Friday, 23 October 2009

A birthday away from home.


Most children celebrate each birthday at home until they become adults. I was not so fortunate. My eighth birthday was spent five hundred miles away from all I knew and loved. Even so, I made the best of the situation. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here's an excerpt that relates what happened on that day.
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I spent my eighth birthday away from home, another new experience. Somehow, I had the notion that presents would be waiting for me the moment I woke up.

"It's my birthday - where's my presents?" I excitedly asked Mrs. Sandyford.

"Why do you think you would get gifts so early in the morning?" she asked.

"I thought that maybe things might be like that here," I admitted sheepishly. When no presents arrived that day, I felt terribly let down.

As it was Sunday, my supervisor let me play records all afternoon. I had a splendid time. "I want to do this for all my birthdays," I enthused to Mrs. Sandyford. "You'll not be allowed to if it's a week day," she reasoned. "You'll be in school next year you know." That fact totally eluded me.
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Though I had fun that day, I felt chronically homesick throughout my time at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind. My condition was inadvertently made worse when my Uncle and aunt came to visit me there. Here is an excerpt that tells what happened.
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Miss Boyce ushered me into the waiting room, normally off limits to children, where my uncle and aunt sat.

After asking how I was doing, Uncle Bill gave me a white race car, a gas station, and a silver dollar for my upcoming birthday. As we chatted, Uncle Bill assembled the gas station. Then he presented it to me. I marvelled at its gas pumps and rows of toy automotive products. A cosy feeling, similar to being home, swept through my heart as my uncle and aunt encouraged me to play with the toys. Jericho faded into the background as I enjoyed being in the company of my relatives.

All too soon, my uncle and aunt hugged me, wishing me well. Sadness engulfed my heart as they walked out the front door. Christmas was still two months away, almost an eternity for a child on the verge of turning eight years old.

"I'll keep your dollar safe in the desk and you can ask for it next June when you go home," Miss Boyce promised. As I had no reason to disbelieve her, I meekly handed it over. "A whole dollar is a lot of money for a schoolboy you know," Miss Boyce explained.

My beautiful gas station did not last long. Piece by piece, it became progressively vandalized until my supervisor threw it in the garbage. The race car did not last either. I felt heartbroken that everybody was allowed to play with my toys and wreck them with impunity while I was severely punished for taking apart the space station.
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Today's disabled children need not be sent to distant institutions as I was forty-five years ago. They can be home-schooled or enroled in designated local public schools equipped to help them. Please visit the Inscribe writers site and click on the Deliverance from Jericho button to learn more about this book. Though it was written for a general audience, this memoir would be of interest to teachers and vision-loss professionals. They doubtless would benefit from contrasting my experiences with that of today's registered blind students.