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
Published with the permission of Judy
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