All the Pretty Girls

Johanna’s speech is exploding. I’m not sure whether it’s due to all the speech therapy she’s getting (both from the school and privately), or the fact that she’s in a classroom setting now, surrounded by typical peers, or just a stage of her natural development. But I’ve been hearing a ton of two and three word phrases recently: “Give me applesauce” or “watch Elmo TV” or “play ball Ivry” or, my personal favorite “I did it!” (Usually said when she’s had success on her pink princess potty.)

Jo Jo’s preschool teacher emailed me an update on Jo Jo’s progress over the weekend. She mentioned that there were hearing a lot of word approximations when reading or talking to Jo Jo and also noted they were hearing a lot of singing. One song was Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, another one sounded a lot like Beyonce’s “All the Pretty Girls.” Did Jo Jo like that song? she wondered.

When I read that I was stumped. “I have no idea what ‘All the Pretty Girls’ sounds like,” I wrote back. “I am embarrassed to admit that I’m an old fart!” “Do you know it?” I asked Jamie later. He looked at me blankly (Jamie’s music tastes are solidly stuck in the 1970s, with James Taylor and Bob Dylan).  I googled “All the Pretty Girls” and “Beyonce” and while I couldn’t find anything,  one song, “All the Single Ladies” came up. That one I knew. I felt better.

Then I remembered. Last Monday, we’d heard “All the Single Ladies” on the radio driving home from Jo Jo’s speech therapy. It’s one of those incredibly cheesy songs that you can’t help but sing along to, so I’d ramped up the volume and rolled down the window and sang the lyrics at the top of my lungs. When I looked back in the rear view mirror, I saw Jo Jo, beaming a broad grin while waving her hands around and singing.

Could that be it? I wondered. I’m often impressed by Jo Jo’s memory, but somehow I thought that would be a stretch.

 “I don’t think Beyonce has a song All the Pretty Girls. Did you mean All the Single Ladies?” I asked her teacher when I dropped Jo Jo off this morning.

“Yeah, I think that’s it,” she said, grinning.

Driving home, I couldn’t get the song out of my head. I remembered the opening scene in Sex and the City 2 (a terrible, terrible movie by the way) where Samantha dances to Liza Minelli’s rendition of the song with a group of gay men. I had a sudden mental image of a grown up Johanna, wearing a vintage Halston shift dress and Manolo Blahnik strappy sandals, waving her arms in the air and dancing.

But somehow I couldn’t see it. I still didn’t believe she could actually remember a song she’d heard once.

This afternoon, I googled the song again and played a version of it on You Tube. The noise woke Geoffrey up and he started fussing. As I began nursing him I saw Johanna, swaying in the middle of the playroom and waving two silk scarves around in rhythm to Beyonce singing “if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.” She was mumbling and I couldn’t make out her words but she was definitely singing in tune to the song.

I blinked. Clearly, she remembered. Clearly, her memory was a lot sharper than I gave her credit for.

And as I stared at her, I pictured her, twenty years from now, dancing to the beat of the music in some fabulous shift dress and sandals, her blonde hair long and flowing, her movements graceful despite the looseness of her limbs. Maybe she’d be in a group of typical people, or maybe surrounded by others with disabilities.

Either way, this time I could clearly see it.