Thursday, September 18, 2008

You Always Call Me Princess - by David Ted Eyre

I met the Eyre’s at the 2008 LDS Bookseller’s conference in Salt Lake City. Shellie was in a wheelchair following foot surgery, and her parents were right behind her, as they have been all her life. I smiled at Shellie and said, “I have a sister like you.”
Shellie smiled back, and dang, if she didn’t have dimples just like my little sister, Carolyn, who also happens to have Down Syndrome.
Ted graciously gave me a copy of the his daughter’s most extraordinary experience, a book titled, “You Always Call Me Princess.” As I read, I discovered in the pages an overview of Shellie’s arrival, diagnosis, and life up to the time she was crowned Homecoming Queen of Murray High School. No, this was not a Special Olympics event. This was Homecoming Queen of the entire high school student body, a title voted by her peers.
Having a sister with Down Syndrome helped me relate to some events in this book, but the story has universal appeal. As I read, I could see that adding a special needs child to a family impacts parents differently than siblings.
In this sweet account, Shellie seems to have lived a charmed life. In know that my own sister sometimes gets upset, and is not above stomping out of a room. It’s true that she’s back soon to give hugs all around and say she’s sorry. If Shellie ever had any stomping fits, those parts were left out of this story, which almost makes her too good to be true.
Ted has an incredible grasp of the English language, so good, in fact, that some of his wording was rather high brow for me. I’m more of a simple words girl myself, and think a lot of readers may prefer to read descriptions in simpler language. But the words are understandable, so don’t bypass this gem just because of that. There are also some "thank you's" to key people who helped Shellie which arguably could have been in the acknowledgments, but I may be nitpicking here. You wouldn’t want to miss the unshakable faith of a girl whose father always called her “princess.” The overall feeling of these heartfelt events brimming over with warm fuzzies and blessings shooting through trials like daffodils through winter-dead leaves should touch even the craggiest heart.
Oh, and the final paragraphs pricked tears from the eyes of this reader, because Ted captured the feeling I have for my little sister and others like her with words that aim straight for the heart.

Shirley: Ted, you look rather uncomfortable on that squishy pink velvet chair. Would your rather sit on the canopied silk sofa?
Ted: A silk sofa would probably cause my mind to not stay on the interview questions, so, even though I don't look good in pink, at least I would have a better chance of staying on task.
Shirley: Thank you for meeting with me in this Ultimate Princess Room. You must be used to princess stuff, having lived with one for so many years. When did you think of writing Shellie's story?
Ted: Within a few days of the actual homecoming, a producer asked me if they could do a movie about Shellie's experience and if I would write down as much as I could about her life so they could use some of the information for the script. When I started to write about her life it turned into the book. The movie never became a reality.
Shirley: How long did it take you to write it?
Ted: It took me one year to write the book and nearly ten years to get it published.
Shirley: Uh, oh! (Tinkling sound) Did I forgot to mention that the sparkles fall every hour or so? Don't worry, they comb out. Hey, it looks like you're wearing a crown. That's fitting, since you're the father of a princess or two. But I can't help wondering if Shellie has grumpy times like my little sister does?
Ted: My wife Ruth and I have been involved in Special Olympics for over ten years so we know that special needs kids come with as many varied personalities as any other group, but I have to admit that Shellie has an extremely easy going personality. That was one of the problems the movie people had with the story. There just wasn't enough downs (pun not intended) to equal the ups. They wanted to show a bunch of mean-spirited students or jealous sibling and it just didn't work for us. To tell you the truth, Shellie has a more constantly pleasant demeanor than anyone else in our family.
Shirley: What does Shellie think of having a book with her picture on the cover?
Ted: Shellie was thrilled just to have the book published, She was really surprise and excited when she saw what Granite Publishing had chosen for the cover.
Shirley: I see that you've already looked into a movie deal, but have you ever thought of contacting "Feature Films for Families" movie studios to check further into making Shellie's story into a big screen production? I mean, after all, it worked for "Rudy" and "Radio."
Ted: The producer that contacted us had worked with Feature Films for Families but was not with them at the time he contacted us. We know the owner of that company, or at least have met him a time or two at various weddings etc. but I have never had the nerve to talk to him about the book. His name is Forrest Baker and maybe if I ever have the chance to see him again, and if the timing is right, I will introduce the idea to him. Thanks for the encouragement.
Shirley: What are Shellie's plans for the future?
Ted: Shellie has worked for the last seven years as a teachers aide at an elementary school just a few blocks from our home, and hopes to continue there for the foreseeable future.
Shirley: I hear music… it's a parade! Quick, to the window. Come on, come on, heave yourself up from those cushy cushions! There you go. Look! There's the queen float with Shellie on it! She's so cute. Hold still… no, don't bat my arms away, I'm not pulling your hair, I'm getting some glitter to throw. Come on, lend a hand. Ah, there it goes, sparkling, fluttering through the air. Just like magic.
Thanks for your time, Ted, and thank you for sharing this heartwarming story.


Josi said...

What a great book, I"ll have to go look it up.

Shirley Bahlmann said...


Historical, Hysterical Monument!

I've been historically oriented since childhood, interested in old houses and places where things happened long ago. That's why I w...