Some Enchanted Evening

Some Enchanted Evening

From Chicken Soup for the Soul Celebrating People Who Make a Difference

Some Enchanted Evening

A day can seem so empty without the opportunity of making a difference in the life of one more person.

Ellie Braun-Haley

Norma, our sixty-five-year-old neighbor, was born with cerebral palsy. She was an only child and lived with her mother and father until their deaths. At the time of her mother’s death, Norma was fifty-three and still able to walk around the house and go on outings. Her mother had made sure that the home was handicapped-accessible and that Norma knew about the family finances.

Norma wanted to continue living at home, and with no immediate family left nearer than ninety miles, she was in charge. She went to bed when she wanted, got up when she wanted, and ate what she wanted, which included ice cream and candy for breakfast. Her life was a dream for any kid.

Norma's mother died when my son, Justin, was only five. His grandmother, who lived across the street from Norma, began helping her with light household chores. Norma quickly became part of our extended family, and she and Justin began a relationship that would extend for the next twelve years. Norma joined our holiday and birthday celebrations. She dressed in her Christmas sweater, and her eyes danced around the room, watching as the children opened their gifts. She acted like a child herself when her lap was full with her own presents.

Norma enjoyed taking drives to look at the houses decorated for the holidays, but she felt it wasn’t appropriate for her to decorate her home because her mother had died during the holiday season. The November that Justin became a teenager Norma’s ideas about decorating changed.

Justin visited Norma once or twice a week, and he talked her into decorating just a little. No tree inside, but maybe lights outside. A little gradually turned into a beautifully decorated house with pine wreaths, clear lights, and red ribbons. Admirers of her decorations sent Norma Christmas cards, and she continued to add a little more to the decorations each year. One year she announced that she would buy an artificial tree and a Nativity set. With her cleaning lady’s help, Norma decorated her house. My husband installed a switch that lit her tree, which she sat by every night.

As the years passed, Norma became more dependent on our family for her day-to-day needs. Justin entered high school, and as with most teenagers and parents, we had our differences, after which he would disappear for hours. But I never worried that he was running away or getting into trouble. He always went to Norma’s house and spent time with her. As he complained about our rules, or how we were treating him, Norma would listen and tell him how good he had it and that he should be ashamed to complain. He never became angry with her or argumentative. Some nights after they talked, Norma was sure he would never return. But a few nights would pass and she would hear the garage door open and know that her friend was back.

I realized the strength of their relationship when on New Year’s Eve 1999, the eve of the next century, my seventeen-year-old spent the evening with Norma. After my nightly ritual of putting her to bed, he went over for a visit. They ordered pizza, popped popcorn, watched the world usher in 2000 on television, and just before the stroke of midnight they “cracked open” a bottle of Sprite to celebrate. Norma was elated that she had had her own New Year’s Eve party with a young man.

In March, Justin’s high school Thespian troupe was performing South Pacific, Norma’s favorite musical, and Justin decided she needed to get out of the house and go to one of the shows. On the appointed Saturday evening, she was ready and excited. My husband escorted her to the auditorium, placed her on the chairlift, and found seats for us at the end of the aisle. When the stage lights went up, she was captivated, listening carefully to every song, her knee bouncing to the rhythm of “Bloody Mary” and her eyes glistening when they performed a rendition of “Some Enchanted Evening.”

She recognized Justin onstage by his smile and watched every movement he made. After the show, we joined the crowd edging toward the lobby. At the top of the chairlift stood Justin, waiting in the crowd to meet her. When she reached the top of the stairs, Justin bent down and hugged her and knelt gently by Norma’s chair to ask how she enjoyed the performance. That evening was her last social outing. In late May she was admitted to the hospital for surgery and passed away a few days into June.

I am reminded of her often, especially when I look at the collage of pictures on my refrigerator. In the middle is a picture taken the Saturday before she was admitted to the hospital. It is one of a couple ready for a night out on the town, Justin in his prom tuxedo and Norma in her leopard print pajamas, smiling as though she were going to the prom with her “special” young man.

Ellen Bolyard

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