I look up from Roxanne’s eyeshadow to figure out who is making all the commotion and I am shocked by what I see.
Ivy, who sits slumped at tables, mouth hanging open. Ivy, who looks at you with vacant eyes even when you call her by name. Ivy, who has to be led at a stumble-walk by the aunties to meal time.
Ivy, who I have never heard speak.
She is sitting upright. Her eyes are sparkling. Her smile is practically stretching off her face. Her voice is clear. Her arms and hands are perfectly positioned to show off the burgundy nail polish one of the aunties just painted on her fingernails. She looks . . . alive.
For the remainder of the day, she will walk around with her arms just like this,
Shamika often tells me that when it comes to therapy and helping people, there are some things you just can’t plan.
She is right.
I could have never predicted Ivy’s (of all people) reaction to our Beauty Day in the Jerusalem! children’s pavilion.
The whole concept of Beauty Day is itself a bit of an “accident.”
I was dropped off at Jerusalem! an hour and a half earlier than normal one Thursday morning (it’s hard to pass up free rides, even when it means getting out of bed at 5 am). I was hanging out with the Village people when Shameeka said, “Aunty, you have lipstick!”
Actually, I was just wearing lip balm, but her mischievous giggle gave me an idea. “Would you like to try some?”
Her eyes lit up.
The laser focus of the other girls as I applied lip balm to Shameeka’s lips could not be ignored. “Would you like some, too?”
“Yes, Aunty!” the verbal ones chorused. The non-verbal ones responded with vigorously nodding heads, or widening eyes, or smiles.
If they were this excited about a simple lip balm, what would they do if I painted their nails? Or let them wear lipstick? Or eyeshadow?
I suddenly remembered Aunty Sharon and Uncle Jeff’s (Occupational therapist/professor and wheelchair repair specialist, respectively) to get me anything I needed when Sharon returned to Mustard Seed with a team of OT students from Georgia Regent University.
With only a few days’ notice, they came through in a big way, collecting/buying enough makeup for 5 Mustard Seed homes.
Over the course of several days, little pots and tubes and jars of shimmery, powdery, glittery, liquid-y colors were transformed into the stuff a therapist’s dreams are made of.
Keisha, whose hands typically lie as fists, trembled with the effort to hold her fingers straight for bright pink polish – and kept stretching and re-stretching them straight for the next several days, showing them off to everyone in what became know as her “beauty queen wave.”
Nikki giggled and bounced in her chair as we took her and the rest of the Village girls around the compound to show them off to the other residents, volunteers, and staff. (The giggles got especially loud when we neared the security guards and maintenance men :-) )
Cherise couldn’t stop looking at herself in the mirror.
With every nail that was painted,
And the icing on the cake? We even got to wear perfume!
And by “wear,” I mean that I’m not sure the planet is ever going to forgive us.
We were drenched in Cherry Blossom scent. I was thanking my lucky stars that a) GRU had purchased body mist (not real perfume) and b) we were in the open air of your typical Jamaican building plan when I saw Roxanne helping Shontelle out like this:
I thought about explaining that perfume is really for your inner wrists and decolletage and behind the ear lobes (or, as Coco Channel put it, “Wherever one wants to be kissed”) but decided against it.
For one thing, it really was kind of logical (Why not spray it where it will do the most good?).
For the other, I was laughing too hard to make much sense, anyway.