The most important day I remember in all my life is the one on which my teacher, Anne Mansfield Sullivan, came to me. I am filled with wonder when I consider the immeasurable contrasts between the two lives which it connects. It was the third of March, 1887, three months before I was seven years old.
On the afternoon of the eventful day, I stood on the porch, dumb and expectant. I guessed vaguely from my mother’s signs, and from the hurrying to and fro in the house, that something unusual was about to happen; so I went to the door and waited on the steps.
The afternoon sun penetrated the mass of honeysuckle that covered the porch and fell on my upturned face. My fingers lingered almost unconsciously on the familiar leaves and blossom. I did not know what the future held for me. Anger and bitterness had preyed upon me continually for weeks, and a deep languor had succeeded this passionate struggle.
Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed a tangible white darkness shut you in, and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way towards the shore and you waited with a beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began; only I had no way of knowing how near the harbor was.
‘Life! Give me light!’ was the wordless cry of my soul and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.
I felt approaching footsteps. I stretched out my hand as I supposed it was my mother. Someone took it, and I was caught up and held close in the arms of her who had come to reveal all things to me, and more than all things else, to love me.
The morning after my teacher came, she led me into her room and gave me a doll. The little blind children at Perkins Institution had sent it and Laura Bridgman had dressed it; but i did not know this until afterward.
When I played with a little while, Miss Sulivan slowly spelled into my hand the word d-o-l-l.
I was at once interested in this finger play and tried to imitate it. When I finally succeeded in making the letters correctly, I was flushed with c h i l d i s h p l e a s u r e a n d p r i d e .
Running downstairs to my mother, I held up my hand and made the letters for doll. I did not know that I was spelling a word or even that words existed; I was simply making my f i n g e r s go in m o n k e y l i k e imitation.
In the days that followed, I learned to spell in this uncomprehending way a great many words; among them pin, hat, cup, and few verbs like sit, stand and walk. But my teacher had been with me several weeks before I understood that everything has a name.
One day, while I was playing with my new ‘doll’ and tried to make me understand that ‘doll’ applied to both. Earlier in the day, we had a tussle over the words m-u-g and w-a-t-e-r is water but I persisted in confounding the two. In despair she had dropped the subject for the time only to renew it at the first opportunity.
I became impatient at her repeated attempts and seizing the new doll I dashed it upon the floor. I was keenly delighted when I felt the fragments of the broken doll at my feet. Neither sorrow nor regret followed my passionate outburst. I had not loved the doll. In the still dark world in which I lived there was no strong sentiment and tenderness.
I felt my teacher sweep the fragments to one side of the hearth and I had a sense of satisfaction that the cause of my discomfort was removed. She brought me my hat and I knew I wad going out into the warm sunshine. This thought, made me hop and skip with pleasure.
We walked down the path to the well-house, attracted by fragrance of the honeysuckle with which it was covered. Someone was drawing water and my teacher placed my hand under the spout. As the cool stream gushed over in hand, she spelled into the other, the word w-a-t-e-r; first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motion of her fingers.
Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten, a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was reveal.