Half of Me is Missing (excerpt)
“Jasmine was such a beautiful baby with her ivory complexion, pretty rosebud mouth, rosy cheeks and stunning green eyes. Her hair was so black and lustrous with soft curls. I couldn’t believe that she was our child!” Ann Stewart’s body seemed to elongate as she sat up straighter in her chair. Obviously, she had once been proud and thrilled by her daughter.
“I noticed that she did not really seem to bond with me, although I held her and rocked her and tried to do everything I thought I should do to nurture her. This was our first child so I thought that her reaction to us might be normal for a young baby. She never seemed to cry or smile or show any emotion. I was so overjoyed at having a child after so many years of trying that I overlooked her responses. My friends and relatives all cooed at her in admiration of her beauty but she didn’t seem to care. Her pediatrician told me not to worry since she appeared perfectly normal. He advised us both to spend a lot of time with her, holding and touching her. I wondered why she did not smile like other babies did. I began to wonder if it was my fault that she was not developing as I thought she should. Because she was my first child, I had little experience in child development and began to doubt my abilities. I could tell that she was intelligent as she explored her immediate area and watched those around her. She talked very early but her words were not really directed toward anyone. She seemed to be carrying on conversations with herself or with some unseen person. The only time she seemed somewhat happy is when she looked into the mirror on one of her crib toys and babbled at her reflection as if it were actually her own self instead of a reflection.”
I noticed that tears were coursing down Ann’s cheeks as she described her child. I could see that she loved her but was perplexed since she was unable to reach her. She appeared to have almost given up on Jasmine and was now beginning to direct her attention toward her other children who did interact with her.
I turned toward George Stewart and asked him, “How do you feel about your daughter? Do you have anything to add to what your wife has advised? Do you agree with her observations?”
“My wife and I are simple people,” responded George. “We own and operate a mom and pop grocery store here in the outskirts of Portland. I always thought that my daughter, Jasmine, would join us in our business after high school. If it’s good enough for me, it should be good enough for her! But, oh no, she wants no part of our business. She thinks she’s too valuable to do this type of work and refuses to even discuss it. I admit that she was a good student in high school, right at the top of her class. She graduated early when she had just turned 17. I thought she had the brains and ambition to eventually take over as manager of my store.” George pulled strands of hair nervously up from the top of his head as he vented his frustration. His face turned red in anger as he showed his disappointment.
“I understand how you feel,” I sympathized with George. “But, tell me how Jasmine was as a child to your best recollection.”
“She was such a beautiful baby and I was so proud of her. However, she never seemed to care much about me. I tried to play with her and get her to laugh but I never felt she was on my wave length. My wife and I took her into our shop and put her in a small playpen behind the cash register. Every customer that came in remarked on her loveliness, wanting to hold her and interact with her. We actually did allow some of our long term customers to pick her up to see if she would be stimulated by someone else. We always felt guilty that she did not seem to like us. But she never responded to all the attention she received. I thought maybe she was just shy and would develop later but she never did. When she began to talk early, she would just ask for things that she wanted. She never seemed to give us any reaction no matter how hard we tried. I just hoped that she would become more loving when she became older.” When Jasmine was almost three, we finally were able to have another child, a wonderful little boy we called George, Jr. He was the polar opposite of Jasmine and loved us with all his heart. He often tried to catch Jasmine’s attention as he smiled and cooed, but she couldn’t care less. Jasmine was always looking around, searching for the other half of her body. She insisted, even then, that part of her was missing. I could not understand it! Later, we had two more children whom we adored. Jasmine might have felt left out but she never seemed to resent the lack of attention because of our other children who needed and appreciated our encouragement.”
“Is there anything else that you feel is significant?” I asked George.
“Well,” he reluctantly replied, “I noticed that she seemed to be flirtatious with the younger boys and I felt she was too seductive. My wife said that I was crazy because such a young child would not be doing this. She said that all little children played ‘doctor’ and that it was a normal part of growing up. But one night, both of us went into George’s bedroom to kiss him goodnight, as was our ritual with all the children. We were both absolutely horrified to find Jasmine, naked, rubbing up to little George. We did discuss this with their pediatrician who advised us that we shouldn’t put too much significance on this act because it would just draw attention to something that was probably a temporary thing. He told us to explain to Jasmine that we knew that she was a good little girl but we did not allow this experimentation in our family. George was only three at the time and too young to understand. And, Dr. Engel, can you guess what Jasmine said to me when I reasoned with her?”
“What did she say,” I asked with curiosity as I was taking my notes.
“She said, ‘It wasn’t me that did it. It was my other part that I can’t find. If I
can find her, I will tell her not to do it anymore!’ ” Tears filled George’s eyes as
he related this to me.