From Chicken Soup for the Mother of Preschooler's Soul

Meeting Jeanie

As the most recently arrived to earthly life, children can seem in lingering possession of some heavenly, lidless eye.

Lorrie Moore

One frustrating day, I escaped a three-year-old’s tantrum and a baby’s colic to find a few minutes’ respite at the mailbox. I smiled when I saw my neighbor, Jeanie, gliding up, too.

Eighteen years old, Jeanie was born with legs that ended at her knees. In spite of spending her entire life in a wheelchair, she kept a cheerful countenance and a sense of humor. She was a quiet beacon of hope for me. I always looked forward to our short visits.

But this time, I was followed by a preschooler sleuth who had sneaked after me, barefooted on the pavement path. I sighed, irritated. For the first time, I felt a slight amount of trepidation as I faced Jeanie. Would my talkative Hyrum, who’d never met her, feel it his duty to point out her handicap?

I greeted Jeanie when she was a few yards away, and our conversation began simply and naturally. Hyrum edged along the chain-linked fence, occasionally inserting childishly unrelated topics—our pet beagle, new Buzz Lightyear shoes, the yellow daisies.

Jeanie smiled at each interruption, responding and asking questions. Some of his comments brought a chuckle from her. Simultaneously, she managed an adult conversation with me—a priceless gift to a home-alone-with-children-all-day mother.

I felt my tension dissolve.

We said our good-byes, and Jeanie backed up to leave. Hyrum, however, tossed out a few more comments, reluctant to part. As I scooted him up the path, I breathed a sigh of relief that everything he said had been safe, tactful.

But Hyrum jerked to a stop. “Mommy!”

I looked toward the street and saw that Jeanie was still within earshot. Ready to hush him, I listened as he said, “That was a pretty lady, Mommy! That was a pretty lady!”

Now when I see Jeanie, I never worry about what Hyrum will say. I know that he only sees how beautiful she is.

Tanya Lentz

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