I wrote this for a friend of mine who had a sister with Down syndrome. She told me that one of her sister’s dreams was to walk in the May flower parade of their province, but she was never invited. This is her alternate story, with a happier ending.
Anicia woke up early, showered and dressed. She ran down the stairs for breakfast and woofed down her pancakes and bacon.
“Nervous?” Anicia’s mom asked, looking at her daughter with raised eyebrows.
“I know she’s getting in,” Anicia said with more confidence than she felt.
Today was the tryouts for children who wanted to participate in the annual flower parade. Her younger sister, Jenny, loved the parade ever since the first time she watched it. Jenny had always pointed to the fairies with wings, while looking at her sister with her beautiful, upward slanting eyes, as if telling Anicia that she wanted to be one of them. But at three years old, Jenny still couldn’t walk on her own, and walking without help was basically the only requirement for her to join. And so, Anicia vowed to practice walking with her sister every day for one whole year before going to tryouts.
Anicia smiled as her dad helped Jenny down the stairs. Jenny was wearing a crown of flowers on her hair, a big smile etched across her face. Both she and Jennifer had a cheerful disposition, long, brown hair and caramel-colored eyes. But, their similarities ended there.
Anicia could still remember the first time she met her baby sister some four years ago. It took a while for her mom and her sister to come back from the hospital and she asked her dad what was taking them so long.
“Your sister has to undergo a lot of tests,” her dad said. “I’ll explain better when you see her face to face.
When it was time for her new sister to be brought home, Anicia jumped up and down, shouting, “Lemme see! Lemme see!”
Her mom moved very slowly, and sat down on the couch, showing Anicia the baby in her arms. “Anicia, meet Jennifer.”
Anicia looked at the baby’s face. Jenny had warm eyes that slanted upwards, a cute button nose, and tiny ears. Mom and Dad explained to Anicia that there was one more special thing about her sister—Jennifer had an extra chromosome.
“What is a kro-muh-soam and why does she get an extra one?” Anicia asked her father.
“Well, chromosomes are things that shape the way you look. Half of the forty-six chromosomes in you came from me, while the other half came from your mother. That’s why you look a bit like both of us.”
“Oh, so you mean my sister has forty six plus one chromosomes then,” Anicia said, holding her index finger up.
“Yes she has,” Dad replied while nodding his head. “She has Down syndrome and that is why she may not look exactly like you.”
“She does look like me too!” Anicia argued as she looked at her beautiful sleeping sister.
But as they both grew up, Anicia soon found out that her father was right. Anicia also noticed that while she and everything around them moved very fast, her sister’s world was different. It took a while for Jenny to start speaking. Mom was always doing something for Jenny, even as her sister grew up. She helped her eat, get dressed, and clean herself. Dad was the same. He was always carrying Jenny whenever they had to go out and it was just barely a year ago that she started standing up, still with her father’s hand to give support.
Anicia always wondered to herself, “What can I do for Jennifer?” And the summer when she saw how happy her sister was while watching the parade gave her the answer she needed!
“I’m going to help Jenny enter the flower parade!” Anicia declared to her parents one afternoon.
“That’s nice, dear,” Mom said, as she looked at Dad for approval.
“You need to practice because Jen is still finding her balance,” Dad reminded Anicia.
“And you need lots of patience,” Mom added.
Anicia nodded, excited to work on training her sister. But everything was easier said than done. Sometimes, Jenny just wanted to sit in the garden and watch the bugs on their lawn. And then there were times she would hide her slippers from Anicia. At first, Anicia complained to her mom.
“She won’t listen to me,” Anicia said. “I give up!”
“She will, but maybe it will be better if you just enjoy what she likes doing first before trying to make her do your thing,” Mom suggested.
And so, Anicia tried slowing down. When Jenny wanted to pick flowers, Anicia would pick with her. When she wanted to rest and just look at the clouds, Anicia rested with her. Pretty soon, Anicia found herself laughing with Jenny, and enjoying even the quiet times with her sister. Sometimes, Jenny would try to stand up on her own, and Anicia would clap for her whenever she was successful. In her mind, Anicia decided that whether or not Jenny would make it, they would give the tryouts a shot.
Finally, it was the big day! With her whole family in tow, Anicia gave Jenny two thumbs up as her mom went to the booth to register their names. Anicia’s heart almost jumped out of her chest when she heard her sister’s name being called to walk to the front. Her father carefully brought Jenny down. She sat on the floor at first and looked at Anicia.
“C’mon Jenny, you can do it!” Anicia smiled at her sister. Jenny looked at the faces of her mom and dad and then very slowly, pushed herself from the ground. She walked a bit wobbly at first, but made it to the front without even looking back.
“Yes!” Anicia hollered. “That’s my sister!”
Anicia and Jenny walked hand in hand that summer on Jenny’s first flower parade. Both wore matching fairy dresses with sparkly wings. They waved at everyone they passed and ended the day with a scoop of ice cream each. It was the sisters’ best summer yet.
Did You Know?
Babies with Down Syndrome have Hypotonia (or low muscle tone) which is why it takes them a little longer to walk, talk and eat the same as others. But, with hard work and support from family members, they get there!