Thursday, February 25, 2010

Perfectly Polished

Taylor's fingers were webbed when he was born. Having no clue at all that I had just given birth to a baby with Down Syndrome, I thought the worst of my troubles was his webbed and imperfect little fingers. When told about the syndactyly (doctor's word for those webbed fingers) I asked sincerely, but blindly, "Oh, could you please fix them before we take him out to meet the family?" Little did I know at that point that (1) No, there would be surgery later for that and that (2) There was much "bigger" news waiting for us in the recovery room. Having applied fresh lipstick, it was now so important that we present yet another perfect son to this packed waiting room world. Holy Smoke. I wanted perfection. I wanted his fingers fixed---then and there. "Wasn't there at least a glove they could cover them with in the meantime?" I pleaded. Looking back, I wonder who it was I thought I was really disappointing? There was trouble in River City. Trouble with a capital T, and it was not going to be about Taylor's fingers. It was going to be about me. Damn ( Me again)!
Gosh, does it just fall under the heading of "Human Nature" to want to be perfect? Or, is that something imposed on us from our very first breaths? We use concealer under our eyes, dye on our hair(s), wear Lycra to pull in our our padding. We're so quick to hide a bump on our faces or blisters on our lips. And these are our minor perfection attempts. We pretend we have more money than we do. We nip, tuck, smooth, flatten and straighten our imperfect bodies. We imply that our children don't want to kill each other at home, that our marriages are thriving and that our bathrooms are always clean. We hear ourselves spouting, "I'm certainly not perfect," all the while whirring that rat wheel at maximum speed trying to maintain that "perfect" level. It's exhausting. And, besides that, nobody really believes us. Heck we don't even believe ourselves.
My mother had 8 children; she had five of us under age five at one time. Every night my mother lined up our little white leather shoes, scrubbed them and polished them. Every night. Five pairs of white shoes scrubbed and polished ready to greet the world on a new morning. What strikes me now is that in some weird way, it was her futile, but earnest attempt to have some power over a life that must have seemed at times out of her control. But she laid out those shoes and polished towards perfection---hoping that at least on the outside the life over which she had probably lost control would appear normal and good and happy...and perfect.
In having Taylor, I have had to relinquish so much of my need to cover up, to be a master of disguise, to make things appear "better" than they are. I have had to surrender perfection. I wanted to cover those precious little webbed fingers with gloves. They looked wrong for this world. "Fix them!" I cried. I wanted....I needed him to be perfect. No, I needed me to be perfect. Maybe I thought I needed to keep up with each of you. Deep breath. Another question. Do we really need all of this fixing? What is "better" and what will it bring to our lives? I know you're reading this saying, "Oh, she aught to know that none of us is perfect or tries to be perfect." Really? Take off your mascara. Drop your expensive hand bag. Talk to somebody about the child who has your stomach in a knot. Disappoint your boss. Miss a deadline. Take that glove off of your own webbed-heart. Throw away the polish. What real and very beautiful part of you is hiding? We're all in the waiting room. Do not fix a thing. Come out imperfect. Imperfectly polished.


  1. When Taylor's fingers were "fixed" - separated - I remember that being the longest waiting room visit in my life. It took the doctors double the time we were told and Marianne - your heart was racing the entire time. Forget Taylor's imperfection! Your heart was breaking for the trauma Taylor was going through. Funny how he had wrapped his webbed-hand around your heart and fixing his imperfection wasn't really all that important afterall. You just needed im to wake up from surgery!!!! With all of the physical pain he has gone through, your love for him has been so incredibly steadfast. What does that tell us about the Creator's love for us? Hard to imagine anything more abundant that what you have for your boys, and me for my girls.
    "Of the Father's love begotten..."

  2. Darn you, Doh-nah, you just stole one of my blog postings. What I mostly remember about that day was going down to the coffee shop. Upon returning to the PedS ward, I could hear this angelic voice wafting through the 2nd floor of the hospital. Somebody was sweetly singing, "Away In A Manger." I followed the sound to Taylor's room and to you rocking him in your arms---singing to him. A lullaby. I can hear that very sound today if I'm still.

  3. I remember the surgeon telling us that trying to work on separating blood vessels in an ADULT hand was really difficult, but that trying to do that on an infant's hand was even more incredibly trying to untangle wet thread. As usual, I also remember Taylor's bravery throughout the whole thing and wearing that cast..what a little champ he was! Yes, Diddy!!

  4. I love this blog!! My aunt (Kathy Smith) forwarded me the web address and I just had to laugh because I taught Taylor today at Good Dirt. I know we've met before one day when you came to pick up Taylor and I told you about my uncle that also has Down Syndrome.

    Anyway.. this story really touched me because I have a webbed hand deformity as well. My right hand is substantially smaller than my left and half my fingers are webbed together -- but totally functional!! I love imperfection as a result.. and didn't even notice Taylors scars when I was holding his hands today to make our clay project. So funny!! I wonder if he noticed my hands were different??


Thank you so much for your comments. I know it's scary to put yourself out there. I really appreciate your being on this journey with me. You really are brave..