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The Empty Smile

Day One

I worked all day.

I met all needs.

I smiled.

I gave small commands.

I rubbed a back that tensed.

I tried.

There were no smiles.

Day two.

I worked all day.

I met all needs.

I gave small commands.

I rubbed a back that tensed.

I held a hand that was small and soft.

I kept smiling.

I looked into eyes that looked past me.

There was a smile.

It almost seemed empty.

Did you hear me? There was a smile!

I’ll take it.

Autism. A smile that looks empty is still a smile.

Sometimes the empty smiles mean oh-so-much more.

Yesterday I told you about how much The Smile impacted my day. The baby smiled at me. You know those baby smiles. They can melt an adult into a puddle in less than three seconds. But let’s be real… babies smile at faces. They smile when they are clothed and fed. They smile when they are gassy. Oh… but those smiles!!!! To hold a little wiggly bundle and smile at the bald head and then you see it… The Smile! My heart melts at just the memory. Ok – back to the baby that day. The baby has a brother. The brother has a different kind of smile. First, the obvious, there are teeth. And a gone are the chubby cheeks. The sparkle isn’t quite the same. In fact the smile looks… empty. You see, Brother has Autism. He looks at me – without looking at me. He talks – but not with words. He smiles – but it’s faraway, almost empty. But when he smiles, oh… he smiles. It probably won’t be a big grin. It won’t come with a snuggle or hug.  He might not even acknowledge he is smiling at me. But his smile… it might not melt me into a puddle, but it is worth the moon.

Then I think… how many times are my smiles empty? (ouch)

Yes, those smiles – the ones from brother – they really do mean so-much-more.

Keep building bridges. Keep Smiling. Even when it feels empty.

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The Smile

Exhaustion wraps itself around me like a blanket. For a mere few hours over the past two days I welcomed a newborn and toddler into my home and heart. There are things a mom never forgets: how to warm a bottle, change a diaper, wipe a runny nose, and swaddle a baby. There are things we forget quickly: the exhaustion, frustration of not being able to discern a cry, how hard it is to even find time to go the bathroom, and the intense gratification of a smile.

avery smile

Photo Credit Raeley.com

The moment the baby first smiled at me – I became a puddle – and it made the early morning babysitting worth every second of lost sleep. I pondered my reaction to The Smile all afternoon. The Smile possessed a magical quality that filled me with warmth. I felt connected.

No matter what I did, I carried The Smile with me.  When I bought groceries at the store, I took the memory of The Smile with me. When I did daily mundane tasks (ahem…laundry and dishes), I carried the memory of The Smile with me. When I volunteered at church, I took the memory of The Smile with me. I smiled at the clerk, my family, and the children every chance I could.You know what? They smiled back. The Smile connected us.

When the doorbell rang EARLY this morning, all I could think about was The Smile. The baby was asleep. Yes, I was tempted to wake a sleeping child just to see a smile. But as I said, there are some things you don’t ever forget. One of those is to never wake a sleeping baby… even to see The Smile.

Sometimes we try too hard to connect with people. Sometimes all it takes is a heartfelt smile. Sometimes building bridges is as simple as a smile.

I’m still pondering The Smile. You see, the toddler’s smile was an empty one. An empty smile? Yes, and I’ll tell you all about The Empty Smile tomorrow. But for now, I have the toddler to follow and the baby to cuddle. All while holding The Smile close to my heart.

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