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"Shoes”
by
Alison Parham

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Dena Taylor

Independence

     At four-and-a-half years old, Becky was ready for a walker. She could now stand up and go places on her own. The whole family had been eagerly awaiting this. My grandmother Eda, an expert seamstress, made her a green-and-purple bag similar to the one she had on her own walker so that Becky could carry things, such as toys and, later, school supplies.
     Our first outing was to Dossett Brothers, the little grocery store on the corner. We got out of the car, I handed Becky her walker, and she went in by herself for the very first time. I followed her through the door, watchful, proud, and close to tears. Before this day she had always been in her stroller. Her face beamed with excitement and confidence. In the store she could go wherever she wanted. She headed straight for the refrigerator bins, at her chest level, and looked down at all the food. With a huge grin, she picked out some cheese, butter, and salami and placed them in our shopping cart. I, too, could hardly contain my joy as we slowly walked up and down the aisles picking out things to buy.
      As we were standing at the checkout counter, a woman turned to stare at Becky and said, loudly, “Eeeew, is he going to have to walk like that all his life?” I glared at her, wanting to scream at her, wanting, really, to grab and shake her, but also wanting to say something to make Becky feel okay. As calmly as I could, but loudly, I said, “SHE just got her walker and this is her FIRST TIME OUT WITH IT.”
     Not long after that, Becky was invited to her first non-family birthday party. It was for Lindsey, a friend from school. I took Becky to the party and stayed by her the whole time, even though Lindsey’s mother said it was fine if I left. Becky’s walker was still new to her, and I was worried about how she’d do in a crowd of kids. Thinking about it later, I felt very foolish and told myself I really must try and not be so over-protective.
     Her second party soon followed, this time for Twila, another school friend. Becky talked to her on the phone about it, then I spoke to Twila’s mother, who said she was taking the children to see Pinocchio, and afterwards to a park for a picnic. Becky was very excited. Rodney and I, however, wondered about several things: Should we go with her? How would she get from her seat in the movie to the car? And Becky had never been to a movie theater before; would the noises startle her, as loud noises sometimes did?
     We asked Becky what she would like to do and how much she wanted our help. “I want to walk with my walker and do it all myself,” she told us. We only needed to take her to the movie and pick her up afterwards at the park. Remembering the Lindsey party, I thought we should do what she asked. Thankfully, we did. She could not stop smiling as we drove home from the park.
The Ticket
     I picked up Becky after school, and she looked to be on the verge of tears. It could have been a problem with other kids, or her teachers, or perhaps she had fallen. She was obviously feeling very low, and this depressed me as well. I thought she could do with some cheering up, so we stopped to have an ice cream sundae and talk about what had happened.
     When we got back to the car, I had a $50 ticket for having an expired disabled-parking placard. I flipped out. All the frustrations of the day, previous days, in fact years of frustrations, welled up and boiled over.
     I drove straight to the police station and demanded to talk to someone about the ticket. Never mind that the placard actually had expired. That wasn't the point. Somewhat hysterical, I spewed forth a stream of words informing the startled officer of all the things that had happened to Becky that day at school, several things that had happened to her in the past years at school, that I had stopped to buy her an ice cream to try and make her feel better after this horrible day, and that in fact I had long since mailed in the paperwork for the new placard, it just hadn't arrived yet. I stopped only when he held the ticket in front of my eyes and said, "Look, lady, look, LOOK," and tore it in two.

Finding Crumbs

When you were seven
and said we should enjoy
every crumb of every minute
of every day,

you didn’t know
there would be minutes, days
too terrible to enjoy
too dark to find even crumbs

But still
somehow
that young spirit
endures

 

Dena Taylor’s readings at the Muse, 3/26/16. All pieces are by Dena and from Tell Me the Number before Infinity, published by Many Names Press.

DENA TAYLOR – is happy to be one of the readers in this year’s Muse, instead of one of the organizers! She has a new book out, co-written with her daughter Becky, titled Tell Me the Number before Infinity, published by Many Names Press. Its interwoven chapters tell the story of Becky’s life growing up with a disability. Some of it is pretty funny.

In Celebration of the Muse
Brianna Barreto
Donna Becker
Deborah Bryant
Ruth Elliott
Susan Freeman
Patricia Grube
Diane Dobrin Grunes
Geneffa Popatia Jonker
Sylvia Patience
Jennifer Pittman
Bernice Rendrick
Dena Taylor
Louise Thornton
Patrice Vecchione
Renee Winter
J. Zimmerman

Rosie King for Tilly Shaw

Barbara Bloom for Joan Safajek

Featured Artist
Alison Parham

 

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