Jonny and Me

Jonny and Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Jonny and Me

When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses.

~Joyce Brothers

My family sometimes talks about “Before Jonny” and “After Jonny.” But I’ve never known life without my special brother.

Not that we’re not all special — at least that’s what my parents say. We are fifty-four weeks apart, which to some people means we’re “Irish Twins.” And in a way, we really were like twins when we were little.

Now we’re pretty different. That’s because Jonny has Down syndrome, or as my mom calls it, “A Little Extra” — an extra chromosome on his twenty-first pair. I finally understood this when we made DNA models with gumdrops and pretzel sticks at school.

Jonny isn’t really all that different, but his differences are enough to make him stand out in a crowd. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of different reactions from people in all sorts of situations. But while I’ve heard stories about kids giving disabled kids a rough time, I’ve never seen that in the places where we’ve lived. In fact, Jonny seems to bring out the best in the people he meets. Now, when he walks down the halls of our high school, he’s greeted with tons of high fives and cries of “Hey, Jonny!”

For a while, in middle school, I even worried that Jonny was more popular than me. When I told my dad how I felt, he said that Jonny had a long road ahead of him — and that he needed all the confidence he could get in his early years. Someday, my dad said, those people high-fiving and “Hey Jonny-ing” him would be the same people who might give jobs to him and other people with disabilities. My dad told me that soon middle school would be over. He said that what I was feeling was normal for a girl with an older brother in the same school and, as he often liked to repeat, “This too shall pass.” I used to hate it when my dad said that, but as I get older I start to see that he has a point.

And it did pass — my mixed feelings about Jonny’s popularity. Now I’m happy for him. I’m happy we live in a town where he can have a lot of friends and I’m proud of our school where four years ago a senior girl with Down syndrome was voted Homecoming Queen.

While my mom and dad have had to work hard to help Jonny reach his potential, they’ve worked as hard to help me reach mine. Jonny and I share a love of Broadway musicals and both of us hope someday to work onstage.

Seeing Jonny’s life unfold has helped me see that there’s a plan for mine as well. Just like Jonny’s Down syndrome, our love of music and acting are things that were present in us the day we were born.

My parents say having a baby is like getting a gift from God. As they grow up, that gift is slowly unwrapped until we see what’s inside.

Jonny’s little extra was obvious the minute he was born. Unwrapping my package may have taken a little longer, but if there’s one thing Jonny has taught our family, it’s that each of us is a little different. But what’s most important are the ways in which we are the same.

~Madeleine Curtis

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