Fireworks and Tears
While flipping radio stations in the car today, I happened across “Firework” by Katy Perry. Within seconds I started tearing up. It has been WEEKS since I saw Perry’s performance with Jodi DiPiazza on Comedy Central’s “Night of Too Many Stars.” And yet the emotional response I had that evening is still very close to the surface. Not being one for touchy-feely sentiments about autism, the tears I had running down my face that evening were immediately chalked up to some hormonal imbalance. But as I heard Perry’s song today, and relived that performance with DiPiazza, I came to understand my emotional response. I was overwhelmed by the idea that this young girl, who was not expected to speak and whose parents were cautioned to not expect much for their daughter’s future, was actually on stage with one of modern day’s hottest pop stars. This young girl was holding her own in front of a huge live audience, and performed like a pro, never missing a beat when the audience burst out into applause mid-performance, nor showing a flicker of distraction by her role in this monumental event. DiPiazza was realizing a potential that had been begrudgingly dismissed upon her diagnosis. Today, her parents have removed all limitations on what they envisioned for their daughter’s future, and with good cause.
Okay, so that’s all great for the DiPiazza family, but why am I moved to tears by the achievements of a stranger? This moment of achievement—I’ll call it a Jodi Moment—is what we all want for our children. To watch as our children accomplish a dream they’ve held dear is the dream of all parents. I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced “mini” Jodi Moments as Cameron has mastered public transportation, found and maintained paid employment, and countless other moments that have left me both proud and pleasantly surprised. But seeing Jodi DiPiazza on stage with Katy Perry gave me a glimpse of what it might feel like when Cameron becomes a restaurant owner. Reaching a Jodi Moment, and realizing there’s a Jodi Moment out there for everyone is what keeps me going as a mom.
Now I’m sure there are cynics out there that will question what benefit DiPiazza gained by her performance. Her success in life is no more guaranteed by this event than it was the day prior to her performance. I suppose this is a fair point. But even the most cynical critics, the ones that make judgmental comments on You Tube about the mother’s reaction to receiving her daughter’s diagnosis, must concede that this was a defining moment for DiPiazza. I’ll bet there’s nothing she feels she can’t accomplish. I believe that experiencing defining moments of others makes us that more determined to seek our own defining moments. Our own Jodi Moments may not be witnessed by millions, but that doesn’t make them any less significant. If you were like me and were left reaching for the tissue box during Jodi’s Moment, here’s hoping that you’ll soon be reaching for a tissue again due to your own Jodi Moment.