Flying fingers & life-long learning

So where did I get this thirst for learning, my eclectic curiousity and love of reading, puzzles and games? I like to think it is a natural part of me, that it’s just the way I am. But I know a lot of it came from my parents.

My mother was a registered nurse. When my dad was stationed in Cleveland, Ohio, she was not allowed to work due to restrictions by my dad’s employer. I had started Grade 7, my brother was in Grade 11 and the two oldest in university. Mom had just come off full-time work at the Civic Hospital in Ottawa for two years; the pace and content of a diplomat’s wife was simply insufficient. Wanting to use her skills, she approached the Red Cross about volunteering for the blood donor clinic.  They said they had a glut of people for that service, and she didn’t by any chance type Braille? They were desperate for Braille transcribers.

So Mom took the learning materials and started studying. Sitting in the car waiting to collect my brother from track practice, she had me drill her on the letters and the rules. A Braille typewriter was obtained and reams of practice sheets were hammered out. It seemed so difficult to me – like learning another language. Mom persevered. She eventually did books for university students and for the Library of Congress. I absorbed all this, but it was not until I was older that I appreciated the work and commitment that went into this new skill. My mom’s hands were always busy: she embroidered, smocked, did knitting… watching her fingers tap out the Braille alphabet on a practice card she carried with her seemed part of those pursuits.

My Dad had his career, which entailed not just the 9 to 5 office gig, but also extensive entertaining. No social media in those dark ages you see, so networking was exclusively face-to-face and very time-consuming. 🙂 Rare moments of relaxation were filled with books, newspapers (including the crossword puzzles and bridge problems contained therein) and magazines. He liked to keep his mind busy. When we moved to India, his mind was beyond busy. Dad was fascinated by the culture, economics, agriculture, geography – well, in short by India. He said “I’m learning something every day. My ideas and my intellect are constantly challenged.”

What I learned from their example was to never lose that curiousity and to actively seek ways to help, ways to engage. They are gone now but thanks mom, thanks dad.

About Esmé Comfort

My husband Jim and I moved to the Bow Valley in 1980, settling in Canmore in 1983. Both my children were born in Canmore and attended K -12 in Canadian Rockies Public Schools District (CRPS), French Immersion. For the past six years I served as vice-chair of the board. Alberta Government support to the CRPS Inspiring Hearts & Minds initiative created opportunities for provincial, national and international outreach. In the past I held positions on the Canmore Daycare Board, the preschool board, and various school councils/PACs; I served as president of the local chapter of Canadian Parents for French for five years and sat on the provincial board for two. I currently sit on the board of the Canmore Folk Music Festival, work full time at an events management firm and edit, copy-edit and proofread on contract. My husband and I ran a small main street business for 18 years: supply and install floor wall and window coverings.
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2 Responses to Flying fingers & life-long learning

  1. Wonderful thoughts Esme. My niece is blind. She was the first blind student to go through an integrated classroom setting at Edmonton Catholic Schools. I remember her mother, my sister, committing to learning braille so that she could help her daughter at home with schoolwork. An arduous, yet fascinating pursuit. You must have been very proud of your parents.

    • Thanks for that Kim. I am amazed at the matter-of-fact courage displayed by all kinds of folks in situations that would put me down for the count. My parents gave me far more than I realized at the time. Just reflecting on that and taking a wee break from my obssession of Education reform! 😉

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