October: Suddenly—but maybe not so suddenly—it’s as though a bizarre spell has been cast upon your beautiful three-year-old. She hardly speaks, but “the words will come; it just might take longer” (doctor or therapist refrain). Another concern sinisterly snakes its way alongside the first and rears its ominous head one rainy afternoon, entrenching itself deep into your subconscious, where some things can never be explained or understood.

But the story begs to be told.

12:15pm: It is time to go “bye-bye,” but she puts up a fierce fight and refuses to dress.

There is nothing in her wardrobe that doesn’t make her recoil with fear and resistance

Strangely, there is nothing in her whimsical wardrobe that doesn’t make her recoil with fear and resistance. She will, however, willingly wear a one-piece sleeper called a Snugabye. At first, the Snugabye looks cute on her. People wonder if she just awakened from a nap—or, is she perhaps not feeling well? For the first few months, the Snugabye is in good condition. Its uniquely designed feet neatly fold over her little toes, and she happily pads about, oblivious to the oddity of wearing pajamas in public. Since she will not wear shoes or boots, she must—for safety reasons—be transported in a stroller. Occasionally she becomes frustrated and leaps out of the stroller. If the ground is muddy or wet . . . if there is glass or debris on the sidewalk . . . “If” becomes a heavy word when she is outside—wearing pajamas.

November: The leaves change color and curl into themselves, crisply falling onto the ground. Some wardrobe items are replaced with others, but not for her. With each passing day, she becomes increasingly fixated on her one-piece passport. Each night it is carefully washed and dried. Although you try to bleach the increasingly grungy pajama, it is to no avail. The stubborn, grayish tinge at the feet gives the Snugabye a weathered look. You notice parts of the pajama beginning to fade at the knees and elbows. With growing frustration and despair, you purchase the softest cotton material and deliver the beloved Snugabye for the umpteenth time to your trusted tailor, a Lebanese woman, a master at threading together the deteriorating costume haunting your days.

The tantrums aggravate you. The spare vocabulary worries you. But what really and truly irks you is how very much at a loss you are as to how to get your daughter dressed. You begin the appointment maze—a dark labyrinth of winding paths and mirrors—with the image of your daughter in her fading pajama looming large at every turn.

Winter: Gherri is a communication consultant. She will now work with your daughter—not Noel, who was the original speech and language pathologist assigned through the city’s speech services. Gherri shares how Noel begged her to take your daughter’s case, because he simply could not work with the little girl in threadbare pajamas defiantly staring back at him.

You don’t feel sorry for Noel. Why would you? It’s you who ascends the icy ramp into the nondescript building week after week, wheeling the increasingly heavy stroller with your pajama-clad daughter stubbornly clinging to the only world she knows. Gherri strongly recommends that you arrange for a consultation with Ellen, a prominent occupational therapist who seems to have special powers.

She takes lots of notes and encourages you to be a firm, consistent parent

Ellen, the prominent (and published) OT, visits your home along with her wide-eyed protégé. You painstakingly complete her questionnaire, then wait with baited breath as she reviews your feedback, absently dangling a Koosh ball before your unimpressed daughter. As you sit on the edge of your seat, Ellen definitively states: “I do not believe that this is a sensory issue. I think it is behavioral, but we will treat it as both behavioral and sensory. I am too busy to work with your daughter, but I will have one of my therapists, Lauren, do home visits.”

Lauren makes you sad. Besides the fact that nothing she tries seems to be working, she takes lots of notes and encourages you to be a firm, consistent parent. Someone once warned you about professionals who make children cry. You are convinced that this route leads straight back into the tangled forest. It is time to look elsewhere.

You are struggling, but not oblivious to the fact that there are good angels holding your hand every step of the way. Aptly named, there is Ezriel, who visits your home every Shabbat afternoon and, through his impressive knowledge and connections in the medical field, facilitates appointments with “people qualified to help.”

Dr. F. is a kind, encouraging man with a well-earned reputation. He feels that the pajama is a great hindrance to your daughter’s development, and must be removed at all costs. He wonders what the Attachment Specialist you are scheduled to meet next month will advise. Until then, it’s important, he reiterates, that “we begin taking measures to get rid of the pajama.”

