Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Little Chat

We are in Ottawa visiting with the Mike, Marissa, Sadie and the Rube-ster. We had about a half hour of quiet in the hotel room before SOUND arrived. Ruby was in the best of moods. It was like she had an agenda, give us each a hug, jump on the bed, run around the room, jump on the bed, change into new swimming suit, model new swimming suit, jump on the bed. You get tired watching these youngsters.

After swimming was done, on a break between jumping on the bed and eating pizza. She came over to me and put her hands up to be picked up. She's a big girl now, almost 4, but she still likes to be cradled and talked to. I asked her how she was doing and she said that she was having fun. She still lives in the moment (something I've been striving to do for 53 years) so we simply talked about the moment.

She quieted for a second and then she said, 'I saw that guy.'

This was new, a whole different direction. 'What guy was that Ruby.'

She said, 'In the store with my mom.'

Her sentences are wonderfully long now yet still frustratingly short.

'You saw him when you were in the store with your mom.'

'Yes,' she said.

'And?' I said.

'He sits in a chair like yours.'

'A wheelchair.'

She nodded.

'Is he nice?' I said hopefully.

'He smiles when he talks,' she said.

'What does he say to you,' I asked.

'He doesn't talk to me, he's a stranger, silly.'

'But he smiles when he talks.'


Then she wanted down.

I woke this morning thinking about this little conversation. About how Ruby is looking at the world trying to find patterns and ways of understanding what she sees. She knows someone who is in a wheelchair. She's seen someone else. Of course she'd be wondering ... and blessed be, it's someone who smiles when he talks.

On my way to the bathroom, I stopped and looked in the mirror. I tried to smile when I talked and discovered that when I did so, I looked like I had cerebral palsy. That's out for me. I've decided to try to put my smile in my words. Whatever it takes, because little one's are watching and learning. Little ones can separate the sweet from the chafe. There is no question which category is my aim.


Kristin said...

It never fails to amaze me just how much my kids notice and absorb. Ruby sounds like an observant little girl.

Moose said...

If you put a smile in your words your face will reflect it naturally. Trying to force it will only cause weird faces, mayhem, floods, tornadoes, hailstorms, plagues of locusts, skiing aardvarks, lumpy mashed potatoes, fire breathing bison, robot zombie uprisings, and... Wait, what was I saying?

Andrea S. said...


Okay, I can understand completely how making weird faces can cause mayhem, floods, tornados, and the rest. Even skiing aardvarks. Sure, no problem. That makes sense to me.

What I don't understand is how weird faces cause lumpy mashed potatoes. Can you elaborate on that one? Is it because weird faces causes metal to wrap so that potato mashers don't work properly?

Thank you.

[Okay. I could not resist! :-) ]

Gina said...

and we wouldn't want to look like we had cerebral palsy because that would be:
a) worse?
b) scary?
c) horrible?
d) all of the above?

If we use technical medical terms instead of 'spaz' or 'the r word' it doesn't make it OK - we are still thinking the same thing. I wish that sentence didn't appear in that otherwise delightful story.

First Lee said...

I tried to smile when I talked and discovered that when I did so, I looked like I had cerebral palsy.

What's wrong like looking like you have cerebral palsy?

Dave Hingsburger said...

Gosh, Gina, I didn't see it as a negative, nor was I using that as a negative. I had a friend a long time ago with cerebral palsy who used to say that 'the best thing about cerebral palsy is that you can't talk without smiling'. I was making reference to her. I think it's ok, to make reference to disability as a writing trick or tool because disability 'is' and therefore should be talked about. Thanks for your feedback though, it made me double check to see if it sounded negative. I hope it doesn't to others because it doesn't to me.

Moose said...

Hey, Dave, I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but you've hit that fine line between "politically correct speech" and "real life." The problem, I believe, is that not all of us know people who fit into a category and can see or know that it's common for X people to be Y.

I like to say that the best part of being crippled is the parking (ie getting the parking placard to get the "good" spaces). Some people are HORRIFIED when I say this.

And, Andrea, you're right, I apologize. I really exaggerated about the mashed potatoes. I hope you can forgive me. :-P

Mary said...

Young kids are way better than adults at detecting fake smiles that aren't really there and hearing real smiles that are. They routinely ignore women's social smiling. The kids will hear your smiles. :)

Unfortunately, they are socialized too young to ignore fake or missing smiles because it embarrasses their parents when they say things like "Why is that lady smiling while she's saying mean things to you?" about the highway patrol officer.

gina said...

Yeah, hear ya Dave.
Assuming that CP presents the same in one person as the next then I guess it could be a suitable comment. In fact the biggest problem with the term CP is that it is an umbrella term for such a vast array of presentations from a twist of a wrist or foot to the type we are more familiar with in our home which gets referred to as 'bucket of crap palsy' (not saying our son is a bucket of crap, just his level of 'palsy' or amount of paralysis is if you look at the scale of mild > moderate > severe > BOC).
I wish the stereotype of someone with CP was someone who smiles when they talk but then, eek, I think of the "they are just such happy people" stereotype... blech.
I know the last thing you would want to do is be hurtful to anyone, but my initial comment was based on the same instant response as 'FirstLee' and still feel the generalisation and assumption all CP is equal was that little bit off - and negates the individual.
It all makes me continue to question and learn. Thanks for the insights into why you chose it as a writing tool.