Ella was putting her light-up sneakers on the shoe rack when she noticed something different.
"That?" she asked, staring.
"That's Daddy's toes. You know how Daddy's foot has a boo-boo? And he doesn't have any toes on one of them? Those are his pretend toes that help him balance." I was sitting on the chair next to the shoe rack, leaning over the arm talking to her.
"You can touch them," I said.
Her hand darted out and she let her fingers graze the top of the toes before she pulled back and looked up at me with those "I did it!" eyes.
We smiled at each other. I picked up the prosthetic (technically an orthotic) and showed it to her. "See? Those are like toes--" and I started to turn it over.
"Under!" She commanded, wanting to see the bottom.
"And the bottom is hard, to help Daddy balance. This goes in his shoe, so it makes it like he has toes."
She nodded in that serious way that preschoolers nod when they are learning something big.
She's started to really pay attention to Justin's amputation. She's getting braver about touching it--the darker skin graft on the top, the callouses, and the parts that are still soft, regular skin. We want her to be comfortable with it, not scared or disgusted or embarrassed. Not any of those feelings that can be associated with differences--disabilities. We haven't forced any situations or information, so she's seen Justin's stump as much as any kid sees their dad's bare feet. For more than a year, she didn't really notice. And then she did. Until today, when Justin left his toes on the shoe rack, I don't think she's ever seen his prosthetic--it's always in his shoe.
"Do you want to hold it?"
She took it from my hands and examined it in hers.
"Do you want to stand on it, like Daddy does?"
She looked happy and curious and intrigued and proud all at once. I put it on the floor. She held my hand for balance and lifted her left foot onto the prosthetic. I scooted her heel back into position, marveling at the size of both her foot and his.
I told her I wanted to take her picture to send it to Daddy, so when she saw my phone she said, "Cheese!" even as she looked down at me pointing the camera at her toes.