(Below is a quote on the power of touch from a man named Jacques Lusseyran, who lost his sight at 8 years old. I love these thoughts so much!)
“Unlike eyes, they (his hands) were in earnest, and from whatever direction they approached an object they covered it, tested its resistance, leaned against the mass of it and recorded every irregularity of its surface.
Movement of the fingers was terribly important, and had to be uninterrupted because objects do not stand at a given point, fixed there, confined in one form.
They are alive…even the stones.
What is more, they vibrate and tremble. Yet there was something still more important than movement, and that was pressure. If I put my hand on the table without pressing it, I knew the table was there, but knew nothing about it. To find out, my fingers had to bear down, and the amazing thing is that the pressure was answered by the table at once.
Being blind, I thought I should have to go out to meet things, but I found that they came to meet me instead. I have never had to go more than halfway, and the universe became the accomplice of all my wishes. Touching the tomatoes in the garden, and really touching them, touching the walls of the house, the materials of the curtains or a clod of earth is surely seeing them as fully as eyes can see. But it is more than seeing them, it is tuning in on them and allowing the current they hold to connect with one’s own, like electricity. To put it differently, this means an end of living in front of things and a beginning of living with them.”
When Ella was a toddler, she would have an extremely negative reaction if anyone ever tried to touch her hands without first asking/and or warning her. In her 3-year-old Early Intervention play group, other innocent kids would crawl up to her and grab her hands while she sat there playing and she would recoil, almost as if she had been hurt, although I knew she never had been. It finally occurred to me what might be going on.
It had to feel at least a little similar to being poked in the eye! For her hands were (and always will be) her eyes to the world around her. I couldn’t blame her then, for freaking out whenever this happened, and I worked hard to try to educate people to ask her first if they could hold/shake/touch her hands. It always amazed me after that how excited she would be to have physical contact with another person, as long as she knew it was coming. Makes perfect sense to me!
Fast Forward to a couple of weeks ago, when Ella and Chase asked me to take them to the annual Book Fair at their Elementary school one evening. Erik was out of town that week, so I had to decide if I wanted to take on the challenge of taking all 4 of them to this event without any backup. Anyone who follows me on Instagram or any of my Facebook friends will completely understand when I say our 3.5 year old, Noah, has had his fair share of challenging moments lately. *I can almost hear all of your heads nodding in agreement!* But, the kids begged like kids do, so I put on my big girl pants and we headed out to check out the books that were so sweetly printed on each of their Wish Lists. Each child had already raised their hands and repeated the Pledge that we like to reiterate whenever we head out into “the public.” There were promises of good behavior from them and corresponding threats of punishments for anything but from me :)
I love the school that our kids attend. The staff is amazing and friendly and they have always gone over and above to make sure Ella has the tools she needs to be successful and stay on the same level as her peers, academically and socially. It’s just a place where you feel completely warm and welcome as you walk into the doors.
I am so intrigued by the different reactions Ella always gets from fellow students at a school event like that. You have the kids that will pass us in the hall and completely ignore us and Ella, even though I know they know who we are. Or they will just say hi to Chase and not to Ella. You have the kids that will pass by and smile at us, as I hear them whisper to their parents, “That’s Ella!” but they never actually speak to her directly. Then you have the kids that come right up and say, “Hi Ella! It’s (insert their name here)” so Ella can respond with an appropriate reaction now that she knows who is speaking to her. It’s always so interesting to me. Most times I will let her know who is passing us (if I know them) so she has an opportunity to say hello first! And almost everyone responds to her happily if she calls them out by name first.
So…the Book Fair was mad insane. It was the first evening and it looked like close to our entire neighborhood, along with many others, had come out to snatch up their favorite titles. Chase was pushing Lexi in a stroller, I had Noah in one hand (so he didn’t run and/or knock entire shelves of books on the floor), and Ella was holding my other elbow while walking with her cane. We had not walked 10 steps into the gym yet when this happened.
A tiny, little dark-haired kindergartener was with his family in the checkout line when he caught sight of us and immediately made a beeline over to our crew. He stood, wide-eyed and borderline star struck, right in front of Ella and just smiled a mile wide. Like, get a cheek cramp type of big smile. I mean, I could see ALL of his pearly white teeth. He just stood there. Seemingly speechless. (Or so I thought!)
