My baby sister Brie turned twenty-two today.
This past year was her last in high school. In Georgia, special education students can stay in high school until the day after they turn twenty-one. Her program focused on preparing kids to function within the “mainstream” community. She had job sites like Shane’s Rib Shack, where she and her classmates would prepare tables and roll silverware before the restaurant opened. She went on field trips to Target to practice grocery shopping. She took public transit without having a crowd-induced anxiety attacks. School was her constant.
Change doesn’t come easily to Brie. As an autistic girl who has severe OCD, she needs all the stability she can get. This transition has been made easier because she’s currently in a summer camp that’s similar to her high school’s community-based program. While she’s not the typical twenty-two-year-old college graduate, she’s finding her way in “the real world” in her life after school, as well.
It’s the little things that make Brie happy. There are times when our mother will mourn the loss of the life that my baby sister could have had. Our mother has yet to realize that this is the only life my sister knows and she’s unaware of what she’s missing. Brie’s life is made up of routines in which she takes solace; she savors good food, explores the community with her camp friends, and runs on the treadmill or on the trail by our mother’s house. Brie loves people without hesitation or prejudice. She senses when you’re upset or angry and will hug you tightly until you smile.
Tonight, we’ll have Thai & Chinese takeout for dinner with our brother Raf and our mother. On your birthday, you’re supposed to eat long noodles for a long life, so Brie will order her favorites — pad Thai and lo mein. I let her open my present last weekend (Despicable Me on Bluray), but she’ll open her presents from the rest of the family this evening. She’s probably getting more puzzles and UNO card sets to add to her extensive collections.
Before blowing out the candles on her Dairy Queen ice cream cake, Brie will steal bites of frosting and sing to herself while clapping,
Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to Brie!