Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: ODD (02/20/20)
TITLE: The Sadness in a Side Show
By Laurie Staples
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At five weeks old, he had brain surgery to insert a shunt to drain the water off of his brain. By then, I would guess his head was about the size of an average three or four-year old. Yet still, in my eyes, he looked normal. When I’d take him out, I’d think, why, if it weren’t for his blindness, people wouldn’t think there was a thing wrong with him!
We didn’t take pictures of him during those first six to nine months of his life, so when I recently looked at a picture my sister-in-law had taken, it broke my heart. My sweet baby, with that enormous head. How could I have ever thought he looked normal?
Not long ago, I watched a movie based on Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth. It featured various side shows, ‘freaks of nature” who were roped into joining the circus to get paid to get laughed at and mocked.
Grown adults and children flocked to buy tickets to gawk at the bearded lady, the fattest woman in the world, the tiniest adult, the tallest man and the like. It occurred to me that my little Brett could have been a side show.
With a heavy heart I thought of the parents of those side show acts, wondering if, like me, they’d gotten so used to how their child looked that they no longer saw their abnormalities. Yet once they joined the circus, they had to endure the heart-wrenching pain of watching their beloved’s get mocked.
I, quite accidentally, discovered that a sense of what is “normal” is instilled as early as the first few weeks of life.
After the birth of my first child, Caitlin, we were given a booklet that detailed her expected development. At one week she should be able to do such and such, at two weeks this, and so on. I became obsessed with this booklet and was constantly testing her, seeking assurance she was progressing normally in every respect.
Putting away laundry one day, I happened to notice an old Mr. T mask that my husband, Bob, had worn to a Halloween party. Curious to see how Caitlin would react, I put it on and knelt down to talk to her. I got my face about the distance the booklet estimated she could bring into focus, “Hey precious,” I said softly through the mask.
She let out a scream different from anything I'd heard before or since. I immediately ripped the rubber mask off my head (practically scalping myself in the process).
Bob heard the scream and came tearing in from the other room. Knowing he wouldn't understand my "experiment," I stuffed the mask underneath me and sat on it.
“What made her scream out like that?”
I managed to look stumped. “I have no idea,” I lied.
Unfortunately, Bob spotted a little tuft of Mr. T's mohawk and demanded to know what it was. I brought it out, acting baffled as to how it had gotten there.
"I can't believe you would actually scare a newborn baby! What is wrong with you?"
"It was just an experiment…and, as it turns out, she’s exceptional!”
Bob was not impressed—he was furious. He took Caitlin from me and left me sitting there. Whatever. An innocent experiment ruined our day.
Children aren’t born with the ability to alter their faces or repress their thoughts when they see people like Brett. Their reactions run the gamut—from laughter, to pity, to fear.
When Brett was in the hospital, my father-in-law taped these words on his bassinet, “...I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm:139:14
I don’t know why God knit Brett together in my womb the way He did, but I know he will be receiving a glorious, new body in Heaven, where nobody will look at him with anything other than awe. What a glorious day that will be!
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