You wish you could just lose the pajama—even the memory of it—but you know full well, as your family doctor stated: “You can’t and you shouldn’t.”

Oh, your dear friends and family. They never laugh or trivialize your ordeal, but share all they can in the way of support and encouragement. You are always aware that there are other children in the world, children with a heartbreakingly diverse array of challenges, and you pray for them with as much sincerity as you do for your own daughter.

Spring: The day for your appointment has finally arrived. Dr. W. is an eminent psychiatrist who specializes in attachment disorders. You naively believe that he must, just must, have the power to perform a miracle. Once again, you complete page upon page of questions for the good doctor. Dr. W. disappears behind a one-way mirror and observes your interaction with your daughter. He reviews your feedback, frowns and shrugs, and deems you and your husband indulging parents with a stubborn, manipulative child. He does add that once a development assessment is complete, he will be glad to collaborate with the additional powers that be.

People, even strangers, question how you will cope

Summer: Dr. L., the developmental pediatrician at the center downtown, asks lots of questions. With the help of his kind nurse, Pam, he administers many tests and finally, hesitatingly, explains that while language delays are not uncommon, the attachment disorder presenting at this time is rather “sticky.” Dr. L. brightly adds “cute and pretty” to your daughter’s list of “strengths.” At the end of the appointment, you are informed that two therapists will visit your home to help your daughter transition to clothing. The therapists will be available only in a few months.

Mazal tov . . . soon. You are expecting a baby! You are ecstatic, but also concerned: will anything change? When? People, even strangers, question how you will cope. With a growing stomach and determined will, you lug your daughter to her weekly therapy sessions. In some ways, life goes on. The weather is glorious, and there are parks with splash pads all over the city. Days like this make it easier to ignore your predicament. Your daughter and her older siblings splash happily in the heavily chlorinated pond at the local park.

An irritated mother standing beside you rolls her eyes, complaining about her impossible daughter. You point out that she is in good company. It is then that she shares the name of a center you have vaguely heard of. Blue Balloon. Irritated Mother promises that they can help. Some things just come out of the blue. Or do they?

Fall: Your appointment with Heather of Blue Balloon is going rather well. She has many recommendations for your daughter. There are two particularly specialized therapists who can work with her. Of course there is the expense—but not to worry; there is a grant for which you may be eligible. “Just apply,” she says. “Many of our clients have been approved.” Hopeful, you bring home the packet of papers and begin composing a heartfelt letter to the grant coordinator . . . ”My dream is to . . .”

Just when you think you can’t venture outside with your daughter even one more day, the calendar turns to the second day of Sukkot, also your grandmother Mintsha’s yahrtzeit (anniversary of passing). How difficult it will be to bring your daughter to synagogue when the Snugabye is literally in shreds. Isn’t the synagogue a place where people wear velvet skullcaps and shiny shoes? How can you, with a sinking heart, watch her struggle to climb the steep stairs while tripping on the toes of her ratty one-piece—because the tailor generously added an extra four inches of material to the feet, and the pajama is now too long? Sometimes children point at her, and grownups cast sideways looks. It’s all becoming too much.

Thoughts pull you in many directions. Just whom are you punishing by staying home?

You resolve to stay home and pray for your grandmother, of blessed memory. You are certain she knows it can’t be easy to be in public with your child wearing faded, torn pajamas. So the family leaves to synagogue, and you stay home, looking sadly at your daughter, wondering what will be. You might start praying, but the heaviness presses at your very soul.

Thoughts pull you in many directions. Just whom are you punishing by staying home? You’ve been to synagogue with her before! She’s marched through airports, danced at bar mitzvahs, attended day camp, and (gasp!) thoroughly enjoyed herself. You remind yourself that, particularly on a yahrtzeit, the day must be uplifted and sacred.

So, once again, you dress your daughter in her Snugabye and place her into the stroller, rushing off to synagogue. You arrive just in time for Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing, and exhale with relief. Enveloped by the melodious tune, you pray for divine intervention on behalf of all who need it—and so many do.

