A friend of mine was born with cerebral palsy. Her left hand doesn’t have the range of motion that her right does. Her left ankle doesn’t have the same strength as her right. She is not a champion typist or Olympic level jar lid opener. After that, it’s hard to find the long term effects of her debilitating condition.
She’s 61 now, a spit and fire of love and creative energy, gentle and apologetic for her ten mistakes, forgiving and generous of spirit to the 10,000 mistakes of others. She is a kindergarten teacher. Over the course of 30 plus years, she has taught hundreds. She had befriended thousands. She is a cycler, swimmer, cross country skier, hiker, skater. She bakes endless cookies, gingerbread men, and extremely fine butterhorns.
When she was young, she says she fell down a lot. Her mother let her pick herself back up again. They lived near the ocean, her beloved Atlantic ocean. She sputtered and swam crooked. Her mother let her sputter and she figured it out. She couldn’t always keep up with the other kids. Her mother told her to go play anyway.
By the time she was 18, my friend was running her own daycare in the summers. I’ve seen pictures. Kids everywhere that she fed, took swimming and played with. She went on to Gordon College and a life of teaching kindergarteners and a thousand million (as she would say) friends.
Yes, you can, she says laughing. Yes, you can, she says cheering. Yes, you can, she says nose to nose, I won’t take no for an answer. You try it and you do it because I know you can, you just have to know it too, she will say to young friends. In the history of the world, when someone tries something, she has never forgotten to cheer.
A few weeks ago, my friend came over to skate. She forgot to bring a brace for her ankle. I offered to help her lace up the skate on the bad foot and she accepted. It took us both fighting hard to get that crooked ankle to let her foot inside the skate. We got it in and we laced it up, but her left skate couldn’t stand straight, it had to go at the ice on an angle. I thought she might skate gently around the edges for a while and get a sense of the ice.
Great ice, she yelled to girl two. Whose going to play tag with me?
I’m not being facetious. I want to know. Who was this woman’s mother?