I was just about to say, “Hi, sweetie. What’s your name?” when he interrupted me and said, “ELLA! Oh, Ella. I mean, Ella, it’s really YOU!” I was trying to muffle my giddy laughter because honestly, I had never seen anything so precious in my entire life, but I didn’t want him to think I was laughing at him. Ella stood there and half-smiled and had this look on her face like, “Ummm…yeah. It’s really me!” but she didn’t say anything to him. I could already tell by her rigid body that this kid was inadvertently making her uncomfortable. So, I did what I always do and asked him to tell us his name, so Ella would know who he was. He proceeded to say his first, middle and last name so lightning fast that I didn’t catch one syllable of it, and then he continued on. “Ella! Oh, Ella! I have been wanting to tell you this for so long. You are SO PRETTY, Ella, and I just wanted to tell you and I’ve been waiting so long to see you in person.” So now I’ve decided he is just like one of those hilarious, fast talking kids that you see on The Ellen Show or something that literally could not by more funny or sincere. I told him how sweet that was to say and then I stood there, kind of loving watching him swoon over my big girl. Ella quietly said, “thank you” but her body language was kind of screaming “Ok, you can go away now!!”
He went on. “You really are just SO pretty and I think you’re just awesome and I really just wanted to ask you one question.”
Ella stood quiet…and then mumbled, “Ok” (with a little prompting from me).
He said, “Welllll, I just wanted to ask…(pause)…if I could take a look at your hands.”
(I am thinking ‘Oh sweet Jesus’ this is not going to go over well. And I was right. At first.) Ella was completely weird-ed out by that request and actually took two big steps backward and tucked her cane in her armpit and hid both of her hands behind her back.
Big smile continued without missing a beat.
“I mean, I know you read Braille and you use your hands to see and wow… just…WOW…” He just stood there, not fazed one bit by Ella’s less than stellar reaction.
I always stress appropriate body language and behavior in public, but I could tell she just didn’t understand why someone would ask her that. I bent down to her face and she said that exact thing, “Mom, why would he ask me that?” and I told her I thought he was very sincerely interested in her but that it was up to her if she wanted to do it or not. It was ok with me either way. Then I whispered in her ear, “But honey, I honestly believe he thinks you are a Superhero or something!” She beamed a little smile then, and in a completely ‘un-Ella’ type of move, she walked a couple of steps forward towards him, handed me her cane, and held both of her hands out, palms up, for the young man to take in.
He looked down at them for a few seconds, then got HUGE eyes and turned around towards the line and yells (really SUPER loud)…
“MOM! THEY ARE JUST REGULAR HANDS!!”
I mean, he was totally dumbfounded. I sincerely thought he was planning to see like an Iron Man arm or Robot fingers or something like that. He just couldn’t get over the fact that her hands seemed pretty much normal.
Then he looked back at Ella and said, “Well, thanks so much Ella, You made my night. You’re so pretty and awesome and thanks so much for showing me your regular hands.”
At this point, I was very proud that Ella decided on her own that it would be ok to show him, as well as the fact that I had not lost Noah or Chase during the exchange, as both of them had been trying to abandon us to go run around with friends and neighbors. Ella leaned over to me after he walked away and had this grin on her face as she said, “You really think he thought I was a Super Hero? That’s so silly. He was kind of funny though. But I am just a regular kid! And my hands are just regular hands, too. Don’t you agree, Mom?”
Well, that was clearly a loaded question for me. My answer to her in that moment at the Book Fair was “Of course they are, Ella. Just like everyone else” and we went on our way and bought some books and then shared sundaes together at the Ice Cream Social.
Oh, my big girl.
As your mommy, I have to admit that I often stand, smiley and starstruck, while watching you explore the world with your “regular” hands. But honey, I have to believe in my heart they are so far from regular. They might appear to be just like anyone else’s hands…but this mama thinks they are truly super special.
Why, you might ask?
Well, they were the first slender fingers to ever wrap around my pinkie as the cozy reality set in that I was a FOR REAL mommy for the first time! (Finally!! )
They were the first hands I held as you reached out for me when you were newborn, wondering where I was, even though I was always right there by your side. The first hands I stroked and kissed while whispering, “I’m here, baby. Your mommy’s right here.”
They were the first little hands that covered your prosthetic eyes to play peek-a-boo with us, even when we never thought that would be something we could enjoy together.
They were the first hands I slipped mini marshmallows into as we tried to encourage you to walk independently and let go of your walker. The first hands we got so excited to see clapping wildly as you used those fingers to point to each body part when you were young.
And once we added other sets of little hands to our family, we began to see how you used your “regular” hands to see EVERYthing, READ everything you could and explore as much of the world as we could get in front of you. Watching your entire face light up as you made a physical connection with something that us sighted people completely take for granted on a daily basis was…(for lack of a better term) eye-opening for us!
Fingers don’t carry judgement.
Hands simply don’t hold the ability to give a harsh critique that our eyes often can.
When you go through life only seeing what you hear and what you feel at the end of your fingertips, you are bound to come across a few fascinated folks who are amazed by it. And as you grow into a beautiful young lady, I see the way your life is helping others to realize that they too desire to see the world more like your “regular hands” do. Feel beauty the special way you do.
And even though this mommy only has two hands to my children’s eight…I will always have room in my hand for yours, girl.
Whether you are having a Superhero or just a regular type of day :)