The only part of our younger years that remains the same is story time and story time is my favorite part of the day.
Little Dude is no longer the blind guy, who struggles with things that come easy to everyone else - he's the hero going on quests to save the world.
I'm no longer a Mom, who worries about everything from her child's vegetable intake to his ability to cope in a world he can't see - I'm the all-seeing narrator, opening pathways to other worlds.
It's the one time of the day that it doesn't matter that Gabriel can't see. As I read to him, he is free to envision any thing (or nothing at all) but he is learning more about the world by hearing about the way other people see things.
Right now, we're reading 'Harry Potter'. I couldn't be happier, I love the story and I love reading it to my son.
Gabriel was into it. Hardcore. He was pretending to be Harry at every turn of the corner. He'd try and alohamora the door open so he could wingardium leveosa our grocery's into the house....it was adorable. And unexpected.
Gabriel struggles to comprehend the mechanics of the world on a level that anyone with eyes that have ever seen can't understand. He uses a lot of mental energy just trying ti figure out what's going on around him. That doesn't leave a lot of room for playing 'Let's Pretend'.
And then something happened. During a rousing game of make-believe someone told Gabriel that he can't be Harry Potter. Because Harry Potter is not blind.
This is a true statement. Harry Potter is not blind. I watched as Gabriel thought about that and I saw some of my his enthusiasm flit away as he realized that his hero has something he doesn't have. I thought I saw a little spark of magic behind he plastic eye fade as he thought about that statement more complexely.
My son doesn't really have any fictional heroes that he can relate to.
I started thinking about all the stories we've consumed during 'story time' over the years and guess what? None of the protagonists are blind. None of Beatrix Potters characters are blind, none of the main characters in Percy Jackson are blind (and the one character who is blind is a total asshat) and none of the Avengers are blind.
Daredevil was, but he was both blinded by an accident (which is different than being born blind) and pretty much ruined by Ben Afleck's interpretation.
I was feeling really sad about that, but then I remembered who I am.
I am a writer. From New Jersey.
I can do anything, including creating a hero for my son. And your son. Or your daughter. Maybe for any kid who has ever felt overwhelmed and lonely in a world they can't see. I can try, at the very least. Soooo.....
*insert drum roll*
I present to you something I have never given anyone before: a story of mine in rough draft form.
THERE IS NO TITLE YET
Once upon a time, in a land very far away, there was a mischief of mice that lived together in a great kingdom under the gnarled roots of an ancient oak tree in the middle of a wild, dense forest.
This fledgling kingdom had been founded under and was ruled by Queen Amelia, who was both generous and fair. She loved her subjects and worked diligently to keep them safe, content and protected. This kingdom was not at all your typical mouse dwelling. Not just a hodge podge of messy burrows and dank dens like you might imagine, it was a vast labyrinth of cozy nests and food storage areas that circled a city of sorts, the heart of which was her castle.
The Queens castle was a marvelous structure of wood and glass made in the image of the castles of the day. There were large colorful windows made of scavenged bits of broken glass. There were turrets and a large spiral staircase that lead to a tower balcony where the Queen could overlook her city.
Mice hurried across the city square, scurrying toward their various responsibilities. The marketplace was a bustling riot of color and sound as goods and services were bartered for and traded. A line of young mouselings clapped delighted hands at a puppet show and a line snaked from the sweet nut shop all the way down to the tailors. The Queen knew that below the upper levels her gathers were filling the coffers with nuts and grain enough to last the long winter and even deeper below that there was a supply of fresh cool ground water.
Queen Amelia stood on the balcony feeling quite wonderful as she surveyed her domain, she was never happier than she was watching her flourishing Kingdom. Not so long ago mice were wild nomads, constantly running from the terrors of the woods… but our story does not begin with her.
It begins on the far outskirts of town, in the nest of a gatherer and his wife who were brand new parents. The day our story begins they were very concerned about their baby.
It was early morning on September 30th and Alderon was just two weeks old. In features and fur he favored his father, he was sleek, soft and lovely a warm golden brown but for the rest he was his mother’s child. He had inherited not only her wide brown eyes and long, graceful paws but also an indefinable aura of gentleness and calm. Yet, his Mother, Tabatha, was not calm on this particular occasion. She was scared and every ounce of worry she was experiencing on this bright, crisp Autumn morning was vibrating through the tips of her whiskers as she hurried toward the doctor's office.
Alderon was little more then a bit of fluff swaddled in a blue blanket, yet almost everyone in town knew who he was. His Father, Tobias LAST NAME was not just any gatherer, his was a Scavanger. He led a small, elite team of mice far beyond the kingdom walls and collected rare treasures, medicinal plants and occasionally a nice piece of aged cheese. Tabatha, herself, was a valued advisor to the queen and after many childless years of marriage, news of the blessing of their child was called a miracle and his birth was celebrated with wild abandon.
Yet, for Tabatha, the celebration ended prematurely as she became increasingly convinced that there was something the matter with her son. Alderon never looked at her, or showed even the slightest interest in anything going on around him. He would wince at loud noises but other than that he was an uncommonly quiet baby. He didn’t cry often, nor did he ever smile.
The neighbors laughingly declared that it if they didn’t know it as a fact they never would have believed that the LAST NAME’s even had a little one in the nest. Tobias laughed heartily at the lighthearted statement, proud that his son was such an easy baby but Tabatha only managed a weak smile. The neighbor’s words drove her deepest fear closer to home, because, in her heart of hearts she knew something was wrong with her son. She knew it as sure as the knowledge was a monster and she the only one who could see it. It chased her throughout the day and threatened to devour her at night but at first no one believed her.
Tobias would smile indulgently when Tabatha voiced her fear. He would stroke a gentle paw down her back and tell her she had the curse of all new mothers: worrying too much. The doctor looked Alderon over from nose to tail tip and proclaimed him a fine specimen of mousehood. As the days progressed, Tabatha became consumed with all manner of terrible thoughts as to what could be wrong with Alderon, each one more horrifying than the next.
It was with those thoughts swirling in her head, and the newfound confirmation from Tobias that he, too, had started suspecting that Alderon wasn’t quite right that Tabatha scurried into the office of Dr.NAME and cuddled Alderon on her lap as she waited for their turn.
A half an hour later, Tabatha left the doctor’s office. She didn’t know what to feel. Part of her was relieved that most of the horrible things she’d imagined had not come to pass, yet most of her was terrified to think of her son growing up in a world he would never see.
However, in this world –even if you can’t see it- there is seldom darkness without some light.
Tabatha and Tobias sat fireside that evening, numb with shock from the news, their paws intertwined tightly together holding Alderon between them. They were each overwhelmed by all the things they had to say, but couldn’t say anything at all. They were watching the ever present serious look on their child’s face when out of nowhere, Tabatha began to hum. It was a song every mouse knows and soon her hum turned to song.
Tobias joined in by the second verse:
Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to be free.
By the end, they were both singing as if the living room were a stage and finished by administering ticklish kisses to whatever baby part was in easiest reach.
The last note they sang seemed to hang in the air and merge with the sound of all those silly kisses. It could have only lasted a moment but that moment changed everything. Tabatha and Tobias glanced briefly at their son and then looked at their son and saw (for the first time) the metamorphic facial transformation that occurred on Alderon’s face when he smiled.
*Me again: I'm not going to promote this post in anyway, but I would love the feed back of anyone who stumbles upon it.