Wait For Night

 

By A. J. Llewellyn

Words on a page. How much do they mean? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately not just because I’m a writer and reader but because I’ve come to realize they can mean everything and nothing.
Have you ever picked up a grocery cart in the store and found somebody else’s shopping list? It’s happened to me enough times that I find myself wondering about the person behind the whimsical stationery or the spidery handwriting.
On the other end of the spectrum we have the Voyrich Manuscript, or The Book Nobody Can Read. A seemingly unintelligible work written in the 15th century that nobody can decipher.
Recently I had an experience that falls somewhere between these two.
My godmother sent me a card hand-written by mother in 1972.
Big deal, right?
Well, for me it was. I was a year old at the time and she died a few short years later after a horrific battle with colon cancer. My father destroyed all trace of her. So it was an incredible gift when my godmother unearthed an old Christmas card in which my mother describes her joy at getting me to eat (I find it hard to believe that was ever a problem) and her discovery that she was pregnant again.
I’d never seen her handwriting and the card reduced me to tears. She had a lovely penmanship and wrote in smooth strokes. I touch each word, knowing she created it.
What astonished me was how people have reacted when I show them the card. People I feel close to act like it’s odd that I carry it around with me. A few of my elderly friends, and those who have lost their mothers, recognize it for the treasure it is. I have scanned the card and sent it to my brothers who also value it.
Until my dying day it will remain my most treasured possession.
Words on a page.
Or, a card.
This has impacted me in a wonderful way, because the card became the jumping off point for my new story, Wait For Night, for Amber Quill Press. It comes out in April as part of the Crime and Punishment anthology and as I put the finishing touches to the story I am aware that this is probably my most personal story yet.
Without giving too much away, a young man’s assault at the hands of an attacker who is liberated by the Los Angeles court system, sends him spiralling into depression…and a journey of self-discovery. He travels to a small Greek village – which I did, in search of my mother – only to find the man who hurt him has followed him there.
The Greek poet George Seferis once said, “Wherever I travel, Greece hurts me.”
As I began the search for my mother’s memory, she and the country from which we came have hurt me. I will never stop searching for her…or loving her. Until we meet again.
Aloha oe,

A.J.

My Lifeline

By A.J. Llewellyn
When I was six, I lost my precious mother to a horrible, disgusting, slow, painful disease. Colon cancer took her from me when she was 37. I never got the chance to say goodbye to her. All I had left of her was the book of fairy tales she used to read to me. My father, in his grief, packed up all our belongings shortly after her funeral and whilst I was at school, he moved us in with my grandma. He had left most of our treasured toys behind and our books…except the fairy tales.
That book was a lifeline for me. I stared at the pictures at night to comfort myself. I read the words over and over…imagining she was still there with me, talking to me, laughing with me, assuring me that no dream was too big.
Words became my refuge. My days and nights were spent reading and writing. I wrote my first book at the age of 8. My dad began to worry about me.
And then he bought me my first typewriter.
It became my obsession. It was a small portable Olivetti and I taught myself to type. It’s been my chosen work tool ever since. I still have my first typewriter. It will always be in my life no matter how many laptops and desktops I go through.
Several months ago I began volunteering at Braille Institute doing Dots for Tots. It is work I am passionate about and deeply committed to.
One of the books I have worked on the most is Little Quack’s Bedtime. It is an important book for blind children because just like Little Quack, many blind children fear the dark and fear bedtime.
This book reminds me each time I touch it, work with it, and dot it, how lucky most of us are. This is not something most of us have to deal with. It’s been explained to me that sleep time is the time parents fear as much as their blind children because they have to leave them alone.
I hope as I progress in my work with Braille that I can help ease children’s fear of being alone in the dark. I hope they will have simply dozens of books to read, to transport them to different places. Just like any kid.
I do belive in the power of story. And I believe in fairy tales.
Today, I feel my mother is with me as I begin a new phase in my journey, learning how to transcribe Braille. This feels like a giant step and a right one.
The wonderful people at Braille are giving me a Braille Machine (see above) that looks a lot like my old Olivetti.
I can’t wait to complete Boot Camp on Thursday and then start the 12-month course so I can be a licensed transcriber.
My hope is that I can contribute to the inner lives of blind children, who just like me, need the lifeline of the written word. Our schools have neglected these children for too long. I was shocked to learn that 80% of blind children who are not taught to read Braille don’t graduate high school or go on to tertiary education. They wind up on social security.
Braille is coming back with a vengeance in our schools and our world. The best part about all this is that Braille books and services are FREE.
Just as I get a thrill out of knowing all the books I put dots on are going to a child who will love learning to read, I will love learning how to make those dots in the first place.
There is a part of me who is still that lonely kid who believes in fairy tales. I feel like Cinderfella, about to enter the ball.
Just me and my Braille Machine. And I can’t wait!
Aloha oe,
A.J.

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