A Charmed Life



 (of a person’s life) unusually lucky or happy as though protected by magic.





April 1969


ps_2011_08_08___18_33_48It happened so quickly that neither of my parents had a chance to react in any way but with alarm.  We were at the office of my pediatrician, Dr. Perucca, at Carle Hospital in Urbana, Illinois for my three-month check-up. I was lying on my back on the examination table while Dr. Perucca spoke with my parents.  The doctor lifted his hand from my body for only a moment but I reacted by flipping over and plunging head first off the table. In that instant, there was no realistic chance for any of the adults to catch me.  Yet I was saved, not by a person but by an object.  There I was, planted head-first in the small waste basket that was perfectly placed alongside the examination table.  Somehow my body was just large enough, and the basket sufficiently narrow, that it had caught my sides before my head had touched the ground. 

 Not surprisingly, I shrieked from the shock of the experience and was bawling as my mother scooped me up into her arms and held me tightly, undoubtedly not wanting to let go.  Still visibly upset and clearly embarrassed by his faux pas, Dr. Perucca looked up at my parents and decided to say the only thing that seemed to make sense out of the near-disaster they had just experienced.  “Marvin and Francine, I think it is safe to say that Meg will surely lead a charmed life.”




This past week I was chatting with my parents over the phone and, for whatever reason, my mom began to recall the day I fell head first in my pediatrician’s office, only to be saved by a garbage can. This wasn’t the first time I had heard the story, but this was the first time I realized the doctor hadn’t used the word ‘luck.’  After we got off the phone, though, I began to think more about the notion of a ‘charmed’ life.  I took note for the first time that the word charmed wasn’t just about being unusually lucky, but also could mean that someone is leading an unusually happy life.

Not surprisingly, my next thought was about how hard it can be for people (or their children) who have any kind of visible difference to constantly fend off strangers’ stares and abrupt comments about the way we look.

Sherry Clair son I recently shared an article on my Don’t Hide It Flaunt It Facebook page, “When a Cashier Reminded Me My Son has Down Syndrome,” by Sherry Clair.  She wrote, “Sometimes I forget our son Gabe has Down Syndrome. Sometimes I forget, because Gabe is just that—Gabe.”  Sherry continued.  “Sometimes I forget, and that makes it even harder when someone reminds me in a not so kind way, like the cashier who gave me sad eyes and spit poison in a whisper, ‘I bet you wish you had known before he came out.  You know they have a test for that now?’” Not surprisingly, Sherry felt (in her words), shocked and horrified by the comment.  Yet, I noted how she also pushed past it, focused mainly on her love for her child. “When I look at him I don’t see Down Syndrome, I see my son, Abi’s brother, a sweet, willful, determined little boy.”  Sherry was enjoying a beautiful life with her family and shrugging off the slings and arrows of the outside world.   I was just as taken with a few of the humorous comments and equally positive attitudes that were logged in response to Sherry’s article. One comment came from a man named Brian who added, “I had a nurse ask me, “Has your son always had Down Syndrome? To which I responded (dryly), “No, it’s from tainted water.”  Another named Mark also replied, “It’s kind of like the time when the cashier asked if our adopted daughter from Guatemala was ‘mine,’ and so I said, ‘Yes, we just had tacos for dinner that night.” Hilarious.

All of these stories brought me back to my life, and that of raising our older two children, born with my genetic condition.  My husband John has always had an incredible sense of humor, and although it didn’t feel natural to me at first,he has helped us to appreciate that the key to happiness is finding the humor in every situation.  When people have said to me, “Oh, it must be so terribly hard for you to manage with only one finger,” I purposefully respond as I peer down at my hands, “Oh these, actually if you gave me an extra eight fingers I’d be a hot mess!” Ethan has told me recently that his favorite way to respond to kids that (loudly) inquire about his two fingers is to reply with a grin, “Oh, I thought I told you.  I lost them in the war!” Just thinking about the way we have been able to respond to a constant stream of unexpected comments using our own favorable spin makes me smile.

In the same way a person never really knows when luck may be coming their way, we similarly never know when a stranger will take one look at our misshapen hands (or feet) and decide to say something that makes us feel inadequate, even Meg and John Jay Greenwald barmitzvah 2014-Novunfortunate. Sherry Clair’s story and the witty comments in response remind me how I have thankfully figured out to also keep positive and even lead a very happy life, and teach our children the same lesson. It occurs to me therefore that my pediatrician’s prediction definitely came true.  I certainly feel like I’m living a charmed life, and it actually has nothing to do with luck.

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