How do I love thee? Let me count the ways

Taking a spin with a true dancing queen

Taking a spin with a true dancing queen

THIS week, in the midst of Christmas and all of the merry freneticism that its celebration brings, my family lost someone very special.

To me, she was my beautiful Nan. To my Mum, she was an adored and most cherished mother. To my five-year-old daughter Amelia, she was Grandma, with the soft grey hair who loved her very much.

To all, she was the whip-smart woman with the piercing eyes and the gutsy spirit that sustained her until her final moments. Her last breath on this earth.

I already find myself desperately searching my memory for thoughts of her; certain conversations, or just the sound of her voice. Oh, that voice with its unparalleled beauty in speech and in song.

What a gift it was and now I will never hear it again beyond what my mind can recall.

And her lion heart, which she gave to me so many times over the years, always when I needed it most.

Like when Amelia’s deafness was diagnosed and I sat across from her at the Rosebud RSL, tears streaming down my face and I said to her, “Nan, how could I not have known something was wrong?”

She fixed me with those intelligent eyes, filled to the brim with understanding, and simply said, “But you did know, my darling, you did.” As usual, she was right.

My Amelia in safe hands

My Amelia in safe hands

Nan always understood me and more importantly, she totally ‘got’ my sweet but headstrong daughter. She embraced Amelia’s differences, even learning to sign some key words to her in Auslan.

Among her last words to me was a specific message of love for her great-granddaughter. She could hardly speak by then – that lovely voice now ravaged by her illness – but she wanted me to know that she felt a special connection with Amelia: “We clicked”.

Where else should Amelia’s defiant approach to the world come from, but the pioneering stock that has produced some of the toughest, most wonderful people ever born?

They’re family myths, I know, but we hold tight to their significance in our lives. They make us feel part of something bigger than ourselves. We are not alone if we are together.

I shared so many passions with my Nan. We both loved to read and to swim in the summertime. Those summers spent on the Rye foreshore were some of the happiest times of my life. Kicking back on a lilo, burying each other in the sand, and laughing. Always laughing.

The happiest of times at Rye with our Nan

The happiest of times at Rye with our Nan

I know that memories fade, and it makes me panic to think that I won’t be able to remember as easily or clearly the sounds and sights of these times with her.

We have photographs to remind us, but how will I conjure up the touch of my Nan’s hand in mine or the melodic sound of her voice in my ear?

Who else will tell me with such direct and brutal honesty when I’m looking too tired or sick or thin (or not) or if I’m cutting the vegies the ‘wrong’ way? Who will fix me with eyes of steel and not let me lie and say that I’m alright when I’m not? “Come on, Lindy Lou, I know you”.

She did know me, she really, truly did. And I knew her like the skin on my own body or the thoughts in my head that remain unsaid.

Her name was Joyce but people called her Joy. And she was an embodiment of that name: a joy to know, to hold close and count amongst our own.

Be at peace now, precious woman. It’s time to rest.

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Channelling Casablanca

The beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Amelia & E: the beginning of a beautiful friendship

I took this photo the other day as Amelia and her younger companion ‘E’ left another session of their social skills group for kids with ASD. They skipped ahead and gripped hands as we made our way to our cars and the remains of the day.

Behind them, E’s Mum and I wrenched our phones hastily from respective pockets to try and capture the moment in time, freeze it in space and hold it fast in our memories.

‘Did you get it? I think I did, I think I got a good one’. You bet I did.

I hadn’t realised that our little ones might think of each other as ‘friends’; it seems like such a foreign concept to apply to children who often find the ins and outs of socialising as remote and mysterious as the moon.

But there are lovely hints of attachment occurring between them; small seedlings of care and thought peeping up from below ground, searching for light and air.

Like when we arrived at the session, I saw E’s Mum holding a Peppa Pig toy in her hand and I said, ‘Oh, is that E’s toy? How cute’.

‘Yes’, she replied, ‘He brought especially it to show Amelia’. Her words and his sweet gesture made me smile, inside and out.

And though Amelia did not pay due homage to Peppa, chosen with only her in mind, she was genuinely excited to see E and content to linger over the fading moments of the afternoon carefully holding his hand.

Walking behind them in happy silence, I laced my own fingers inside my husband’s, our connection an echo of the intertwined children up ahead.

