My childhood memory is full of “Ouch! ” I was vivacious, uncontrollable, and enjoyed sticking my nose in everyone’s business. Injury was usual practice in my daily life. Toys, sofa, door, or any object that obstructed my marching were my enemies. I blamed them for blocking my way and tripping me. They were the dark evils who carved crooked-shaped scars on my knees. But I knew my parents would always tend to me and their hugs would alleviate all the pain. I am lucky indeed. For me, family is not a word but an indescribable feeling embodied with comfort, affection, caring and protection.
Even as a baby, faces that kissed and cooed surrounded me. I was passed around praised and cherished with tender. From the moment I was pushed into this world, loneliness had remained as a mysterious word for me. Every morning, I would be awaken by the aroma of omelette and soup. My family would spend a blissful time having our breakfast. In my little simple brain, I could picture every kid in the world having a happy family just like mine. We are all the little treasured ones in our family. The last time I still held that naive belief was on October 20th of 1995.
Although I was very young, I could clearly remember all the details that occurred that night… Vivi and I wrote letters to each other for five months. I would visit her occasionally and unbosomed myself by sharing all of the amusing, ludicrous and trivial incidents in my life with her. Although I was still a young kid, I could feel that Vivi was still locked and trapped in her past. The aura of hostility around her did not fade away. She refused to open her heart to me, not until the night.
On that unforgettable night, as we lay comfortably on the attic’s floor under the glittering stars, she began telling me her tragic stories that challenged my naive belief for the first time in my life. She narrated the story with tranquility and calmness as if she was only an outsider. “I covered my face as I sat down desperately in the church. Silence and darkness confronted me. I could see nothing, hear nothing. God must have played a joke on me. How could he take away all my bliss in one day? My parents had died in the car accident and now I’m blind.
The doctors told me that my eyes were pierced badly by the car’s glass window and there’s nothing he could do. Tears of hopelessness and anguish soaked my cheeks. From that moment on, I was what everyone called an orphan. ” Shocked and anxious, my body started trembling. I stared at her, trying to rationalize her words. Her hollowed eyes terrorized me. Her voice hummed like millions of atrocious bees in my head. I could not imagine how Vivi had tolerated the fatal cruelty for so many years. Images of my father and mother were swirling in my head. A fierce battle between my belief and the truth began after my realization of the reality.
Vivi’s story conflicted with my long-held assumption about the world. The brutal fact that not every kid has a happy family struck me into silent tears. My fantasized world was suddenly torn asunder piece by piece. If it was not for that field trip, I would have never encountered Vivi. Fate brought together two girls who had followed widely divergent paths in their lives. My memory traced back to a day in my second grade… Riot erupted in the classroom immediately when my second grade teacher announced to the class that we would be going on a field trip.
“Hooray! We shouted ecstatically and jumped with joy as if we just received the best present in the universe. John clapped so hard, almost ludicrously, that his palm turned all red, like the color of the heart I drew with red marker on a card for mommy. Tony hopped around his chair like a drunken frog. Surprisingly, my best friend Alice, who was always quiet and modest, hugged me dramatically. The scene somehow reminded me of one of the Oscar ceremonies I watched on TV. “Our destination is St. Nicolas School. ” My teacher tried to calm us down but the effect was another outburst.
“Oh Yeaaah! We cheered boisterously even though we never heard of that school before. “Children! Listen up! St. Nicolas School is a very special school and home for deaf and blind kids. Some of the children have experienced terrible things. I will pair you up with a kid from that school and I hope you will be their good friends. ” I didn’t fully grasp what my teacher meant by “terrible things”. In my innocent mind, I could not picture children abandoned by their parents. Aren’t we all protected and adored by our loving parents? What terrible things could have happened to them? Ah! Maybe the girls there lost their Barbies? I wondered.
What I was about to find out has had such an everlasting impact on me and the way I contemplate life. A week after, in one of the crisp autumn mornings; trees were “in their autumn beauty”1. The day I had long anticipated finally arrived. The sun shone on our playground, forming some slanting shadows of trees, seesaws and slide. The parched leaves rustled as a warm breeze waltzed through. What a scene! A scene my mother would love to read in romance novels, except that I am the protagonist today. The ride to St. Nicolas School only took 20 minutes. The bus wandered its way up and down the hills and came to a full stop in front of a building.
It was the type of house that everyone would probably call ‘normal’. Nothing fresh; nothing peculiar. But as I set my foot in the house, I sensed something bizarre about the place and the people. The stench of rotten food overwhelmed me. On the table centered in the room were a plate of candies, some unfinished apples, and a vase of died lavender. A few rattan chairs were placed disorderly around the table. There were about ten kids in the room. I saw a skinny, cock-eyed girl playing a ball. The boy behind her, hunchbacked, was working on a jigsaw puzzle. On a chair was another boy, jerking his head back and forth desperately.
I turned around and looked at my classmates, they stood still like me, their expressions like mine; we were dumbfounded. I was paired with Vivi, a longhaired girl with two dark hollow eyes. Although I was aware that Vivi could not see me, I still felt incredibly uneasy looking into her eyes. She looked serious, behaved defensively, and had an aura of hostility around her. She was unique, unlike any other kids I had ever seen. I noticed something special in her, but I could not figure out what it was. She was skinny; her cheekbones, shoulder blades, and kneecaps bulged out abnormally. Her knees!
The crooked-shaped scars immediately caught my attention. There were several hideous pea-sized scars on her knees, just like mine! “You must be wild like me! The scars on your knees, they hurt terribly, didn’t they? ” I empathized with her. She gave me a firm nod. Her seriousness vanished. “Yeah! I was a wild kid. I loved running; I loved my face being caressed by wind. I would run and run on the field, I wanted to run beyond the farthest limits of the sky. I was bold, always tripped and fell. But you know how it feels when mommy hugs you? Yeah, the pain would just go away. ” The iceberg around her heart started melting.
I knew my words had formed the first indestructible bond between us. The frightful scars have drawn us together. The heartrending moment comes back in mind once again. I have been trying to lash out the dreadful moment in my memory for years, but I never succeed. Whenever I recall that moment, my pulse would quicken and a feeling of nausea would confront me. The truth was ruthless, yet it helped my metamorphosis from an immature girl to a compassionate person. I began to notice the nuance of my community. Jamie in my class, who was always bright, energetic, and caring, lived in a shattered shelter.
Gabrielle did not have a single Barbie doll. Kenny had been wearing the same jacket to school everyday because that was the only coat he owned. There were so many stories, shows, movies and cartoons about homeless children, which I had never paid any attention to before. My perspective on the world changed unconsciously. I gradually recognize the reality that not all children are as fortunate as me. No parents tend to them when they fall; no parents feed them if they are hungry. They do not sleep on soft, bouncy beds, they do not receive presents every Christmas. They have to be self-reliant and paddle their own canoes.