She planted herself in front of us this morning teetering on her twisted legs like a tree swaying in the wind.
Her teeth trapped her bottom lip inside her mouth.
With elbows locked, she held her thumbs and forefingers outstretched. Her remaining fingers curled into her palms giving her the appearance of a gunslinger.
A strap around her neck held a laptop sized key board with a built in screen for reading digital text.
Like most mornings, she stared at us with something like defiance or urgency… or something else.
Upon encountering her, both The Mayor and The Rooster grabbed one of my hands and snuggled against my legs.
Despite having drawn close, they were both wide-eyed with curiosity.
They see her everyday but have never said anything about her.
Though she’s a teenager, her mother drops her off at The Mayor and The Rooster’s daycare every morning, presumably because it opens an hour earlier than the high school.
I think she has cerebral palsy, but I’ve never asked.
She can walk but to communicate she has to bang away at her keyboard with her outstretched first finger.
While The Mayor and The Rooster huddled against my leg, I realized that I’d better think about a way to talk to them about this girl.
I've had minimal exposure to people with disabilities and lack confidence in knowing exactly what to say.
I worked with a woman with cerebral palsy once.
In reverse of this girl, my colleague could talk but she used a motorized wheel-chair to get around.
When I got used to the way her speech sounded and could easily understand her, I learned that she was hilariously funny.
Sadly, we only worked together for a short time.
Later, I did a consulting project with a state-wide coalition of activists working for equal rights for people with disabilities.
One, a woman with spina bifida, told me that their work was the civil rights movement's final frontier and that as late as the 1970’s it was illegal for “deformed” children to play outside where they might be seen.
That stuck with me. Can you imagine?
Before I left them at daycare, I pulled The Mayor and The Rooster aside.
“She was born with something that makes it hard for her to move her body the way she wants to,” I said.
My children listened, but said nothing.
“She thinks all the same kinds of thoughts as you,” I said, “but she can’t make her body do what she wants it to do.”
I kissed and hugged them goodbye.
Walking to the car, I wondered what else I could have said.
I guess I should just ask her...