The second year I was a Chambers, Nancy (who was then 15 years old) wanted a doll for Christmas.
“No,” declared her dad. “You’re too old for a doll.”
Her mother turned to me with tears in her eyes.
“I’ll handle this,” I assured my mother-in-law, and that fine Christmas morning found not one but two dolls under the tree for Nancy – one a big girl doll, the other a baby doll. Nancy’s joy was obvious, and my mother-in-law’s gratitude was palpable.
What about Mr. C you ask? Well, I like to think Mr. Chambers and I learned something about each other that year.
Several years later, Nancy was a resident at Stewart Home School in Frankfort, KY. The Engineer and I attended Parents’ Weekend, spending the days on campus and taking Nancy with us to spend nights in the hotel room. We talked non-stop, Nancy and I did. Talked and talked and talked.
Now back then, Nancy would get fixated on one subject and kinda’ wear it out. That particular weekend, she was keen on talking about what good care she took of Baker and Terry Lynn – how she helped them in the shower, how she brushed their teeth, how she put them in the bed.
When we checked her in with her dorm mother at the end of that weekend, I asked Ms. Catherine if I could meet Baker and Terry Lynn. Giving me a puzzled look, she asked “Why do you want to meet them?”
“Because Nancy and I have spent three days talking about them. I know how important they are to Nancy, and I’d just like to meet them.”
“Follow me,” she said, and we headed off down the hallway, stopping at the foot of Nancy’s bed. “This right here is Baker,” Ms. Catherine said, patting a big stuffed polar bear on the head, “and Terry Lynn has been dead for about 12 years.”
I had spent the entire long weekend talking relatively intelligently – at least continuously – about a stuffed animal and a dead person.
That’s when I knew for sure I was a writer.
To this day, Nancy loves her “babies”. When she started spending her days at the ARC a couple of years ago, I got a call from her teacher informing me that Nancy was regularly taking a classmate’s baby doll without permission, which, of course, upset the classmate. “We issue Amber Alerts when we see Nancy headed that way or catch her with the baby doll in her hands, but we just can’t continue like this and wondered if you could shed some light on this,” Mona kinda pleaded.
I told Mona about Nancy’s affinity for babies, how she likes to “take good care of them”, then promised to get a baby doll for Nancy that could live at the ARC. Every morning when Nancy arrives, Mona gets Nancy’s baby down from the top of the metal storage cabinet, and Nancy grabs the baby by the throat and
slams places her on the table at her place. At the end of the day, Mona returns Nancy’s baby to the top of the cabinet, tucking her in for the night, and Nancy returns home to check on the 72 or so babies that wait for her on her bed. And in her chair. And on her dresser. And in her closet.
In Our Own Language 4:14
Nancy (my developmentally disabled sister-in-law) draws.
I (the woman who flat-out loves her) stitch.
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