Before my parents sent me to a school for the blind, I was accustomed to eating breakfast with my siblings at home. The occasions when I spent time in hospital after surgery on my eyes were relatively short. I knew that I’d be going home soon.
Being used to public school, I assumed I’d be leaving Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind that afternoon. Not until the first school day ended did I learn the horrible truth that I had to stay there for three long months.
In my Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I related my innocent observations of this institution in which I spent much of my childhood. Below is an excerpt that shows how naive I was about my situation.
Miss Boyce woke us up the next morning promptly at seven and told us to dress. When I saw the boys lining up in the hall, I joined them.
“You boys with sight hold the hands of the boys who don’t,” Miss. Boyce directed. I did as she said and waited.
Next, our supervisor led us down a road to a white and teal-coloured dilapidated building with grey shingles.
“That’s the Dining Hall,” one of the boys informed me.
The structure was similar to a gymnasium. Its vaulted ceiling and walls were painted pink. I felt the floor shake alarmingly as we walked across the brown linoleum to our tables.
I forget what we ate but it was most likely the usual porridge and toast with hot chocolate.
I was about to place a spoonful of porridge in my mouth when a boy said, “Uuuuuuuuuummmm! You’re supposed to wait until we say grace!” Not only did
I not know what he meant but he had that gleeful tone in his voice which said he caught me committing a mortal sin.
“What’s grace?” I inquired.
“We have to thank God for our food or we’ll get in trouble.”
I immediately put down my spoon and stared covetously at my breakfast.
After we waited for what seemed like ages, we all said the simple prayer: “God is good, God is great, Let us thank him for our food, Amen.”
Waiting to eat and then saying a prayer seemed odd to me. I supposed that it was merely one of those activities I would have to endure until I returned home that afternoon.
Deliverance from Jericho contains many vignettes of life in that residential school. They range from the poignant to the hilarious. Check out the Bruce Atchison’s books link for more information on this paperback.