|Lake Champlain at Chazy|
Amelie does not have brothers or sisters. Shortly after she was born at the hospital in nearby Plattsburg, her parents decided against having more children.
When Amelie was three years old, she didn't read but she listened intently as her parents read stories to her at bedtime. After a second reading, she could remember each story and tell it to others from memory. She was thrilled by some of the stories, especially the French fairy tales such as Bearskin and The Lost Children. There was also a story of the Abernaki people about a lake creature called Tatoskuk. Tatoskuk was larger than any fish and was seen occasionally in Lake Champlain. It was called Champ by New Yorkers and by those who lived over in Vermont.
The morning routine for Amelie, except for the worst winter or summer weather, proceeds like this: she wakes up before dawn, washes and dresses appropriately for the weather, and at daybreak she picks up her home-made walking stick and walks along a path from her house to the lake's shoreline. The path makes a gradual descent. She has walked this path so often that she knows exactly how many steps she must take in each direction: seventy-eight.
Her parents are fully aware of her early morning habit and allow her to do it, confident in her ability to avoid an accident or danger. However, her father or her mother watch her from a window in the house. In summer, her father and mother go outside and watch her from chairs by a flower garden.
At the inception of this morning habit, her parents used to go with her to the shoreline. As she grew older, Amelie made it clear to her parents that she preferred to walk alone. Conversations with her new friend, Tatoskuk, ought to be private. Besides, walking alone always gave her a sense of pride and achievement.
At the lakeshore, Amelie could hear Tatoskuk in the water. She had an extraordinary hearing ability, having trained herself to listen to every sound and silence since she was a very young child. She liked to touch things too, and often she dipped her fingers into the water of the lake. She could hear and locate the swimming and splashing sounds offshore, and she greeted the lake creature with joy and happiness.
"Tatoskuk, good morning!" she said, and she listened as the lake creature splashed a reply.
For several minutes or longer she would talk to Tatoskuk, and Tatoskuk grunted and splashed as if to say, "yes, no, or maybe." Amelie always interpreted the grunts as "yes" replies, which pleased her and made her smile.
She asks Tatoskuk innocent questions from her curious mind, such as: "Isn't it cold today? How can you swim when there are large blocks of ice floating in the lake? Do you eat fish? What kind of fish? Do you have parents? Sisters or brothers? Where are they?"
When Amelie is satisfied with Tatoskuks' answers, and begins to feel hungry for breakfast, she says goodbye to Tatoskuk and walks home. Her mother greets her at the door and directs her to the breakfast table.
On weekdays, after breakfast and after her father leaves for work, she and her mother clear the table and prepare for home schooling.
Today a wrapped cardboard box stands on the table. As each item is carefully unpackaged, the new APH Braille textbooks and teaching materials create a sense of eagerness and excitement for Amelie.
Story credit: R. DuPage