After her mother’s explanation that the visit within the brick building would be “painful,” Copper was quite worried about what the visit would entail. At first, the various children they encountered seemed “different” to Copper, and then she realized they all were. Each room they passed was bright and cheerful, but there were no desks or anything that was usually common within classrooms. There were beanbags, expansive rugs, and a great amount of open area within each room that Copper, and her mother passed. Finally, Copper’s mother slowed and stopped. When she didn’t knock on the closed classroom door, Copper turned to look at her mother. Her mother’s gray-green eyes were closed; she breathed deep and slow. Finally, with a serene smile, Copper’s mother gently knocked on the door. “Be calm and they will respond the same; be polite and you show respect; and speak to them as if they are normal, and they will love you,” was all her mother said as they entered the classroom.
Copper’s chair was situated in the corner of the room, and her eyes swept the room taking in the residents. One particular petite girl caught Copper’s attention. She was tiny, and fast. As she moved around the classroom in a smooth, yet darting motion, her dark brown shoulder-length hair swayed out like wings of a quick little bird. Copper could not discern the words, but the small girl’s voice was mesmerizing. Her voice soothingly sing-songed, traveling through various collections of notes, as she flitted around Copper’s chair, getting close but never touching her. The girl darted up to Copper’s face, stopped motionless, and stared at her face with dark-brown eyes. The brown was so deep that they seemed to merge with her pupils, giving them a fathomless depth. Copper tried not to blink or even breathe, because she felt that the girl would flit away at the slightest movement. Then, with a dash and a wave of her hair, the girl was gone to the other side of the room in a blur. Released from the spell of the little girl, Copper blinked her eyes searching the room for her mother.
A group of children surrounded Copper’s mother, as she sat on a stool beside a boy in a wheelchair. He struggled to control his flailing arms, and he made sounds that were not understandable. There were several children hugging her mother, touching her arms and back. It seemed to Copper that they seemed to crave and need to be near her mother. Copper was quite forgotten as her mother visited with the children. This must be her mother’s old classroom Copper thought, as her eyes took in the various disabilities that each child displayed. The children all struggled with one disability or another, and a few of them struggled with several all at once. All of them were nonverbal, but her mother seemed to understand them. Some spoke in unintelligible sounds strung together, some in facial expression, while some with just eye gaze. Communication seemed to be her mother’s strong trait, because she kept a constant stream of conversation going; answering some children or responding to a various look. They all smiled at the same time, obviously understanding her and she understanding them.
After her mother visited with each child, Copper noticed that her mother stayed very still with the same serene smile on her face. Finally, the small hummingbird girl flitted up to her mother’s side, sat down, and put her diminutive hand into her mother’s hand. Her mother’s smile widened, and she spoke in a gentle quiet voice. “Hello my Ella. I have missed you too. I am so very proud that you are doing so well in class.” The little girl lightly laid her head against the arm of Copper’s mother and then darted away with the mesmerizing musical voice lilting her happiness. Copper noticed her mother’s eyes followed the little girl with tears brimming.
The visit did not last long, but it was effective. Copper knew that although she was chair bound, she did not have all the other difficulties to live with that the other children endured. She was puzzled that they seemed happy with all their disabilities. Copper’s mother talked all the way home, an endless stream of conversation that did not require an answer. “The boy in the chair has been in my classroom for several years and has learned to communicate via eye gaze. He can work the communication device with some expertise and….” Copper zoned out, as she thought about her own disability.
So, she was chair bound. It was devastating, sad, and yes, she agreed it was limiting, but…she was so fortunate. She squared her shoulders, lifted her head, and smiled for the first time in many, many months. “…and the little girl…she is my hummingbird. She came from a severely abusive situation. She never touched anyone, looked at anyone, or made any sounds. She perceives any agitation within another person and responds agitatedly. I am the first person to which she initiated any sign of affection…and I miss my kids so much,” Copper’s mother’s voice trailed off, and Copper understood that her mother wanted to be back in the classroom teaching again.
“Mom, why don’t you go back and teach them?” Copper quietly asked. Copper’s mother didn’t speak, but tears overflowed her eyes. “You will be ready again,” Copper said, “It’s just not yet.”
“Maybe….maybe,” her mother said in a whisper.
It was several months later that the thick, cream colored envelope appeared in the mailbox. Copper knew it was important in the stunned way that her mother read the contents. She knew it was important in the shocked and silent way her father read the contents. It was a national award for her mother’s most-recent sculpture!
Many months later Copper stood silently in front of the sculpture. The small figurine shone under the special lights of the glass box in which it was encased. It sat on a dais that turned ever so slowly. From one side, the sculpture was the face of a beautifully delicate girl with large dark eyes, exquisite features, a shy smile, and wings of lustrous hair that flew out from each side giving Copper the perception of motion. When the figure turned completely around, Copper gasped at the perfection of the diminutive hummingbird. Its wings were splayed, but as the light played across the surface, they seemed to constantly move. The small bird’s dark eyes were a match for the girl’s; and its body was covered with micro-fine iridescent crystals. The room’s walls shimmered with crystal shaped lights reflected from the bird’s crystal covered wings. As the figurine turned, the crystals embedded in the depths of the girl’s lustrous tresses and along her eyelashes projected different, yet equally exquisite multi-colored lights that danced around the room. Each perspective of the figurine projected different iridescence encasing Copper in the experience. They shone separately, yet blended as the figurine turned. It was a breath-taking sculpture, which Copper knew as “my hummingbird”.