Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Two Amazing Louises

So I went and had lunch at my daughter's school today, and as it turned out, I came away with more than just a ham sandwich. (Which was delicious, incidentally, with great chewy bread and lots of tomato slices. But that's beside the point.)

You see, the way it works in my daughter's class is that after the kids eat, they read for a while. And today, as I munched on my sandwich and the teachers oohed and aahed over a bunch of bead necklaces one of the other teachers had made, Abby shared two fascinating books with me.

The first was about Louis Braille. I never knew this until this afternoon, but the creator of Braille wasn't born blind. His father was a saddlemaker, with lots of leatherworking tools around, including an awl, with which three-year-old Louis accidentally poked himself in the eye. Unfortunately, this being in the pre-antibiotic era, the eye became infected; then the infection moved to the other eye, and the poor kiddo went blind. And after last week's little melanoma scare, I found myself tearing up just reading about the poor kid and the awl. What an awful accident! How terrible his parents must have felt -- and how helpless! (Louis didn't lead a charmed life afterwards, either; not long after the blinding accident, his family's house was occupied for a couple of years by Russian soldiers. And he eventually died at 43 of tuberculosis.)

But if little Louis hadn't played with that awl and poked himself in the eye, we wouldn't have Braille. And he made a huge difference for hundreds of thousands -- probably millions, actually -- of people despite his obstacles. Heck -- it was because of his obstacles. I mean, what would have happened if his dad had been, say, a dog groomer? Not that they had dog groomers back then, but you get the idea. Then again, if he'd been running with scissors... Oh, never mind.

When we were done with that book, while I was surreptitiously blowing my nose and wiping my eyes (I'm still a little overwrought, it seems), Abby trotted over with another book, which I read over her shoulder. This one was about Louis Armstrong. According to the book, as a child, he found a gun in his house; when he and some friends took it out and fired some celebratory shots into the air, he was arrested, taken from his family, and sent to the Home for Colored Waifs. (Horrifying. Can you imagine?)

But while he was there, someone invited him to join a little band.

And then gave him a bugle.

And the rest, as they say, was history.

So I left the school with a lot of food for thought this afternoon. I'm not usually much of a biography reader, but maybe I should be; it's amazing what can come out of what seem like the worst of circumstances, isn't it? And what a poignant reminder of how fortunate we all are to live when and where we do.

Okay, enough of the heavy stuff. I'm off to take a bath and read Peter Mayle's Provence A to Z while I pretend I'm really living in a gite in Provence. All I need is a glass of marc to complete the illusion. Not that I've ever had marc, or even know what it is (I haven't made it past 'G' yet), but if I don't fall asleep, I should know in the next few hours.

Hope your days were all fabulous, and for those of you who are writing with me, I did manage to write a speedy 1600 words today, clocking in at somewhere over 41,000 words. And I'm excited about the next scene, which is lovely. How's it going with you?


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