I remember when he took lessons from a family friend to learn how to use his computer. E-mail. Logging online. Surfing the web. This was around the year 2000 and my grandfather was about 80 years old. The man never stopped consuming information and expanding his brilliant mind, and it made an impression on me. Especially because he approached it from a place of joyful curiosity. His house was filled with the sounds of playing the organ, raiding the cookie jars, and constant conversation. It was like extra credit.
Many items around the house had labels. Have you used a label maker that embossed letters onto sticky plastic tape? Lots of things were marked with those green rectangles, basement light switch ON and OFF, OUTDOOR FLOOD LIGHT. Shelves listed content, QUEEN SHEETS. Clearly, grandpa went a little overboard, but no harm, no foul. At my grandparent’s rustic bay house the labels helped summer guests wishing to adjust the A/C or to put away a random object in storage cabinets. It was really handy.
For last month’s braille lesson, Hadley mailed me a braille labeler. I learned how to load the tape properly and create labels, click, click, click. It was fun to create something that I can use over and over again around my house. I went downstairs and surveyed my pantry. An avid home cook acquires jars and bottles over time. The popular ones I buy in bulk, but transfer the contents to smaller, easier to use containers. It’s annoying to search the stash in the unlit pantry, even when I’m using my magnifier app. It uses residual vision and energy. Instead, I can mark some of the items in braille and let my fingers do the reading.
My labels will be shortened versions of names, maybe only a few letters long, but I will know what they mean. And it’s possible because I’m slowly but surely learning to identify each letter in braille.
Lesson after lesson, the only pressure is the kind I put on myself. I try to remind myself not to compare my skills to other people who learned braille at different stages. I’m not in a race. If braille helps me to complete a task with less visual effort, great. No one is judging my performance.
Sitting on a shelf near my spices is one of my grandfather’s cookie jars. If I nudge it as I’m moving containers around, the metal lid rings out against the glass bowl. It’s like he’s saying, “That’s the ticket.” He would have loved braille labels. Grandpa always kept things fun. As I continue learning the letters, so will I.
What are you learning this week? Who modeled curiosity for you as you grew up? Tell me about it.