Winter: You awaken with a start, remembering a dream so vivid and real it makes you shiver. You are in the presence of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe says “L’chaim,” to life, to you and your dear mother. In the presence of this holy man, everything broken and concealed becomes whole and perfect once again. Enthused, and also late, you scramble to your early Sunday OT appointment, lugging the garbage bag with wardrobe items “for practice” during the session. Thus far, not one of the items has been tolerated by your daughter, even over her pajama, even for five minutes, even for “playing pretend.”

Dina, your daughter’s OT, shares a disheartening story about a child she worked with who finally agreed to dress after six years. She looks at you with pity. “What will you do? You are having a baby now.” You simply answer: “It will have to be much sooner that my daughter learns to dress.” An hour later, you exit the center. Soft snowflakes whirl around you and onto the white ground. You are exhausted. For just one moment, you place your daughter on a patch of concrete, getting ready to lift and haul her to your parked car. She quietly observes the snow, and then indicates that she would like to play. Pointing to the hefty bag at your side, you gently inform her that she must put on . . . “Boots!” she quietly notes. Holding your breath, you slip the never-worn pink boots onto her feet and watch her run into the snow with her big sister, as though it were just any other day at play.

After fifteen months, she is wearing something on her feet!

Thunderstruck, you run back into the center, practically shouting at anyone who will listen. She has finally done it—after fifteen months, she is wearing something on her feet! There is a happy celebration accompanied with fervent hopes; may this wonderful change lead to further progress.

February 5: Your baby is due on February 9. Now would be a good time to purchase what you need for the hospital. You stroll the aisles of the drugstore, happily adding baby items to your wagon. Then, as always, you think about your daughter. You would like to buy something special for her, too. A shiny yellow cup catches your eye. You toss it into your wagon, knowing how much she loves “the color shiny.” At home, you remove the clip attached to the middle of the cup—because, wearing her Snugabye, your daughter cannot clip the cup to a skirt.

She is delighted with the cup, and somewhat mystified when later that day you present the clip, explaining that she needs to wear a skirt to use it, and would she like a skirt for this purpose? Astonishingly, she agrees, and off you run—grabbing the first skirt you can find, red cotton with white polka dots. Wanting to keep the momentum, you explain that the clip needs a shirt . . . and socks . . . and slippers (not daring to ruin the moment with shoes).

And then!—as though a magic wand has been waved, she is dressed. It is dark and cold outside, but a warm and welcoming neighbor from down the hall opens her apartment door for your family, greeting your dressed daughter with tears in her eyes.

Shabbat, February 7: Your daughter walks to synagogue with her father. She is wearing a black skirt with an embroidered pattern, and a white knit sweater set. The tights and boots seem perfectly natural to her. This time you do not join her, but close the door and recite a delighted prayer of thanks and gratitude.

Monday, February 9: Mazal tov! It’s a girl! Chaya Mintsha is born at 12:27 PM. A radiant baby girl, named for her great-grandmother, she exudes a quiet maturity and grace that exceed her five minutes of worldly existence. Upon hearing of the new little girl, friends and family exclaim a joyous “Mazal Tov.” Upon hearing about your daughter now in clothing, there are even louder euphoric shrieks of “Mazal Tov!”

Indeed, it is nothing less than a magic cup

A few weeks later, you are rummaging through your purse. You chance upon the receipt from your drugstore purchase and recall, incredulously, the events leading up to your daughter finally wearing clothing. You scan the items listed on the receipt, and notice with wonder: the cup you purchased is called (Avent) Magic Cup. Indeed, it is nothing less than a magic cup.

Fall: During quiet moments, you stop and reflect upon your drop in the vast ocean of life experience. Gail, the head behavioral therapist from the center downtown, calls to reschedule a home visit, and gasps with astonishment when you share your report. She adds that some children experience “spontaneous recovery.” You share that you believe it is a divine miracle . . . perhaps Mintsha’s miracle. Mintsha, my beautiful, pious grandmother, and of course Chaya Mintsha, her angelic great-granddaughter, who was quite possibly the seven-pound catalyst for Mintsha’s Miracle.