As usual my mind wandered to the movies, the scene reminiscent of Rick and Louis at the end of Casablanca. I found myself thinking, ‘If those two can begin a beautiful friendship, then why not Amelia and E?’

Why ever not?

The ice girl cometh

Warrior girl with water weapon

RECENTLY I found myself caught up in the wacky Ice Bucket Challenge sweeping Facebook feeds the world over. You might have seen one of these videos, where some poor, charitable soul stands nervously in a suburban backyard, waiting to be drenched with ice-filled water by delighted relatives enjoying their role a little too much.

Yep, that was me a few weeks ago. I was ‘tagged’ by my good friend CM to take up the challenge and once you’re ‘it’ there’s no such thing as ‘keepings off’ or ‘barley’.

So I stumped up and took my freezing cold medicine. For the good of the cause (motor neurone disease) and because I didn’t want to be called a wuss. I know, I’m not about to win a humanitarian of the year award.

But I do know someone who would have taken that ice bucket challenge by the horns and never let go. She would have relished it, and asked for more and more buckets until she’d beaten the Guinness Book of Records benchmark that might apply to a weird new age phenomenon such as this.

Who is it, you ask? Some hard-skinned ranger type who feels no pain and crushes all opponents in their wake? No, I’m talking about my five-year-old daughter Amelia, who is on the autistic spectrum and is wildly PASSIONATE about the sensation of very cold water on her skin.

I first noticed this strange sensory trait when she was about two and a half. One afternoon during the winter time, I saw her outside with a bucket of cold water she’d filled when I wasn’t looking. She proceeded to fill a smaller bowl with the water and pour it repeatedly over her head and quivering body. It was quivering with the cold no doubt, but also with powerful exhilaration.

For a moment I watched at the window, transfixed by the scene. Amelia’s beautiful round face was a study in elation, in euphoria. She appeared totally unbothered by the frigid temperature of the water. Instead, it was a delight to her and she welcomed it without fear or hesitation.

I was torn between wanting to leave her be for a while longer to enjoy being at one with the water, and the mothering instincts which compelled me to gate-crash this spontaneous garden party and throw a big towel over it. And her.

Other times I found her in our backyard with no clothes on, holding a gushing hose in the air so the icy plumes of water would fall straight down onto her head. Amelia treated the water with reverence, as something deeply special to her that only she could understand.

It’s true that my girl had never enjoyed warm water, especially in the shower. My attempts to add just a little more heat to the stream from above were always instantly detected. I couldn’t get past my child’s incredible sensitivity to the temperature and how it felt on her skin.

For quite a long time this need in her worried me a lot. Every time she’d ask for cold shower water as she sat in a shallow (warm) bath below, we’d wrestle with the taps and I’d think ‘I can’t let her sit in freezing cold water, can I?’ Old sayings about catching one’s death hovered close to my ear and increased my anxiety.

But Amelia doesn’t feel cold water the same way most people do. You only need to see her at the beach out of season when the water is still too chilly for mere mortals to enter; there she is – my little Tommy Hafey child – striding out determinedly, into the deep folds of all that delicious cold.

I think for Amelia, the love of cold water is a combination of the intense feelings she gets from the pressure of the spray and the glacial temperature itself. These elements create a sort of rapturous response in the nerve centre of her body – I can see it in the excited flapping of her arms, the full-body shuddering that makes her squeal likes she’s on the joyride of her life.

After years of watching her relationship with cold water unfold, I now understand that it isn’t bad for her the way it might be for a different child who could not tolerate the icy temperature at all. Or an adult forced to endure a freezing bucket of water tipped over their heads for the sake of charity.

Embracing the challenge of cold, cold water

Embracing the challenge of cold, cold water

Now most nights, after Amelia has agreed to conduct her clean-up in a ‘nice’ warm bath, I give her five minutes (give or take) under the arctic torrent from the shower overhead. I peak behind the curtain to steal a glimpse or two of her big, round face, held up in exaltation to the pure thrill of it.

Bath times have been harrowing for us for many years. The allowance for icy, cold water when my daughter desires it has made things a lot better. Sometimes it even calms her down, as though the (welcome) shock to her body from the shower helps quieten those other feelings that can send her out of control.

And in relaxing the house ‘rules’ around water I can also see a little glint of thanks in Amelia’s dark eyes. ‘Mum is finally working me out’, it says. She is giving me freedom to be myself. To take a million ice bucket challenges if I want to.

