A Very Neat Mess

January 27, 2012

Last night I was just too tired (from worrying about who I haven’t told about Jessie) to make dinner. I gathered Jessie early (her choice, not mine) from extended day and headed to Comella’s around the corner. Their signature dish is called a “mess” which is basically a trough of pasta and whatever you want to add to it – we usually go for the meatballs. Having visited there with enough regularity to recognize some of the kids who work there (aside: these “kids” are in their twenties and once I realized that I could have given birth to any and all of them they started looking younger and younger) Jessie asked me on the way in if I thought “she” would be there. I knew exactly who she was referring to. “She” is a girl who works behind the counter, has a contagious and constant smile, a beautiful manner, a long mane of black curly hair in a huge ponytail and only one arm. The first time we ever saw her I was with both my kids: I noticed her smile, George (n.c.i.) noticed her arm and Harrison noticed just how adorable she was. Suffice to say, she made an impression on all of us.

We entered the store and, alas, there she was, off to the side joking around with the other employees. As I was giving our order to the awkward boy behind the register I heard Jessie (n.c.i.) asking (whom, I am not sure) if she could know more about the arm…in particular, how does she put all that hair into a ponytail with just one arm. Register boy was getting flustered trying to take my order and shut Jessie up at the same time. Once the order had been placed, register boy shook his head and whispered, “don’t ask her!” in a manner which was sweetly protective yet seemed somehow inconsistent with the read I got on the girl herself.

As we stepped away from the counter and knowing we had twenty minutes to wait for our dinner to be ready, I motioned to the girl to come over. With that beautiful smile she did and we moved, en masse, out of the way of the onslaught of other lazy mothers coming in to get dinner for their families. I started by telling her that “my son (oops, I still do that sometimes), I mean, daughter, has some questions about your arm. Is it okay if she asks you?” As I fully expected, she said of course and introduced herself to us as Christina. She asked Jessie her name and there was a sparkle between them which was palpable. They proceeded to chat comfortably and honestly about what it is like to have only one arm (which, incidentally, doesn’t slow her down in the least. Remember, I didn’t even notice it the first time we went into the store!) and Jessie asked the most burning question on her mind: “how do you do that ponytail?!?!” With a laugh and a smile, Christina told her that she was really lucky because her parents (aside: she was adopted from Greece as a baby. When her birth parents saw her “deformity” they gave her up) always told her that she could do anything and be anyone whether she had one, two or three arms. She said how lucky she was to have been chosen by her adoptive parents.

Jessie looked at me, looked at Christina and said, “I know, right? My parents are the same way!” (Have you grabbed a Kleenex yet?) I looked at Jessie and asked her if she wanted to tell Christina what is special about her. Without hesitation she said she did and proceeded to tell Christina that she is a transkid. Now the roles were reversed and Christina was the one inquiring about how Jessie manages and when she knew, and how it felt. I almost felt like an intruder in this candid yet wildly intimate conversation being had in a place that prides itself on it’s “mess”. Once our food was ready we said our goodbyes knowing that a certain bond had just been established. Two kids who will always be different but are just plain happy.


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