I have a special, special little friend.
Her name is Tayla.
Tayla is so good for the soul. Hanging out with her is just so uplifting; she is so intriguing, illuminating and irradiating. An hour in her company equals a day’s worth of joy spent with some of my other friends. She is so positive, optimistic and up for anything.
Tayla has Down’s Syndrome.
Last night it was her 21st birthday. I have never seen someone so feverish for festivities. Abbey, Tayla’s older sister, and I were up furiously baking until 2am on Friday night (well Ab was, I sat and watched and only leapt up to aid in icing). When we went round to drop off Tay’s treats in the morning, she was pirouetting around the room in a fitful frenzy, and when she saw the baked goods she clapped her hands in merriful mirth. “Oh my GOD,” she exclaimed. “They are PERFECT.”
I popped into the rugby club where the function was being held in the afternoon to check on set up, and Tayla was burbling over in anticipation. “Five hours to go!” She announced, flinging ribbons and helium balloons around the room. I couldn’t help but join in too; Tayla has the glorious influence of bringing out your inner elation.
7.30pm came, along with carloads of people. “Fuck,” Abbey whistled. “She has a better turn out than my 21st did.” And what a beatific bunch.
With the majority of the younger crowd being Tayla’s buds from the special needs unit at school, it was an absolute breath of fresh air. Rather than short and revealing dresses, an over abundance of white wine turning out tragically tipsy females and boys uproariously guaffing and letting out lewd jokes, these kids were on the dance floor with no innihibitions.
The girls were done up in floor length ball-like “frocks”, hair in Taylor Swift curled do-ups and eyelids coated with glittery shadows. The boys were in crisply cut jeans with tidy crew cuts and laced up clean Converse. They sung out, they laughed with pure joie de vivre, and they invited all in the hall to join them for some hand held dancing.
I sat on my own and just observed, sipping on a glass of wine. I felt so affected. These kids (well, adults really) are often considered unfortunate in their conditions. Given pity, sorrow, sympathy. While they rightly so deserve compassion, I couldn’t help but envy their ability to be completely uninhibited.
Tayla looked stunning. Absolutely beautiful. She truly did. In her Tayla-made (oh yes, I’m proud of that one) pink dress, perfect curls and flawless makeup (courtesy of talented Abbey) she was without a doubt the belle of her birthday.
I’ve just included below the speech I did about and to Tayla, because I think it pretty well nailed this captivating, enchanting and all round remarkable pneuma.
“I’ve come across some pretty amazing people in my life. But I can honestly say the one I find most incredible is the one and only, Tayla Missen.
This girl is something else.
When I was at Uni, one of my assignments I had to do was make a documentary on an interesting subject. So my group did ours about Tayla turning 18. I can honestly say anyone who ever watched it fell head over heels in love with her. Tayla absolutely lit up the screen with her beautiful smile, infectious giggle and honest answers that had you either in tears or pearls of laughter. In it, she described herself as “fun sized” which is just so so fitting; she truly is a bundle of joy.
Tayla has achieved so much, but she’s not at all egotiscal or loudmouthed about her successes. So I’m going to boast on her behalf. I’ve got a letter here that she received just last week that I want to read out.
(Here I read out a letter Tayla got congratulating her on achieving her St John Grand Prior’s Badge, the greatest honour a St John cadet can earn. She is to go to Wellington next year to be presented with it by the Givernor General).
And Tayla has possible plans in the pipeline too. There is a potential part-time job sorted for next year. She’s in line to write a column for the local newspaper. And she just keeps going and going, putting her hand up and giving her all to whatever opportunity comes her way.
I think everyone could learn a good thing or two from Tayla.
To dance like no one is watching. To smile no matter how cloudy the day may be. To be enthusiastic about life. To wear your heart on your sleeve. To live, to love.
Love you little sister, my special special little friend.”