Friday, 26 March 2010

The next best thing to being home.

My new acquaintances are invariably astonished whenever I tell them that I was sent five hundred miles from my family to a school for the blind in Vancouver, British Columbia. Though I went home for Christmas and summer holidays, I spent three Easters there. From my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, here is an excerpt that shows just how much it meant to me when my mom and sisters came to visit in 1967.

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Something wonderful happened to lift my spirits during my third Easter at Jericho. Mom, Diane, and Linda travelled by train to visit me. Though I still was in Jericho, at least I could be with my loved ones while they went sight-seeing.

Mom informed the school officials that she would arrive on a
certain afternoon and take me for an outing. A horrible suspicion seized me that I was either dreaming or my family members would not come after all. I kept peering out the dorm room window every few minutes, hoping that what I heard from my supervisor was true.

"There's three people coming up the road by the Dining Hall - a woman and two girls," Michael Flett reported. I rushed to the window and peered out. My vision was not as good as Michael's but I did see that a group of colourfully dressed individuals were approaching.

I ran to the parking lot and waited for them to arrive. Fear and hope warred in my mind until Mom called out my name. When Mom and Diane hugged me, I realized this was no dream. They actually had come to visit. After I showed my loved ones around the dorm, we travelled by the city busses to their hotel. Ricky wanted to come with us as well. Our temporary supervisor gave her permission for the outing and Ricky happily rode the bus with us.

We spent a few enjoyable hours in the hotel room. I felt content as Diane and Mom related their news. Over a plate of sandwiches which the room service delivered, I told them about the happenings in my life since Christmas. Linda became captivated for some reason by Ricky. She followed him around as if he were a long-lost brother. We chuckled as she kept calling out, "Ricky! Ricky!" He seem content to have a toddler groupie and took our mirth amiably.

We also enjoyed watching the hotel's television. The multitude of channels on Cablevision amazed Diane. As we only had two back home, this was quite a novelty for her.

"I'm sure glad we're staying here at the Belmont," Diane commented. "We were in the Royal Hotel but it was cold and the floors squeaked. The room service and the food were lousy too. We didn't even have much hot water. Mom saw the Belmont across the street so we came here the next night." I agreed that we were in a good
suite.

"These sandwiches are great. Can we have more?" I asked.

"Sure," Mom said and called room service for another plate of food. Ricky and I relished that since we despised Jericho's institutional cuisine.

"I wish I could stay with you, Mom," I complained. "Couldn't I sleep here at least one night?" "We don't have the money," she replied. "We only have enough money for the three of us and if you stayed here, I'd be charged extra. At least you can see us during the day." I realized Mom was correct but it still tore my heart to be so near and yet so far from them.

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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback, containing 6 black and white photos, sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped InScribe writers group website. E-mail me if you still wish to place an order.