Happy New Year, 1997
Today, as I had my nails done in preparation for our New Year's Eve celebration at the White Plains Women's Club, I sat next to a young woman who obviously suffered with cerebral palsey. My nail technician was so saddened by the young woman's condition that she excused herself and went into the next room. When she returned, her eyes... were reddened and tear stained. Feeling sympathy, huh? I asked softly when she continued to cry as she filed my nails. She nodded. Sympathy pulsated through the shop. Everyone stared at the young woman while she struggled, in vain, to sit erect and still enough to get her nails done. Her attendant repeatedly urged her to relax, but she was imprisoned inside a body she could not control. Her thin hands boasted small, well shaped nails and she had selected a bright red polish. She was still a woman, and I admired her courage. Surreptitiously, I looked at her. She didn't appear to be poor. She wore lovely filigreed errings with a gemstone, a fashionable watch and high quality clothing. Her spirit was like ours, but we treated her differently. None of the usual camaraderie seeped her way. Instead, we each simply stared and thanked our private guardian angel that we were not she. I wanted to say something, to span the distance that we able bodied women used to insulate ourselves from her pain. In record time, her technician finished and pushed her chair over to the drying table. In time, I too moved to the drying table and sat next to her once again. "I love your errings," I said to her. 'They're very pretty.' She lifted her head and looked at me with surprise. A smile softened her face. I continued. "I've got a thing for errings. You too?"
"Yes," she said in a gutteral tone. I chattered on just as I usually do to whomever chances to be in the shop while I'm there. All I could think about was the period when I was confined to a wheelchair and people looked past me, treated me like I didn't exist. I wanted to reach out and touch the young woman and tell her that she was not alone. No matter what our bodies endure, it is the human spirit that drives us out into the world in search of confirmation of our existence. No one looks in the eyes of a disabled person and says hello, or smiles. But the yearning is still there. The yearning to connect on some level.
Before I left the shop, I wished the young woman a Happy New Year. It seemed a hollow wish, considering her circumstances; but then, I realized it was no more hollow than the same wish given to me by a sales clerk. If we get a new year, it's always a happy one. No matter what."