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Sunday Times Books LIVE

Pierre van Rooyen

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Two month old girl with Down’s syndrome goes to sea.

When she was only two months old, Down’s impaired Lucy left East Africa on a sailing boat. On board were her mother Abigail (the skipper), Lucy’s older brother and a young African boy who  acted as nursemaid. Just the four of them.

Eight months later, they arrived in Malaysia and the nursemaid was able to fly back to Africa.

There is a father, but I won’t write about him, because he cursed Abigail for producing a monster, kidnapped the couple’s other son and disappeared.

I met Lucy when Abigail brought her to tea on our boat. This brave
little girl was then ten months old, unable to talk and, because she
was so double-jointed, unable to crawl or walk. She dragged herself
on her arms. I didn’t realise Down’s children are not only
intellectually impaired but also suffer physical abnormalities.

The husband’s rejection of Lucy dragged Abigail into depression.

‘He’s wrong,’ Faith and I told Abigail. ‘We are friends with two teenage Down’s girls and they are fantastic people. This started her checking up on the internet and she quickly changed her mind.

Ten month old Lucy was a girl to fall in love with. She came to tea every day and after she accepted us, we played smiling games. She soon caught on and it wasn’t long before she returned our smiles.

But funny smiles which had us giggling. She would half turn her head away, look at us out of the corner of her eyes, and smile like an imp as if we had caught her doing something wrong. We loved her for that. Ha, but now we were communicating.

She then allowed me to enunciate the alphabet  while she watched my lips. This took me by surprise, all twenty six letters.

To see what her reaction would be, we bought her a life-size doll,
probably intended for a five year old. The first thing ten month old
Lucy did, was reach for the doll’s hands to see whether this was a
real child. Smart thinking.

We were making fast progress and every time she passed in her
push-chair, we waved at her. Good thinking. It took her only a day
before she was waving back. And smiling, of course.

The next time Abigail took her to the supermarket where Lucy  sat inside the trolley, she took it into her head to wave at every shopper who passed. And of course, they waved back.

Then Lucy got the better of Abigail, We were sitting in Senta’s cockpit having tea and Abigail wanted to take a biscuit out of the cookie jar and hand it to her daughter.

‘No,’ I protested, grabbing the jar. ‘Don’t treat her like a baby. Let her
decide for herself which biscuit she prefers.’ I started to offer the
jar to little Lucy.

‘She’ll never take a biscuit,’ Abigail retorted. ‘She’s frightened to put her hand inside the jar.’

I ignored her.

‘Choose a biscuit, Lucy,’ I invited, offering the cookie jar to her.

Lucy had a good look inside the jar, saw the one she wanted, put her hand into the jar and selected the chocolate one.

We killed ourselves laughing at poor Abigail spluttering, ‘Well, she’s
never done that before.’

Then Lucy put me in my place. We were eating at a pavement restaurant and Lucy sat in the grass playing with a teak tree leaf. You must know that teak leaves are enormous, twice the size of dinner plates. So she had quite a prize there.

I wanted to play the game of give it to me and I’ll give it back to you. Ha, ha, Lucy was having none of that. She glared at me and quickly thrust the leaf behind her as far as her little arm would reach.

That taught me something. She was regarding me as a bully. Good for you Lucy.

Abigail did get her son back. The father had taken him to Vanuatu in the Pacific and Abigail obtained a court order against him. She’s in
Switzerland now with her daughter and two sons, planning on going to sea again. 

 

 

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