Thursday, July 21, 2011

A Little Love Story

Every day could use a little love story.

Carlos had bounced from foster home to foster home by the time he'd reached 8th grade. The only memories he had of his real parents were dark and painful. His mild cerebral palsy and autism necessitated him taking all his classes in a self contained special education unit, where he began to thrive. Carlos read voraciously. He was also selectively mute, only using gestures or on the rare occasion, a simple spoken word. He self-soothed when he became nervous by fluttering his hands near his face, as if they were silent doves. His expression was always serious, never loosening into a smile.

Rachel had lived with her grandmother most of her life. She was a happy, bubbly girl, grown large with her grandma's delectable cooking. Although in 8th grade, she had the mental age of a 6 year old. Her speech was limited, but she also loved coming to school in the same self contained unit Carlos attended.

On a grade level field trip to a state park, their regular teachers were unable to attend. I kept a close eye on them, both to ensure their safety and because I didn't know how the other kids would treat them.

I was proud of the other 8th graders. They were kind to Carlos and Rachel and went out of their way to include them in the tour groups we had. Carlos and Rachel both seemed a little overwhelmed, but kept up well with all we did that morning.

Our scheduled lunch was a picnic near the river in a scenic spot canopied with enormous oak and elm trees. The other students grabbed their lunches and gobbled them down, eager to play and explore our area. I sat at a picnic table with Carlos and Rachel.

They shyly and quietly ate their lunches. Rachel giggled a few times as I tried to engage them in conversation, but Carlos kept his grave expression as he finished his sandwich. He stole a few glances at Rachel and his hands began fluttering.

He turned on the bench and faced her. She had her eyes on her food, still smiling, oblivious to Carlos' attention to her.

"Rachel," Carlos murmured softly. She continued to look at her food.

"Rachel," he said louder. This time, she swung her head towards him.

His hands fluttered even faster.

"Rachel, you are my heartbeat," he said clearly, without cutting his eyes from her.

"Huh?" she asked, uncomprehendingly.

"You are the air I breathe, Rachel," Carlos said with fervor.

No one had ever heard this boy say more than two words together. I felt like I was intruding on a sacred moment. I held my breath.

Rachel moved her head slightly towards Carlos.

"What it mean, Carlos?" she asked.

"I love you, Rachel. I love you," Carlos replied. His hands finally stilled themselves, his gaze intently fixed on her.

"Aw, I wuv you, too, Carlos," Rachel answered. She giggled and pulled open a bag of chips, crunching one loudly.

Carlos' expression softened and he exhaled a long, satisfied sigh. A small smile curled up at the corners of his mouth. The other teachers and kids loudly jumbled back to where we were and it was time to load the bus.

They did not sit in the same seat on the bus, but he looked back every now and then and grinned at her. She giggled back at him. His whole frame loosened and his hands rested calmly in his lap.

As we unloaded back at school, they still did not walk close to each other, but each time he looked at her, she smiled and giggled and he crinkled his eyes and beamed tenderly as they made their way back to class.


  1. What a special memory to share. Must have made you feel so blessed to see him open up like that.

  2. Odie: I still smile when I think about it. I was quite blessed to get to witness him do that. Life is good!


  3. What a lovely story teller you are are what a lovely memory to have. Thank you for giving my heart joy today...

  4. Sush: Thank you! I love to think about the wonderful things like this that are a part of my job.


  5. True, Belle! No matter how young or old.

  6. I'm a sucker for a good love story. And this was a great one. I literally gasped when he said, "You are my heartbeat."

    Love experiences like this make life worth living.

  7. Crystal: To see him go from almost mute to such eloquence was amazing. And for him to be capable of love after going through some of the things he went through is is sure testament to the healing power of love.

  8. Awww--I teared up with that--what a sweet, wonderful story! You know... I've been impressed by kids and their treatment of these challenged kids too. My kids are 16 and 12, and my memories of childhood is that kids got picked on, or everyone was uncomfortable around them, but I think we've come a long way in how we teach kids to cope with people with various challenges.

  9. Hart: You're right- I think most kids today are more tolerant of others, despite the minority who appear on the news in a negative light. I hope it's true not jsut of the kids in my area, but all over. Maybe they can teach the older generations a thing or two...

  10. What a Beautiful story, thanks for sharing it, that made my day :)

  11. IWASNTBLOGGEDYESTERDAY: Thank you- I love to think about those two because they were so honestly sweet.

  12. Beautiful love story. Pure and innocent.

  13. What a beautiful love story! makes me smile.. =)

  14. Nuna: It still makes me smile to think about those two!


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