The time was 1992. I was twenty-four years old and a new bride. After marrying I moved and started teaching in a large suburban elementary school. By 1994 I had a classroom of Danny, Brittany, Josh, Lori Beth and Lilly. My little class was a hoot! We were a motley crew of red hair and freckles, big brown eyes and giggles, glasses, hand clapping and tiny little feet. I enjoyed that class so much. I have to admit Lori Beth was a favorite. I don't think Lori Beth's mom would mind for me to tell you that she has Cri-du-chat syndrome. (French for "cry of the cat") Lori Beth was a licker. If you got within an arms grab of her....you were hers to lick. She licked everything. Most days I went home smelling like spit. I loved her though. She was a happy little girl. I remember thinking one day, that the world looks on those with "disabilities" as different, or dumb (or unfortunately, much worse). Although it has been my experience that most of these children that I've worked with have been happy. Really happy. Not fake happy to try and fool others. They usually don't sweat over the small stuff. Life is what it is and they move on. Usually, with a pretty good attitude, all things considered. Now, I'm not here to say that my students were all sugar and sweetness. They could have attitudes, cry, throw themselves to the floor, pitch a royal fit, and if they were really into it---spit on me or bite me. Hey, it's all in a days work. The thing is they didn't hold a grudge, they moved on. One minute they are kicking on the floor, the next they are holding my hand telling me they love me. I love my students for that.....because I always knew where I stood with them. Plain and simple.
Now, back to Lori Beth. In the beginning of school year '94-'95 I became pregnant. This was all new to Lori Beth. She was amazed to watch as my stomach grew bigger as the school year went on. Her mother asked if it was okay for Lori Beth to touch my belly. She had been talking with Lori Beth about how there was a baby growing inside of me. Now for a 2nd grader with a syndrome that causes mental retardation, going all abstract about babies and how they are inside a woman's belly, is no easy feat. I gave LB's mom credit. LB treated me as if I was a precious piece of art. She even contained herself about the licking. I knew she wanted to lick her hand and touch me....it was killing her, but she refrained. (her mom must have given her the lecture about not licking her pregnant teacher. haha!) I was due at the end of the school year...as a matter of fact I missed the last three weeks of school that year. Lori Beth's mom asked if she could be allowed to bring Lori Beth to the hospital to see me and my new baby. She wanted Lori Beth to see the culmination of all this big belly-ness. True to her word, mom and Lori Beth showed up to see me the day after my delivery. What a precious sight it was. There was Lori Beth listening to her mommy explaining that this was Kendrick, the baby boy that had been growing inside me. She looked at me. She looked at him. She looked at her mom. She was putting it together. It was an "ah ha!" moment. Chalk one up for real life learning that day.
My goodness, Lori Beth must be somewhere around 22 years old now. All grown up. I miss her.
More stories, more students, tomorrow.......We'll take up in the year 1995.