Friday, February 16, 2007

Left Behind

She's beautiful. We're all taken with her. A group of business men types having breakfast in a hotel lobby, it's nice to see a little kid doing little kid things. It's a distraction from eating for purpose, not pleasure, worrying about the day rather than simply enjoying the moment. Her mother was getting two plates from the buffet behind and bringing stuff back to the table.

Then it began.

Norman Rockwell began the painting but reality set it alight.

Mother started almost immediately. Kate, dew eyed child, was left handed. Mom was insisting she use her right. "You want to be perfect don't you?" Tears sprung to little eyes at the knowledge that at 6 she wasn't living up to expectations.

The room tensed. Everyone stopped for a second, like we'd all witnessed a slap across the face. Then, moment gone, we went on.

The child struggled to use a right hand that was no where near as adept at the left. But Kate wanted to make mother happy, be a perfect little girl. After only a little time she gave up on her food. Mother looked more approvingly at unfinished food than she did at her daughter.

Kate got up and began to check things out in the room. She came over to this computer, looked over the fake books in the fake bookshelf. Then back to the table. She was little. Really little. She lifted her arm up for mom to pick her up and help her into the chair.

Another sharp shot, "You don't need help, you aren't like that poor crippled girl in your class. You've got to learn to do things on your own."

The room tensed. In seconds we were all up, save Madonna and Child. I don't think that anyone could take it any longer.

I said nothing.

I told Donna, the woman from Rhode Island who brough me here and she said, voice full of irony, "And you need a license to fish in this state."

When I got back to the hotel, I had to wait for an hour for the computer. I kept calling down and finally the station was free.

She's here now.

Kate, the little girl.

She's colouring at the table behind me. I don't know where mother is. It looks as if she's being watched over by the woman on the desk.

But she's humming and singing as she colours.

Unrepentantly she's colouring.

With her left hand.


Frances said...

Dear Dave- I'm not going to cry. I'm not even going to write more than one more line. I'm just going to spend today praising, loving, approving and affirming my three beautiful children. OK I lied, one more line- and subtley whispering to them all day that their 'good enough' is more than good enough.Frances

justme said...

In my old age "ahem", I have begun to make comments to people like that Mother. It may not be the right thing to do, but I think it needs to be done.


andrea said...

I am so beside myself I can hardly think of anything polite to say about this situation that is extremely wrong on a number of levels:

How being a lefty is wrong.

How little girls need to be perfect to be accepted.

How little girls need to not protest at impossible demands.

How horrible it is to be a little crippled girl.

How one should do everything possible not to be thought of as being like a little crippled girl.

How it's bad to ask for help from people you trust.

How the people you trust won't help you even if you need it or try hard.

Maybe I'm just over-reacting because I too was taught right-handed penmanship, and then spent years hearing about how lousy my handwriting was, and how I wasn't living up to expectations.

But I don't think I'm over-reacting.

I wonder how all the people there outside the mother-and-child dyad felt when they under-reacted. Or did anyone react directly to them?

Susan said...

Wow. I'm a grandmother now and I thought turning left-handed kids into right handed was something that was left way back in the dark ages of the fifties and sixties.

When a sensitive doctor explained to my mother (who meant well, I know) that my developing a stutter in my speech was probably a direct result of her trying to turn me into a right-handed person, she finally gave up the effort -- to my GREAT relief -- and the stutter immediately went away. There was always attention drawn to that fact through my childhood, though, as if I was slightly "crippled" because of being a lefty... I grew up thinking that it had been a difficult choice for my parents -- would they let me grow up embarrassing them by being left-handed or embarrassing them by talking funny.

Well, trust me. I made sure they were embarrassed in all kinds of different ways -- mostly by chirping out the truth exactly as I saw it and blowing their "politically correct" cover whenever I could. I took kind of wicked pleasure in that...

I pray that girl finds her way. She'll have a tough row to hoe, no doubt, but maybe she's made of enough of the right stuff to break free of her mother's misguided efforts to control her and make some kind of significant mark in this world. Maybe she'll write a book on "Identity". Let's hope...

Ryn Tales said...

At first I wanted to believe you were making this up - since you are a writer an all. But I have seen similar things happen and they really kill me. My child was injured at birth and I spend my life building her self esteem and letting her know how much I love her just as she is. That she's perfect because she is a spark of god like anyone else.

So when I hear or see things like this - it just kills me. I am sad for the mother who is missing the boat on how lucky she is and closing her heart to all that little kid innocence and beauty and unconditional, you are my rock star mommy love. What a shame. Poor chicken too - hopefully there are others in her life who love her as she is, left handed an all.
Great post.