We weren’t going to go to the Gala this year. I wasn’t speaking in front of the hundreds of people supporting GiGi’s. Judah’s picture wasn’t there welcoming guests.. I wasn’t on the volunteer committee. I had no hand in the preparation pot what-so-ever and so this year we were going to skip it. Am I glad we didn’t …..

I came in crying. We recently found out Judah has traits that are congruent with autism. And, as with his Down syndrome diagnosis , it is a pill stuck in my throat. I want to go back. I wanted to be at last years Gala when I thought Judah could be anything, not this one where I am constantly wondering things like , will he ever call me mama?

It was hard and raw to walk up that staircase. The butterfly was back. The one that fluttered around my belly when we went to our first World Down syndrome day at the mall. I wondered if I could even do this thing, and all the same, I knew I needed to.

The first thing that caught my eye was David’s picture and I couldn’t help thinking about his mom. I was betting that she would give anything to hug and kiss her boy one more time.

How dare I be sad about my son’s new diagnosis?

Next Bobby and I found out we were sitting at the same table as a couple we met our first year. They were like us. They liked to laugh and be light . We are huge fans of the fun they are and even bigger fans of their strength. You see, they lost their little Bella when she was just a few months old. They barely got to even soak in that extra chromosome. And they were still HERE supporting GiGi’s.

How dare I even sulk a little?

The difference between the autism diagnosis and my catapult into the world of Down syndrome, is that this time I knew I had people. And I found my way to them as soon as we got there. I knew their words like “he is still just Judah” and “we still love him” would save me. I also knew that the way my desperation was met with loving nonchalance meant that this was no big deal. And so through loving listening from friends… and some heart breaking reminders of why I should be grateful….I moved on.

I moved on to remember why we were there.

The video from National bringing so many tears. As one man said:

We all deserve love and to be included., We all deserve to be valued, respected, and to be independent

In fact, this video was so inspiring that radio personality and MC for the evening, Skip Clark, was moved enough to bring his son Zach to the podium. He shouted admiration for his boy and the crowd’s eyes began to rain.

Self advocate Bill made a speech that reminded me how fun this life is.

He beamed about how being a part of GiGis makes him feel proud and then offered give anyone a tour of the Playhouse. He concluded with an invitation to meet him on the dance floor….which did not disappoint by the way.

I remembered how much purpose GiGi’s gives us as Emmit’s mom recounted a doctor suggesting she have an abortion. I couldn’t help but think about all of the work that we still need to do. I couldn’t help wishing every person in the world had an opportunity to be welcomed into the room; that they got to hear this mom profess her love through tears. For they would surely feel what we were feeling. We were all shaking our heads yes with this momma through blurry eyes. We all felt the importance and value of the people we were fighting for . I had to immediately hug her after because rather than wallowing, I once again was ecstatic to be a part of this journey…whatever it may look like.

And as Bobby and I waited in the wings so that I could embrace this beautiful new mama, he and I locked eyes and both emphatically said “this is our thing”

This will always be our thing. Loving and supporting GiGi’s gives us so much more than we could ever give them. It is a sense of commaradarie , purpose, and ultimately, amidst some trials and tribulations; it is also pure joy.

Well we let that joy carry us right on through the rest of the night.

We took lots of pictures. We hit up the photo booth with the best table mates a couple could ask for ; Erica and Jim. We happily bid way too much money on a popcorn maker for our kids. We happily drank too much as we chatted up old friends and made new ones. We talked shop and bonded over commonalities. We made good on our vow to dance with Bill. We swooned over littles with something extra. We ate lots of cookies. We celebrated Sarah who pulled off an amazing feat and greeted new board members with hopeful hugs. We grinned straight until our heads hit the pillow and never one more time did we feel mournful.

GiG’s does that to you. It leaves you ambitious to volunteer, eager to donate, grateful to be a part of it all. It’s the antidote to what ails you. It’s the cure for common casualness. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Never will I ever miss an opportunity to be there for GiGi’s. Not when they have spent so much time saving my soul.