But it’s not a challenge for her at all, it’s simply a way of being, a way of life. Trust a child to be so deliberately fearless.

The dad who went up a hill and carried his daughter down a mountain

Finally, a father (2009)

Finally, a father (2009)

I AM only just beginning to understand the pain my husband has carried with him on our path to parenthood. It’s a subterranean heartache but I can feel it beating beneath the surface of our lives, growing louder when times are hardest.

In his eyes I can see the cost of past experiences that have made him yearn for deeper bonds with people. Friendships are deeply important to him, as is that reciprocal give-and-take of a connection truly shared.

When it came time to start a family of our own, I know he (like myself) hoped to fulfil the dream of having a baby – son, daughter, it didn’t matter – who would hold him close in the deepest relationship yet possible. The one with his child.

As a family, we would achieve a grand closeness never before seen in the universe. In short, we would grasp hands and never let each other go.

But try as you might, it is futile to pretend that any of us can control life in this way. Nor is it right to expect that a child should act as some sort of gap-filler for relationships that spun away from us in our childhood.

Together, we have learned this lesson the hard way. Our daughter Amelia, who is now five, did not receive our exhaustive memos in utero about close companionship or ready compliance.

The lists we made detailing the places we would go, the activities we would share, the things we would teach her: all were lost in translation from imagination to stark reality.

Amelia arrived without knowing the great weight of expectation we had heaped on her shoulders. In turn, it took us time to learn that she is deaf and has autism too.

That second, more recently identified fact, struck my husband in the chest like an arrow shot. The wound has not yet healed.

For him, I think it must sometimes feel as though he has been thrust back into the more troubling spaces of his past. Of his longing for companionship and finding only barriers where open arms should have been.

But this is much, much worse, because here we are talking about his beautiful, cherished daughter. The person he most longed to meet and who, when he found out we were expecting, nearly collapsed from paroxysms of joy.

During the worst phases of Amelia’s rages, he has woken daily to chaos only to return at day’s end to find similar chaos readying itself to greet him once more. I am lucky, because I have been around to witness and enjoy the moments of calm that happen in between.

He has spent endless hours trying to get his daughter to listen to him, to calm down or just sit with him and play. If only for a few moments.

Often the greatest challenge is asking Amelia to leave him alone. She craves closeness too, but filtered through her autism it’s all rough physicality and she can’t moderate the need in an appropriate way.

So, she presses herself on him, lies on him, punches him and pulls at his face until he often has to abandon her and lock himself away.

But over five years of incredible ups and downs it is possible (read = mandatory) to adjust one’s expectations of family life. We have had to put on hold some of the things we hoped to do together. Little things that the majority of people take for granted every day.

We make do with living as a family unit that sometimes needs to split up and create more manageable compartments to survive. It’s crucial to recognise which combinations work best for Amelia depending on the situation.

A rare football victory in the early days.

A rare football victory in the early days.

Like going to the football. For as long as I can remember, my husband has dreamed of taking his little girl to see our beloved Bombers play. He would dress her in red and black and talk to her about the rules and the players. We can’t control much but Amelia has no say in which team she is required to barrack for. No matter what their recent transgressions, we’re an Essendon family through and through.

Sadly for my husband, taking her to games is too high-risk an activity right now. After about the age of two, Amelia has found it impossible to sit down for longer than a few minutes and the combination of crowds and noise makes it too stressful for her.

Very swiftly, Amelia starts to lose control and, as is the ritual, her Dad is forced to carry her screaming form out and away from the din, from those screaming just as angrily at the umpires. It’s not fair on either of them to pretend the result can be otherwise. At least in the short term.

So we achieve a domestic harmony of sorts by being ultra-sensitive to Amelia’s needs and abilities. And by looking out for each other as parents, and as individuals. So when her Dad goes to the football it is not with his family but with other Dads and their children.

Like a genial uncle, he sits with them and talks to them about the game he loves and wonders at how still they are. How easy it is to be with them. And he wishes he didn’t have to leave his daughter behind.

But just because he sometimes has to be apart from her, as I do, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t looked for other ways to connect with her. To make himself feel like her father, and she his daughter.

So what do they do? They walk. Most Sundays, Amelia and her Dad drive to sundry parks all over Melbourne and beyond and just walk. It’s more like ranging really, up hill and down dale, whether it’s raining or not.

Discovering happiness on the hills of Melbourne.

