The Bea-ginning Of Jeanie

Part 1 of the Judy Tomaini Rock Series

 

In the town of Blufton Indiana, which is near Fort Wayne, on a hot day in August of 1916, the 23rd to be exact, a tiny 6lb 4oz baby girl was born to Nellie Pearl Kunkle Smith.  Nellie was a mother and the kind, humble, caring and giving wife of John Homer Smith. He was a house painter by trade, but an alcoholic by design. The family was poor as dirt. They already had a daughter and several sons, and now another baby to feed. The neighbors all came to see the new baby. She was a good baby and hardly ever cried or was cranky like a lot of new babies are. She grew stronger every day.  Soon she was turning over by herself. She could even sit herself up at an early age. The town doctor told her mother not to let her sit up because her spine might snap from the pressure on it, and figured she probably couldn't keep her balance anyway being so young. Every time Nellie would leave the room, and go back in a while later, Bea, as her family called her, would be sitting up. Nellie would lay her gently back on the quilt, but the same thing would happen every time. So by the time she was a year old, and her spine hadn't snapped yet, Nellie put it in the Lords hands. Nellie was a very spiritual person and it's a good thing she was, having to deal with all the children, and a drunk for a husband.

 A very patient Mother she was. She took in laundry, and also baked pies and bread for the corner grocery. Bea thrived with her siblings.  Having only brothers to play with, she learned to do the things they did. Hide and seek was a favorite of hers. She even learned to climb trees, and ride a pony, and her brothers took her everywhere they went. She went skateboarding with them, and played in the snow. She was a very smart little
girl, and knew more than she let on. When she was almost three, a neighbor lady, that had seen Bea in the yard, playing with her brothers, had gone in the house to pick up some laundry, and ask Nellie, just what did you think, when you first saw that baby? She didn't hear Bea, come in behind her, and sit in the next room. The answer her mother gave, was the one thing that would always be with her, and helped to shape her entire life. "That is the cutest baby, I have ever seen."

Bea knew she was different, but was always treated no differently, than the rest of the kids. One day, not much after she turned three, a man came to their house, and told John and Nellie, he would pay them to take Bea, and let people see her at the local fair. The amount he offered was the equivalent of six months pay as a house painter. The fair was real close to where John and Nellie lived, and they could come home every night. It would only be for a few days, but like winning the lottery now. So they accepted his offer, and Bernice Evelyn Smith was on her way to be "Jeanie Tomaini - The Worlds Only Living Half Girl."

You see Bea was born with Amniotic Bands Syndrome. She had no legs, not even stumps.  Her right arm was much shorter than the left with no elbow, and only two fused fingers and a thumb. Her left arm could not be straightened out, and the elbow was always half bent. The fingers on her left hand were webbed together.  Later in life she had them separated leaving her with deformed fingers, but they worked as well as any ones did.

 

2003 Judy Tomaini Rock, All Rights Reserved

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