I’ve always taken singing the National Anthem for granted until Mateo sang it publicly for the first time at our own Lake Erie Crushers baseball stadium. When he was in the 5th grade, he waited for an hour in a crowd of singers — mostly adults who sang beautifully — to audition in front of a panel of judges. Before he began singing, he explained to the judges, “I want to show you how I sing the National Anthem,” and he sang using his Dynavox. I will never forget how everyone stopped to listen to him that day when he auditioned. Even the players who were practicing on the field put down their gloves, their balls and their bats and just listened. He sang for the Crushers twice before declaring that he’s retired.
Last week, our school district’s athletic director invited him to sing the National Anthem at his high school. On 2/11/14, he came out of retirement to sing before the boys varsity basketball game — Avon High School vs. North Olmsted. With our permission, news of the performance was tweeted and a short time later, we got a call from Channel 3 News. Mateo sang the National Anthem again today, this time for the girls varsity basketball game — Avon High School vs. Vermilion — and with a news camera on him. Reporter Monica Robins took the time to talk with him about what it means for him to perform like this. He usually takes it all in stride, but he revealed in the interview that he was a little more nervous today because it was for the GIRLS team.
Anyway, the reporter took a genuine interest in getting to know him this afternoon. It turns out they had something in common. She likes to sing the National Anthem too, but she DOES get very nervous. Mateo did a nice job telling her about his interests and what he wants to do when he grows up.
I was a nervous wreck! I knew ahead of time that she was going to interview me too, but there was really no way for me to prepare what I would say. How could I possibly express how proud Mateo makes me? Or how he’s changed me? Or how much I want for everyone to have a voice of their own?
For Mateo, this was no big deal. He told me that he’s like every other kid. And that’s exactly the story I hope is told. He is just like every other kid. He wants to hang out with his friends, to learn, to have a girlfriend and to get a job that he loves. He wants to get married and have a family some day. And I want all those things for him too. He may communicate differently and learn differently, but he has all the hopes and dreams that you would expect of a 14-year old young man.
It seems my worlds collide 24 hours a day. I often joke that I’m a woman with limited interests. I’m so grateful that Mateo has his voice and that someone new took the time to listen today. Today, I am just a proud mom.