Hi. My name is Debbie. Born in the Bronx, New York, I moved with my family to Queens when I was fourteen, and eventually to Plainview, Long Island. The youngest (by five minutes) of four children, family has always been important to me. Married for forty-four years and since widowed, I am mother to three wonderful sons, two amazing daughters-in-law, and an adorable granddaughter. I spent my professional career working in the field of early childhood education, receiving master’s degrees from Queens College, Hofstra University, and Bank Street College of Education. My work included classroom teacher to preschool and kindergarten children and reading teacher to kindergarteners needing extra support. I am now retired and love to read, take walks in nature, solve NY Times crossword puzzles, and knit blankets for charity. I currently reside in Mt. Kisco, NY, with my partner.
Growing up with a profoundly disabled twin sister, I was certainly aware of our differences, though I am unable to pinpoint when that realization began. I sat, I crawled, I learned to walk; Judy lay on her stomach, able only to lift her upper body and head with the rigidity of her arms. I babbled; Judy did not. I do not remember my first word; Judy did not have one. I learned to eat solid foods, to feed myself, to hold my cup if I wanted a drink; Judy’s soft or pureed food and her milk or juice were fed to her at meal and snack times. I grew and made friends, playing with them at their house or mine; Judy watched our play from her wheelchair. She and I played board games: I made all the moves, she enjoyed the activity and company. I read books to her; she looked and listened. I talked to her; she listened and laughed.
I wasn’t aware that my life situation wasn’t anything but ordinary for our family. My parents explained what had happened during our birth but didn’t talk to me about Judy’s disability. I knew my friends’ siblings were not like Judy, but their family was theirs and mine was mine. Everyone’s family was unique in its own way. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized the impact that growing up with a disabled twin had on me.
From a purely nonprofessional perspective, I suspect that my insecurities as an adult stemmed from the fact that, as I undoubtedly received less attention than my sister, I felt I must not have been important enough to my parents. An introvert in temperament, I doubted my abilities and shied away from ventures that risked that I might fail. To this day, I am still surprised at all that I have accomplished.
Insecurities aside, growing up with Judy taught me how to be a more caring, empathetic person, sensitive to the needs of others, willing to help in any way I can when needed. It allowed me to understand the importance of laughter and the joy one gets in bringing that laughter to others. Growing up with Judy provided me with the perspective of looking beyond the disability to see the person and all that person has to offer.