I had the honour of writing a piece about my big brother over on A Special Purposed Life to help bring awareness for Down Syndrome over the month of October .
Hope you enjoy my little story !
Thank you so much Evana ,for including me and my brother in your awareness project.
“So, tomorrow, the eve of this Halloween, there is a fancy dress competition and a talent competition for you all to take part in. The funds raised will go towards the community centre,” the priest’s voice bounced off the walls of the cold church.
“Can we go?” We nagged our parents as we left the church.
“Yes” mammy smiled, while our dad muttered something about 50 pence multiplied by six was no ‘cheap’ event for the kids, plus spending money, plus donation for the box, which no doubt the priest would have sitting by the entrance of the community centre…”yes guys ye can all go” he finally smiled when he saw the six of us had stopped and were trying to gage if it was a yes from his side or a rant. It was, as usual, both. Our father liked to tell us the cost of doing all these activities, but never said no, even though, having six kids in Ireland during the 1980s was not a ‘walk’ in the park.
The excitement built at home as we all tried to come up with great costumes; there is only so much you can do with a black plastic bag and a cheap plastic mask but we were in our element deciding if we should enter the talent competition too and if we did; would we do it all together or would we have a better chance if we split up?
My older siblings made their feelings crystal clear when we asked for their advice.
“I am going down to that centre to mind ye and hopefully laugh, I am not dressing up or entering a competition, I am too old for that crap,” my eldest sister, L, scoffed at the idea as she rewound her ‘New Kids on the block’ tape for the millionth time.
My older brother, also L, piped up, “I reckon O will win the talent comp, if he pretends no one is watching him. Lads we could actually bring home the top prize!”
L was the brother who always had the ‘plan’ but never liked to do much, just ordered us about- if you ever watched the ‘A-Team’, our brother L was very much the ‘Hannibal’ of our little family.
Our eyes widened at the thought of bringing home the top prize. We glanced over at O who was happily colouring his mountain of colouring books.
O is our eldest brother. O loves and I mean absolutely loves Michael Jackson. O can dance. O can dance really well especially to Michael Jackson. (Michael Jackson was huge in the 80’s especially his dance moves for ‘Smooth Criminal’ which our brother O, had learned off, thanks to the video he got the previous Christmas and the rewind and pause button.)
We spent the rest of the evening abandoning our own ‘talents’ and honing in on the one who had the talent, our big brother O.
The smell of Halloween was in the air as the six of us walked down to the community centre the following evening.
All we had to do was encourage O to dance like no one was watching.
The centre was full of Michael Jackson look a likes but we knew, O with his handmade sequined glove, his red Jacket (well, mammy’s red jacket), and his fedora hat (which we liberated from the back of dad’s wardrobe and returned promptly later that evening) would help him stand out in the crowd.
Getting O to dance wasn’t as straightforward as we had hoped; in the end, we had to let him watch his Michael Jackson videos the following morning for as long as he wanted. We also had to promise to share our Halloween haul with him as he didn’t want to go ‘trick or treating’ anymore. We agreed to it all as our very own ‘Hannibal’ encouraged us to do so; telling us “It’ll all be worth it, when O wins the top prize.”
Easy for him to say, since he had no plans either to go ‘trick or treating’ as he was now far too old to at the ripe old age of 11.
O danced his heart out as Michael Jackson’s ‘Smooth Criminal’ blasted over the speakers for the tenth time that night .
We stood watching him, a sense of pride coming over us, as we watched other children from our community finally accept our brother. They finally saw him…he was just like them only different.
I was only 7, but I could tell, as I watched the crowd, that it didn’t matter if O won or not; what mattered was that he was here and having fun, just like everyone else.
O finished, took a bow and walked away while the five of us followed behind.
O came in second.
We left that centre full of laughter and pride as we retold the story to our parents over and over about the time the whole community cheered for our brother as he danced his heart out.
O has literally been singing and dancing ever since! He is now in his 40’s, he still loves Michael Jackson, and can pop up at any point dressed up as the man himself …he doesn’t wait for Halloween …ain’t he right?!
Thank you O for being you and for rocking that extra chromosome of yours so very well . You, mam and, dad gave me a fantastic understanding of ‘extra’ or ‘special’ needs so that I too, could help my son, many years later.
This was originally published on A Special Purposed life