Yes, I am staring at your child

The other day, I saw a girl out walking with her parents. Doesn’t really seem like anything out of the ordinary, and yet it was extraordinary. This little girl, probably about eight years old, was walking holding onto her mum’s hands, who was hunched over behind her, and rocking some lovely AFOs.

Most people might not even notice the foot orthotics on her as she slowly and carefully shuffled on down the street, but I did. And I noticed her parents, so loving and happy, laughing, and looking so proud.

And I stared at her. Yes, I stared. Not for the reason others might. I stared at this girl in her AFOs, walking. I stared and I cried. I had no idea who they were, what their story was, even what lead to them being out for a family walk on a beautiful day. But, I cried. I didn’t see that little girl in that moment; I saw Ella, walking and laughing and loving everything.

I stared at her because she was everything I wanted for Ella. She was strong and beautiful and sunny and bright and her parents looked like they were living on the other side- the sunny side of the street where those other people live, the people who haven’t lost or fought or mourned their child’s future, the imagined one we all have.

And I stared because I rarely see such an amazing thing. Or, I have but just didn’t notice. I didn’t notice the AFOs or the strength those families have. I didn’t notice until it was all I could notice. I didn’t stare because I hadn’t been to hell and back with my sweet girls. I didn’t know, but now I do, so I stared, and I cried and I smiled and I laughed and I dreamed. I dreamed of that being Ella and I walking on the sunny side of the street.

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