunt’s infectious laughter and the way my uncles would sometimes tease her just to put a smile on her face. She loved to play the tambourine and her favorite dessert was black forest cake and her hero was Anne of Green Gables…I’m already using the past tense. It looks like I’ll be spending Thanksgiving in Toronto.