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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-01-14 21:40:16
Typefacelarge in Small
The first Christmas after Miss Sullivan came to Tuscumbia was a great event. Every one in the family prepared surprises for me, but what pleased me most, Miss Sullivan and I prepared surprises for everybody else. The mystery that surrounded the gifts was my greatest delight and amusement. My friends did all they could to excite my curiosity by hints and half-spelled sentences which they pretended to break off in the nick of time. Miss Sullivan and I kept up a game of guessing which taught me more about the use of language than any set lessons could have done. Every evening, seated round a glowing wood fire, we played our guessing game, which grew more and more exciting as Christmas approached.On Christmas Eve the Tuscumbia schoolchildren had their tree, to which they invited me. In the centre of the schoolroom stood a beautiful tree ablaze and shimmering in the soft light, its branches loaded with strange, wonderful fruit. It was a moment of supreme happiness. I danced and capered round the tree in an ecstasy. When I learned that there was a gift for each child, I was delighted, and the kind people who had prepared the tree permitted me to hand the presents to the children. In the pleasure of doing this, I did not stop to look at my own gifts; but when I was ready for them, my impatience for the real Christmas to begin almost got beyond control. I knew the gifts I already had were not those of which friends had thrown out such tantalizing hints, and my teacher said the presents I was to have would be even nicer than these. I was persuaded, however, to content myself with the gifts from the tree and leave the others until morning.That night, after I had hung my stocking, I lay awake a long time, pretending to be asleep and keeping alert to see what Santa Claus would do when he came. At last I fell asleep with a new doll and a white bear in my arms. Next morning it was I who waked the whole family with my first "Merry Christmas!" I found surprises, not in the stocking only, but on the table, on all the chairs, at the door, on the very window-sill; indeed, I could hardly walk without stumbling on a bit of Christmas wrapped up in tissue paper. But when my teacher presented me with a canary, my cup of happiness overflowed.Little Tim was so tame that he would hop on my finger and eat candied cherries out of my hand. Miss Sullivan taught me to take all the care of my new pet. Every morning after breakfast I prepared his bath, made his cage clean and sweet, filled his cups with fresh seed and water from the well-house, and hung a spray of chickweed in his swing.One morning I left the cage on the window-seat while I went to fetch water for his bath. When I returned I felt a big cat brush past me as I opened the door. At first I did not realize what had happened; but when I put my hand in the cage and Tim's pretty wings did not meet my touch or his small pointed claws take hold of my finger, I knew that I should never see my sweet little singer again.

She has now reached the question stage of her development. It is "what?" "why?" "when?" especially "why?" all day long, and as her intelligence grows her inquiries become more insistent. I remember how unbearable I used to find the inquisitiveness of my friends' children; but I know now that these questions indicate the child's growing interest in the cause of things. The "why?" is the DOOR THROUGH WHICH HE ENTERS THE WORLD OF REASON AND REFLECTION. "How does carpenter know to build house?" "Who put chickens in eggs?" "Why is Viney black?" "Flies bite--why?" "Can flies know not to bite?" "Why did father kill sheep?" Of course she asks many questions that are not as intelligent as these. Her mind isn't more logical than the minds of ordinary children. On the whole, her questions are analogous to those that a bright three-year-old child asks; but her desire for knowledge is so earnest, the questions are never tedious, though they draw heavily upon my meager store of information, and tax my ingenuity to the utmost.

"She sends the sunshine and rain to make them grow," Helen replied; and after a moment she added, "I think the sunshine is Nature's warm smile, and the raindrops are her tears."

After awhile he went nearer, and looking closely at the buds, found that they were folded up, leaf over leaf, as eyelids are folded over sleeping eyes, so that Birdie thought they must be asleep. "Lazy roses, wake up," said he, giving the branches a gentle shake; but only the dew fell off in bright drops, and the flowers were still shut up. At last Birdie remembered how he had awakened his mother with kisses, and thought he would try the same plan with the roses; so he drew up his red lips until THEY looked like a rosebud, too, and bending down a branch with a lovely pink bud upon it, he kissed it softly two or three times.

On March 4, 1888, she writes in a letter:

"The Frost Fairies" and "The Frost Kings" are given in full, as the differences are as important as the resemblances:

When in 1892, she was encouraged to write a sketch of her life for the Youth's Companion, in the hope that it would reassure her and help her to recover from the effect of "The Frost King," she produced a piece of composition which is much more remarkable and in itself more entertaining at some points than the corresponding part of her story in this book. When she came to retell the story in a fuller form, the echo was still in her mind of the phrases she had written nine years before. Yet she had not seen her sketch in the Youth's Companion since she wrote it, except two passages which Miss Sullivan read to her to remind her of things she should say in this autobiography, and to show her, when her phrasing troubled her, how much better she did as a little girl.

In 1886 she graduated from the Perkins Institution. When Captain Keller applied to the director for a teacher, Mr. Anagnos recommended her. The only time she had to prepare herself for the work with her pupil was from August, 1886, when Captain Keller wrote, to February, 1887. During this time she read Dr. Howe's reports. She was further aided by the fact that during the six years of her school life she had lived in the house with Laura Bridgman. It was Dr. Howe who, by his work with Laura Bridgman, made Miss Sullivan's work possible: but it was Miss Sullivan who discovered the way to teach language to the deaf-blind.


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