Miss Spitfire, by Sarah Miller

Closing my eyes, I try to form a wordless thought with the few tools Helen can use: shape, size, texture, scent, and taste. Without much trouble I conjure up a mind-feeling for an apple: round firm, and smooth, with a soapy-sweet scent that fills my mouth.
But I have to fight to keep the words from my thoughts. My mind aches to say “apple.” As that wordless apple-feeling hovers in my head, it’s like holding my breath to keep my brain from reminding me, No words, no words, only sensations. No matter how I try, I can’t silence that voice in my head. Even when I block “apple” from my mind, streams of thoughts whir in the background, as if my brain can’t bear not whispering to itself. When I finally give up, a cold worry has twisted into my stomach.
How am I to teach Helen what language is, when words themselves have no scent, taste, or texture?
-Sarah Miller, Miss Spitfire

Pride swells like another heartbeat within me, so large it threatens to leak from my eyes. I could stand like this forever, in the light of those shining blue eyes.
-Sarah Miller, Miss Spitfire

I wait for her to spell, to ask for one more word. Instead she scumbles her fingers across my face, pausing for a moment and the teardrop-shaped hollow above my lips. Wriggling nearer, she steals into my arms and presses her lips to my cheek.
I think my heart will burst with the joy that floods it.
I close my arms round her, feel her warm weight against me, and I know—this child is mine, and I am hers. She is not of my body, but I am mother to Helen’s heart and mind.
H-e-l-e-n, I spell into her listening palm. The feel of it is like a prayer between my fingers.
T-e-a-c-h-e-r, she answers.
Teacher. She’s only begun to grasp the breadth of it, and already that one word stirs my very bones. My heart falls open before her, ready to be fashioned by her two small hands.
H-e-l-e-n a-n-d T-e-a-c-h-e-r, I spell back. I hardly know how to begin telling her what or how much this means.
But I shall try. However long it takes, I shall try.
-Sarah Miller, Miss Spitfire


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