A MOTHER'S LETTER TO HER ..... BABY GIRL
My dearest Sara,
I'm looking at the photo that your brother Simone took at Christmas, when he paid you a visit at your place in Australia. It's easy to see that it was a candid camera shot, taken without asking you first, slightly out of focus, you're not posing, you have an expression of surprise, an expression that I know very well, but what I can also see is your happiness. It was taken in an corner of your house, your pride and joy, this goal you reached on your own, through your own effort, your own work - I couldn't help you being 16,000 km away - again, another of your objectives reached and I'm happy too.
When you were born, it just came naturally to me to wonder or to say, perhaps because of my ignorance, "you won't be able to do this" or "how will you ever be able to do that?" What I should have said instead was, "you'll be able to do everything you want to do", I should not have thought about your hypothetical disabilities but instead I should have thought about your capabilities.
Simone was in his cot, he had just learnt how to pull himself up holding on to the end of the cot and you (you were just over two), from your bed on the other side of the bedroom, said, "look, he's got two!" For you that was it, you never asked another question about why your brother had two hands and you had one; perhaps you considered it natural, just like you being a girl and he a boy.
Do you remember that party at Aunty Sue's place? You must have been about four. There were adults and children, but we didn't know many of them that day. One of the children, a little boy, just a couple of years older than you, came up to you and asked, "why don't you have an arm?" You didn't bat an eyelash before replying: "we're not all born the same, you know. Anyway I left my arm at home and I can put it on when I want to!" The little boy was left without words.
And then that Christmas, about 13 years ago, during the school holidays, you didn't move from the couch in front of the fire, with two knitting needles and a ball of wool. How many times did you get angry with those needles that had a will of their own? At the end though, you got the better of them. Now, Simone would not go out in these freezing, foggy winter mornings without those 2 metres of woollen scarf made by his sister, wound around his neck.
By the time you reached high school age you had already overcome many obstacles, whether real or imagined by the others, and no doubt the greatest of all regarding appearance - girls had to comb their hair in a certain way, shoes and clothes had to be of this or that brand, nothing must be different from what was dictated for the "usual" girls. You had already understood though, a long time before them, that, far more important than what we look like externally, is what we are really like inside and what we can do. And for you in particular, most important of all is what you can do with your mind. During those school years you experienced nearly all the problems that adolescents do - the first boyfriends, the different ways of seeing things and opinions and the clashes over religion, politics, drugs and perhaps you experienced them more deeply than others of your age, because anyway you possessed something more than they did.
What joy, what happiness when you got your licence - after finishing the driving test you drove off homewards (the location was quite a long way from home) with your blue Fiat "Punto", you stopped the car (of course you were driving and I was the passenger) a couple of kilometres from the Driver Licensing Agency so that no-one could see us, we got out of the car and we yelled with joy, hugging each other because we were so happy. I drove home the remaining 40 kilometres, you were too tired because of the emotion of it all.
I look again at the photo and your words come back to me, reverberating with happiness, the words I have heard over the past eight months, all the times you telephoned me to tell me the latest news about your house - that one shouldn't use too many chemicals for cleaning, you can also use vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, (you should see the results!) or that even though the house is tiny and you are renting it is just beautiful, close to the city of Melbourne, in an area where lots of young people live, ten minutes in the tram to work, very close to where your new friends live. Next door there's a supermarket open 24 hours, a bank on the corner, a chemist, $2 shop, etc., etc..
Sara, thank you. I thank you for helping me understand how to really appreciate the goals we all reach, after sweating, struggling and fighting, not physically of course, but mentally, against invisible obstacles.
My wish for you is to continue your life in the same direction, keep doing what you are doing now, with your blue kitchen, your Indian furnishings and your house cleaning with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda.
Dated January 2000.