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The most important day I remember in all my life is the one just before my seventh birthday, when my teacher arrived. I am filled with wonder when I consider the immeasurable contrasts between the two lives which that day connects.
On the afternoon of that eventful day, I stood on the porch, dumb, expectant, only guessing that something unusual was about to happen. I did not know what the future held for me, but I was certainly eager to find out.
Suddenly I felt approaching footsteps so I stretched out my hand as I supposed to my mother. Instead someone else took it. I was caught up and held close in the arms of a stranger and I guessed it was Miss Sullivan.
The morning after my teacher came she led me into her room and gave me a new doll. When I had played with it a little while, Miss Sullivan slowly took my hand and with her fingers spelled into it the word ‘d-o- l-l’. I was at once interested in this finger play and tried to imitate it. I did not know that I was spelling a word or even that words existed; I was simply making my fingers move in monkey-like imitation. In the days that followed I learned to spell in this uncomprehending way a great many words, among them pin, hat, cup and a few verbs like sit, stand and walk. But my teacher had been with me several days before I understood that everything has a name.
One day while I was playing with my new doll, Miss Sullivan also gave me my old rag doll. She spelled ‘d-o-l-l’ and tried to make me understand that ‘d-o-l-l’ applied to both. Then we had a tussle over the words ‘m-u-g’ and ‘w-a-t-e-r’. Miss Sullivan tried to impress it upon me that ‘m-u-g’ is mug and that ‘w -a-t- e-r’ is water, but I persisted in confusing the two. In despair she dropped the subject for the time, only to renew it at the first opportunity. I became impatient 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. I had not loved the doll. In the completely silent and dark world in which I lived there was no place for strong sentiment or tenderness.
Later that day when we were walking along the street, Miss Sullivan saw someone drawing water from the water pump. We walked up and she placed my hand in the cool stream. As it gushed over one hand, she spelled into the other the word ‘w-a -t -e-r’. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions 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 revealed to me. I knew then that ‘w-a-t-e-r’ meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, and joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.
I walked away from the pump eager to learn. Everything had a name, and each name gave birth to a new thought. As we returned to the house every object which I touched seemed to quiver with life. That was because I saw everything with the strange new sight that had finally come to me and had the potential to compensate partially for my disability.
adapted from www.digital.library.upenn.edu/women/keller/life/life.html