My Own Experience

My Own Experience

From A 4th Course of Chicken Soup for the Soul

My Own Experience

No external advantages can supply self-reliance. The force of one’s being. .. must come from within.

R. W. Clark

My first awareness of her was her hands. I don’t remember how old I was, but my whole being and existence were associated with those hands. Those hands belonged to my mom, and she is blind.

I can remember sitting at the kitchen table coloring a picture. “Look at my picture, Mom. It’s all finished.”

“Oh, that’s pretty,” she replied, and kept right on doing whatever she was doing.

“No, look at my picture with your fingers,” I insisted. She then came to me, and I ran her hand all over the picture. I always enjoyed her excited response that the picture was lovely.

It never occurred to me that it was strange how she felt things with her hands, how she touched my face or things I showed her. I did realize that my dad looked at me and at the things I showed to him with his eyes, and so did Grandma or any other person who came into our house; but I never thought it unusual that Mom didn’t use her eyes.

I can still remember how she combed my long hair. She put the thumb of her left hand between my eyebrows, just at the top of my nose, and her forefinger at the crown of my head. She was probably lining up those two points, and then she’d bring the comb from her forefinger down to meet the thumb. Thus, she hoped the part would be down the middle of my head. I never questioned her ability to do this task.

When I fell down many times at play, came in crying and told Mom that my knee was bleeding, her gentle hands washed my knee and skillfully applied a bandage.

One day I found out, unfortunately, that there were certain things my mother wouldn’t touch. I found a tiny dead bird lying on the sidewalk in front of our house and brought it into the house to show Mom. “Look what I found,” I said, as I took her hand to touch the bird. “What is it?” she asked. She lightly touched the dead creature in my outstretched palm, and I could hear the terror in her voice as she asked once more, “What is that?”

“A little dead bird,” I answered. She screamed then and quickly drew back her hand and ordered me and the bird outside and admonished me never to let her touch such a thing again.

I could never quite reckon with her powers of smell, hearing and touch. One day, I saw a plate of cookies that Mom had just placed on the table. I slyly took one and looked at her to see what she would say. She didn’t say a word and, of course, I thought as long as she didn’t feel with those hands what I’d done, she didn’t know. I didn’t realize that she could hear me chew. Just as I passed by her munching my cookie, she caught my arm. “Next time, Karrey, please ask me for that cookie instead of taking it,” she said. “You can have all you want, just ask next time.”

I have an older brother and sister and a younger brother, and none of us could quite figure out how she knew which one of us did a certain thing. One day my older brother brought a stray dog into the house and sneaked him up the stairs into his bedroom. In a short while my mom marched up the stairs, opened his bedroom door, and ordered the dog to be put outside. We were amazed she figured out there was a dog in the house.

As I grew older, I realized that Mom reared us psychologically. And with those sharp ears and nose of hers, she put two and two together and usually came up with the right answer. She had heard the dog’s toenails clicking on the bedroom floor.

And that nose of hers. How it knew so much! One day my friend and I were playing with dolls in my bedroom. I slipped in to Mom’s room and doused the dolls with some of her perfume. Then I made the mistake of running downstairs to ask Mom a question. She immediately told me that she knew I had been in her bedroom and used her perfume.

Those ears. How they knew the things we did. I was all alone in the living room one night doing my homework with the TV running softly. Mom walked into the room and asked, “Karrey, are you doing your homework or watching TV?” I was slightly surprised but answered her and went on with my homework. Later I thought about it and wondered how she knew that I was the one in the living room and not one of my brothers or sisters. I asked her. “Sorry, honey,” she said patting my head. “Even though your adenoids are gone, you still breathe through your mouth. I heard you.”

Mom had a good sense of direction, too. She had a tandem bicycle and we took turns riding with her. I sat on the front seat and steered and pedaled and she sat on the back seat. She always seemed to know where we were and called out directions loud and clear. She always knew when we were approaching an intersection or when a fast-moving car was coming up on the right side.

How did she know that while I was taking a bath one night, when I was about nine years old, that I hadn’t washed any part of myself? I was busy playing with the toys in the water and having a great time. “Karrey, you haven’t touched your face or ears or anything, have you?” I hadn’t, but how did she know? Of course she knew that a little girl playing with toys in a bathtub would not stop to wash. I realized that she also used her mind’s eye in rearing us.

The one thing, however, that used to concern us was the fact that Mom never really knew what we looked like. One day when I was about 17 and standing in front of the bathroom mirror combing my hair, I asked, “You really don’t know what any of us look like, do you, Mom?” She was feeling my hair to see how long it was.

“Of course I do,” she answered.

“I know what you looked like the day they laid your tiny little body in my arms for the first time. I felt every inch of you and felt the soft fuzz on your head. I knew that you were blond because your daddy told me so. I knew that your eyes were blue because they told me so. I know that you are very pretty because people tell me you are. But I really know what you are like—what you are like inside.” My eyes grew misty.

“I know that you’re lithe and strong because you love being on the tennis court. I know that you have a good nature because I hear you talk to the cat and to small children. I know you are tender-hearted. I know you are vulnerable because I’ve seen your hurt reactions to someone’s remarks. I know that you have character because you have the courage to stand up and defend your convictions. I know that you have a respect for human beings because of the way you treat me. I know that you have wisdom because you conduct yourself wisely for a girl your age. I also know that you have a will of your own because I’ve seen a hint of temper, which tells me that no one can dissuade you from doing the right things. I know that you have family devotion because I’ve heard you defending your brothers and sister. I know that you possess a great capacity for love because you’ve shown it to me and to your father many times. You have never indicated in any way that you were short-changed because you have a blind mother. So, dear,” and she drew me close to her, “I see you and I know exactly what you look like, and to me you are beautiful.”

That was 10 years ago, and recently I became a mother. When they laid my precious little son in my arms, I, like my mother, was able to see my child and know how beautiful he was. The only difference was that I could see him with my eyes. But sometime I’d like to turn out the lights, hold and touch him, and see if I can feel all the things my mother felt.

Karrey Janvrin Lind enberg

For Better or ForWorse®              by Lynn Johnston

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE© Lynn Johnston Prod ., Inc. Re printed with permission of UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE. All rights reserved .

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