The first time it happened, my daughter Tammie picked up her phone and called me. She exclaimed, “Mom, snow-shovel fairies exist! One shoveled my sidewalk today.”
Tickled that someone had helped Tammie with a job that is very difficult for her, I excitedly questioned, “Who was it? A neighbor? Someone from your church?”
Like an astonished child on Christmas morning, Tammie answered with a voice filled with amazement, “I don’t know. The sidewalk needed shoveling when I got up. By the time I ate breakfast and dressed in winter clothing, I found the sidewalk shoveled clean!”
My daughter Tammie was born with elbow length arms, intestinal problems, a blood disorder and poorly functioning knees. When she was two-years old, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic did surgery on both legs. Using disordered tissues and tendons, he constructed useable knee joints for her.
The word, ‘handicapped’ never was a word my late husband and I used when speaking of our daughter. Not because the word bothered us, but simply because it didn’t describe her. The word we preferred to use was ‘inconvenienced’. No matter how hard it was to do something, if Tammie wanted to do it, she’d find a way. My favorite example happened shortly before she was three years old. After Tammie’s knee surgeries a year earlier, her doctor had her wear large, unwieldy leg braces. Walking in them was difficult.
One afternoon as Tammie and her seven-year-old sister played in the living room, I baked a pumpkin pie. Placing the beautiful dessert on the dining room table to cool, I decided the house was becoming chilly, which meant it was time for me to stoke our wood furnace in the basement.
Telling Tammie and her sister Niki what I was going to do, I flew down the steps, opened the fire door, pulled several logs off a nearby pile and stacked them in the furnace’s fire box on top of a nice bed of orange, glowing coal. When I stepped back into the dining room several minutes later, I found Tammie on the dining room table. She was on her belly next to the pie and her fingers were coated with pumpkin filling.
My daughter was just doing what three-year-olds like to do; get into things. I was amazed, knowing how very hard it must have been for her to get on the table with those cumbersome leg braces and to wiggle on her belly across the table to the pie.
I couldn’t help laughing. Evidentially Tammie felt she had an important job to do; and she did it. She wanted her little fingers to touch the soft, sweet pumpkin filling!
To me, being handicapped means you are unable to do things, like get up on the table and mess with Mama’s pie. Being inconvenienced means you can do what you want, but it may be difficult and uncomfortable to accomplish.
As an adult, Tammie has a masters degree and works as a librarian in a big city, lives independently, fearlessly drives in congested traffic, cooks, cleans and has been known to shovel snow off her own sidewalks.
The price of inconvenience sometimes results in her visiting a chiropractor. After her first year of house ownership and snow shoveling, it took several weeks to realign her frame. Hearing that a snow-shovel fairy had visited her filled my heart with delight.
Recently, Tammie called me and happily reported, “The snow-shovel fairy came again today. Even my steps were scraped clean.”
I sighed gratefully, “I’m so glad.” Then questioned, “You don’t have a single idea who it might be? You’ve never caught them in the act?”
Ruefully, my daughter commented, “If it is a neighbor, they’ve probably seen how pitiful I look when I do the little bit of shoveling I must do. I’ve never caught them because I’m gone from home almost every day of the week for several hours.”
The mystery continues. Tammie and I wish we could thank and reward the person we call, ‘the snow-shovel fairy’. I want him/her to know how much their act of charity means to me. As the mother of an inconvenienced person, I bless their generous, loving soul.