Sally was an unusual child, but not one of extremes or outlandish thoughts. She had simply been blind from birth. It wasn’t really uncommon, but certainly wasn’t something most people understood either. Of course her mother understood, as mothers always do.
Sally always explained what she saw to her mother. Breezes brushed her face, and being at the top of the neighborhood hill was the greatest experience she could think of. They lifted their arms and sailed higher than the hill, drifting over the town, around the church tower, and past the smells of the bakery. Sometimes they misjudged where they were and flew over the horse stable. It never smelled like the bakery and turned up both of their noses. They dipped an arm and swerved away as quickly as possible. Mother supplied the impressions as they stood on the hill.
Sally became an only child when it was discovered that she was blind. Her mother and father knew the hardships that were to unfold through Sally’s growth, the difficulties that Sally would have to endure throughout her lifetime. Her parents decided that it was a misfortune that they would not want to happen twice, and decided to spend all of their time bringing up Sally as normally as any parent could do.
She was helped to understand things by touching, hearing, and smelling those things she could not see. Her mother was an excellent teacher and Sally grew up very happy, and never understood that she was different, even knowing that she was sightless.
One thing that did perplex Sally were faces. She had touched many of them, heavily encouraged by her mother, but somehow the nuances of each individual face was hard for her to comprehend. Even though she could feel differences, as soon as she recognized someone’s face, another came along that felt too similar. It was confusing. Sally was young however and would learn in time.
Her mother’s face however, was one that she would never confuse or forget. It was the usual greeting between them; to hold each other’s faces like they were new each time. From the first time Sally felt her mother’s face and understood what she held, there was a special feeling that she detected through every minute bit of her skin. Of course they also held each other much longer than they did anyone else’s.
While she was still young and trying hard to understand all of the complexities of a face, she snorted in frustration and didn’t try quite so hard. She thought that someday she would be able to read them as well as her mother, but for the time being she was going to listen to voices instead. It was easier to recognize people by their voices, as they were so completely different, and had been so ever since she began hearing them and connecting them to different people. Faces would come along eventually for her.
So she made up a face in her mind. It was completely different than her mothers of course. It had all of the normal features, eyes, large because she touched them slowly and carefully, and a large mouth, because it was wide and soft to the touch. It had lips that were moist, teeth that were hard, and an opening that could be very large at times.
Noses were quite small to her, as most of the friends that she had been introduced to had very tiny noses, just as her was.
Being on the hill was a treat that was very new. It was hard to find her way to the top at first, her mother knowing the way, but the steepness of it still making it difficult, even when her mother carried her much of the time.
On the way up the hill Sally loved the grass whipping the skin on her arms, and even on her face when they wind blew hard along the side of the hill. She loved any contact with the rest of the invisible world. The wind was her favorite though, always different, but not so complex as a face.
Her mother quieted her as they knelt on the very top of the hill. The excitement in her voice thrilled her although it had only been a quiet blowing of air across her tongue to make a shushing sound. Sally was instantly quiet and still.
She heard her mother’s robe flapping in the breeze, and could hear that her arm was extended. She wondered why she had only one arm stretched out, and why she was doing this while they were seated instead of while they were both standing. But she remained quiet as told. Her mother never lied to her, and she expected something remarkable to experience.
Suddenly there was a flapping that made her mother’s clothing seem quiet. There were short bursts of sound, one after another. They got louder until it was between her mother and her. It stopped, but she held still, slightly frightened by what she could only hear. Sally wondered how the bird had flown past without making a sound.
“Extend your arm towards mine.” Her mother said in almost a whisper. “Slowly.”
Just as their fingers touched something grabbed her hand. She threatened to jerk her hand back, but held still, as her mother would have expected. The bird inched along her arm until she felt her hair being tugged gently. She shivered, still trying to keep from frightening the bird.
“How did you teach the bird that Mother?” she asked between slightly parted lips. As the bird played with her hair she imagined its face inches from her own face, with large eyes and mouth, and a tiny nose like that of her friends.
“When you are blind my dear, you will learn many things that ordinary people never do.” answered her mother. Sally knew she was right; after all, her Mother had been blind for many more years than she had.