Something unexpected happened while we were in Israel in this past spring. We were having a Passover seder in a banquet hall with several other families from our Jewish day school. There was a lull in the evening as people were eating and going back and forth to the buffet. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed my then 16-year-old son with special needs sitting on a sofa talking to someone.
Not just a family member or a family friend, but a girl, and a teenage girl at that. She was a lovely younger sister of my older son’s classmates, with health challenges and issues of her own. What struck me was that they actually seemed to be engaged in conversation–something that is generally difficult for my son to sustain.
It was so adorable–it almost made me weep.
“What’d you talk about?” his siblings and I grilled him afterwards.
“We actually had a lot in common,” he said matter-of-factly. “We talked about TV and movies.” Ah, that made sense as these are some of his favorite things to discuss.
Still, I was touched at the sweetness of the interaction, which allowed me to see my son in a different light–as a young man with the possibility of courtship. I felt as if I was channeling my mother and grandmother when I described what, to me, was a momentous event to my friends: “It was just darling,” I gushed.
The evening passed, and the moment faded into a warm memory. Until I received an email from the young lady’s mother saying that her daughter wanted to go see a movie with my son. Be still my heart! I was elated. His life is rich with family, family friends, friendly professionals, and lovely volunteers. But it is rare that he gets invited to do something socially with a good old-fashioned friend.
“I want to go,” he eagerly stated.
“Do you know how to behave like a gentleman?” I joked with him.
He assured me that yes, he did. I was giddy with anticipation of the big “date,” although my son did not like to be teased about it, and of course viewed it for what it was–going to the movies with a friend who happens to be a girl. I showed restraint around him, spilling over with excitement to my sister, father, and girlfriends.
It turned out to be a lovely, uneventful outing. After their dads helped buy the tickets, the two friends sat and watched a movie while happily munching on popcorn. Truth be told, my son hogged the popcorn, as his companion reported when we picked them up.
“It was just so delicious,” he sheepishly admitted.
So much for gentlemanly behavior. He acted like a typical teenager–rather than being thoroughly annoyed by this fact, I was overjoyed. Next time we’ll spring for the jumbo tub of popcorn.