Wil leaned his head against the passenger-side window. His brand-new and carefully-chosen checkered shirt, maroon tie and navy pants were dry, but his spirits were dampened. My dad was parked next to us in the United Methodist Church lot, which was just a flight of stairs above the football field.
“I know it’s raining, but do you want to roll down the window and talk to Grandpa?” I asked.
Wil didn’t answer me, but he lifted his head and pressed the window button down. My dad asked Wil multiple questions to elevate his spirits. (Thank goodness for amazing grandparents!)
The MHS homecoming game had been delayed by a lightning strike. Then by another strike. A downpour of rain followed. We were now nearly into an hour of delay. During the school day, Wil had practiced walking across the football field with his paraprofessional, Kristi Campbell. Wil and I talked about his being on the homecoming court all week, so he was well-prepared to cross the field with Memphis, who also represented the freshman class. I anticipated a chance of rain, and knew Wil wouldn’t want to cover up his new clothes with just anything, so we bought a new raincoat. The largest obstacle I foresaw was the band. Wil doesn’t like loud noises, and he might refuse to move. I assured Wil that he’d be crossing the field after the band played, and I’d have his ear protectors on hand. What I didn’t anticipate was a lightning delay.
My cell phone rang. It was Kristi Campbell. She and Memphis were headed up to the parking lot to meet us. Kristi suggested taking pictures under the front overhang of the church.
Wil’s eyes widened at the sight of Memphis. She was gorgeous in a full-length, sparkling seafoam-colored dress. Wil stood tall and proud linking arms with Memphis for pictures. Though they weren’t on the football field as planned, this was definitely a moment for Wil. (As Kristi knew it would be. Thank goodness for amazing paraprofessionals!)
Multiple cars exited the parking lot as the delay continued. I knew Wil wouldn’t want to go home. Fortunately, his sister Katherine was working as a server at a local restaurant. I suggested we visit Katherine and order some food.
At the restaurant, Wil asked me about the homecoming dance. I sadly didn’t have an answer for him. Then, almost as if on cue, my cell phone rang. It was Kristi Campbell. The game was cancelled but the homecoming court would now be at 9:00pm followed by the dance. It was 8:58pm. Our food hadn’t arrived, so I asked Katherine to change our order to a carry-out that we’d pick up later.
We met Memphis back in the parking lot, as her family had quickly returned too. The rain, and the band, had taken leave, so Wil walked onto the football field without hesitation (and without his raincoat). He smiled for every picture and soaked it all in.
Wil’s friends, Sarah and Seeger, ran up to congratulate him. They asked Wil if he was going to the dance. The dance would be a major independent experience for Wil. When Wil gets tired, there is no turning back. Not everyone can read his cues, and by the time they do, he has shut down. But Wil’s friends know him well. I asked Sarah and Seeger if they could text me when Wil grew tired and I’d be right up at the school to pick him up. They accepted that responsibility without hesitation. Wil made it through nearly the entire dance with his friends. After the dance, Wil’s friend Ashley texted me videos of Wil dancing the night away. (Thank goodness for amazing friendships and happy endings!)