EBU (Senior group) Fine Work
"A letter to Louis Braille"
Edvige Maria Pagani (66, female, Italy)
Introduction: in this following piece, a mother, who has been dead for years, thanks Louis Braille for helping her to regain her tranquillity after an extremely sad experience. The events recounted were suggested by a true story, although with a creative interpretation, and the names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
Dear Mr. Braille,
I am the mother of Chiara, my eldest daughter, who shares with you the fact that she lost her sight at the age of two, following an accident at home. What a shock life had in store for me and my husband!
A page of our history, the very first page, was now filled only with pain; our expectations and hopes were gone in a moment, in a month in hospital with our daughter as well as other pain and suffering, caused by the sad events of the Second World War. It was 1944 and finally, our family was back together, to find comfort in one another and give some sense back to our lives as husband and wife, also for Chiara, who, inexplicably for us, was living her new condition without problems. The following year, we were blessed by the arrival of another daughter, Annamaria, whilst I, encouraged by this happy event and by the end of the war, had returned to my usual routine, where the days passed quickly.
Both girls were growing up happily; Chiara, who was especially surrounded by the affection of the family, would run and jump and play with friends without any problems.
In those days, integration? like solidarity? was something that one experienced rather than talked about.
Chiara was coming up to school age and one thought continued to run through my head: "What sort of future will she have?" but I could not see any clear answer.
One evening, my husband came home with some news that was to bring a new input to our family life: the local priest had suggested that we send our daughter to the excellent school for the blind in Via Vivaio in Milan.
A new part of her life was opening up for Chiara and this began in October of that year. However, her separation from her family and usual games was not without tears. I remember the journey, which would become a habitual trip until my daughter finished her studies: the Como-Milan train and then the number 27 tram.
It was on her return for the Christmas holidays that I had the pleasure of meeting you Mr. Braille, or in other words, of meeting your creation. In fact, there was a card with lots of dots that translated into standard writing to be hidden under her father's plate.
It was such a thrill to see my daughter's hands slide across the patterns, which she knew how to interpret: "Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas...," written at school and now read to us. How happy we were at this achievement, which we had longed for and at the same time, feared would never come.
We felt the same at Easter, when we received a more complete letter and even Annamaria, her blue eyes wide open over the blank sheet of paper, perhaps looking for signs of colour, ran her small fingers over the raised dots to imitate her sister. The road we had taken was the right one and we were sure on our journey.
At the same time, a hope was growing inside me, like a seed, full of faith that it was growing in fertile ground.
Step by step, with the arrival of the first satisfying results, your presence Mr. Braille became increasingly familiar: the slate for writing, the playing cards with their raised dots, the tactile watch and other aids for calculation and measuring showed us that your invention was the best way to communicate and assist in the emancipation of those who cannot see. We also saw that the hands can be lenses of extraordinary perception.
In the meantime, deep inside me, that seed of hope was becoming a small plant, eager to sprout its first leaves. For some years, our house had been home to an important guest, a piano, because the school had encouraged Chiara in her musical studies. Thus I also discovered that sheet music could be written using your six wonderful dots. Yours is such an ingenious invention!And please accept my sincere compliments too, since I know that you are still remembered as a talented organist with many musicians who would have been only too happy to attend one of your concerts.
As for me, my fragile, hidden plant continued to grow with every examination my daughter passed at the "G. Verdi" Conservatory in Milan, until it reached full bloom when she was awarded her piano diploma.
The following year I accompanied her to Rome for the examination that would enable her to become a music teacher and when I saw her with her inseparable slate sitting among hundreds of other candidates, all with the same aspirations, I felt that the flower of my hope had become a fruit full of gratitude, to you, the inventor of that marvellous code, and to Chiara's teachers, for their skilled and ceaseless work.
Other worries and emotions would follow in the course of my life, with its hard work and sacrifices, which certainly cannot compare to yours, with its many problems.
Now that I, like you, live in a different dimension, I still feel immense admiration for your invention, which is used on computer systems to allow many fingers to slide quickly even over tactile displays. I can already see the numerous celebrations planned all over Europe on the occasion of your next birthday, with honours, handshakes and authorities.
Invisible, I will follow them closely, still fascinated by your genius that allowed me to smile at life once more.
For all of this, together with my husband, I say "Thank you from the bottom of my heart and best wishes since, even at two hundred, you are still young Mr. Braille!"
(homage to the great inventor on his two hundredth birthday)