SHE WAS smart, intuitive and blind. She was chic, sensitive and insightful. Elizabeth Epiphany was my twelve year old neighbor. During three summers she attended Cal School for the Blind—where she received a lexicon of instructions about life, liberty and liberation inside the void of blindness, intertwined in the world of vision outside.
Elizabeth had a divine, light soprano voice. Lyrical tones drifted across the yard and into our house whenever she rehearsed.
After graduating from school for the blind she enrolled in a public school—thus she was thrown into nuances of rudeness, jokes by a few disruptive students, the ones that didn’t matter but demanded attention, the ones that dictated social interaction and infractions.
She sought advice from me on handling teenage persecution. I was a senior enrolled in a psychology class, having universal knowledge that could help a freshman in the swarm of high school community bursting with bad manners.
My knowledge about blindness was limited but I knew Elizabeth could sing her heart out. Her compositions of You’ll Never Walk Alone, and Once Upon a Dream, were exemplary, like a strong yet soft bird song controlled by weather conditions.
Elizabeth and I sat at my parent’s dining room table one afternoon after school. She wasn’t in my social circle and any advice I could give her would be our secret, therefore I wouldn’t receive incivility and ugly innuendos from any outsiders.
She was smarter than me, knowing issues I didn’t know, intuitive concerns like logic and processes. She called her intuition mind culture. I called it blind ambition.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” I said, looking at her brown eyes. “Kids are mean. They criticize. They ridicule the disadvantage.”
“Why do they do that?”
“Because they’re teenagers, exempt from mature society.”
“I wish they could see,” she said.
“But they do see.”
“I mean, if they could see my world they wouldn’t be impetuous.”
“You mean cruel and condemning?”
My mother was in the kitchen listening to us. She stepped into the dining room and offered advice.
“Ignore the mischievous students, Elizabeth. Someday they’ll come around and leave you alone.”
“Go back to the kitchen, mom,” I said, raising my eyebrows.
Mom leered at me then retreated.
Elizabeth smiled. It was the first time I’d really looked at her, the little girl next door, the average looking student who didn’t look like a blind songbird. Her eyes were normal, and she just needed a cane and a dog for guidance. She wasn’t an awkward little girl anymore she was a young sensitive adult.
“What should I do?” Elizabeth asked me.
“You know what, just sing. You have a beautiful voice.”
“How can that help me?”
“Singing is your freedom. It’s a gift that will help you rise above teenage ridicule.”
“Don’t you see they’ll hate me even more.”
Two months went by and Elizabeth was held prisoner to mockery until the school’s Christmas assembly celebration. She was the headliner act. After singing Silent Night and Once Upon a Dream in her eloquent soprano voice the students and faculty were stunned into respect—except for the ones that didn’t matter, the ones that dictated social interaction and infractions. The rest of the student body came to her rescue and ignored the dozen or so jealous girls and boys who chose rudeness over courtesy.
Elizabeth was smart, intuitive and blind, and her singing voice was her savior. She went on to become an educator for the blind, and I went to Stanford University to study psychology.
ISBN 978-1-105-20495-1 (ebook)
Copyright © 2011 Ben Campbell
All rights reserved.