Discovering happiness on the hills of Melbourne.

Amelia is a terrible walking companion. She has no sense of safety, she strays, and runs away and follows other people and animals like a hybrid canine-child catching the scent of something colourful, fun or more interesting over there. Always over there.

Last week she spotted a group of horse riders and careened headlong into a valley after them, with no fear of equine retaliation. The riders shouted at her to stop and thankfully she heeded their harsh tones. My husband recalled it to me later, the sense of helplessness as she broke away from him and sprinted towards potential danger.

Clearly rambling with Amelia is absolutely exhausting. But, for all that it is taxing, her Dad loves it too. Walking in the outdoors was a treasured part of his upbringing and now it is his gift to her.

Because regardless of the weather or the clouds that pass over her face from time to time they are together. They’re not at the football, or visiting friends, but on the hills of Melbourne they have found each other through walking.

And when they come home to me, their faces flushed from the elements and the joy of adventure I see only closeness. I see the beauty and the depth of their relationship as father and daughter.

For T, with love.

Good vibrations

Great composer, terrible movie.

Parenting and privacy are about as compatible as warring armies facing off in the heat of battle. Or Russell Crowe ‘singing’ show tunes in the film adaptation of Les Misérables.

Doors blissfully closed, toilet breaks taken in peace, showers enjoyed in quiet solitude: all these taken-for-granted ‘you’ spaces are rapidly and irrevocably invaded by ‘them’.

The boundaryless child, whose chief aim as they grow and increase their gross and fine motor abilities is to keep you in full view and on tap at all times, cares nothing for the selfishness of time spent alone.

This process took a while to take root in our home. For her first few years of life, our daughter Amelia was very slow to crawl, to walk, to really care that much where her parents were at any given time.

She was born deaf and no-one knew this until she was two, so I guess Amelia was learning to live inside an impenetrable private space of her own. Our words could not puncture it until her hearing aids switched her on to the sounds of life and her parents reaching in to grab her.

Since this momentous time, our girl has taken great strides to bridge the gaps that existed between us. It’s hard to recollect a time before she was forever at my shoulder, by my side or in my bathroom – my constant, wonderful, infuriating companion.

Sometimes I long to just shut the door behind me as I hastily jump into the shower and not hear Amelia calling me, crashing the door open and dragging all of her ‘stuff’ in to camp out on the floor and harass me with endless questions. So many questions.

But at the same time, those questions are a daily gift, a reminder, of just how far she has come in learning to speak, to need and tell us her mind and her heart. To find her way out from dark rooms shaped by deafness and autism.

So the other day when Amelia came to me once more, in our tiny bathroom not fit for swinging cats or wide towels, and asked to join her Mum in the shower, I could hardly deny her.

I nodded my head and in a flash she ripped out her hearing aids and placed them buzzing on the vanity before piling in with me behind the shower curtain with its brightly coloured spots.

Occasionally she likes to sit at the opposite end of the bath to me, letting the water fall onto our legs as we play boats or some silly game. We like to hold our hands under the warm stream from the tap above and enjoy the sensation.

This day, Amelia came and sat in my lap – so close – and lay her small back against my front.

It is truthfully the most happy you will ever find me, with my daughter who dislikes being held, volunteering to lie on me and enjoying the pressure of our skin-on-skin.

She held my hands and pressed her fingers into my face and my legs. And then I started singing, this crazy, high pitched, mock-soprano warbling I have a tendency to unleash in the shower (and all around the house).

I sent a big high note out into the room and the vibration in my chest went through Amelia’s back and she paused for a moment before suddenly responding in kind. A big, atonal set of notes flew from her mouth and into the air, soaring high to meet mine as they fell.

And we didn’t stop for anything. My beautiful girl, who without aids cannot hear more than fragments of the sound produced from my mouth, was feeling it now through my body and we were locked in a double act for the ages.

My singing was echoed in hers, as was my joy reflected in her beaming expression. Not until my husband was roused from another part of the house and came to see what his mad women of the shower were up to did we break from our performance.

I may not have any privacy to speak of and there are no doors that stay closed for long in my house, but happily other obstacles continue to shift and open just a little. Just enough to let me hold my sweetheart for five full minutes and reach her through my body and the power of song.

To infinity and beyond

Stage rocket, sending data back to earth

What’s that famous tagline from Ridley Scott’s movie, Alien? ‘In space no-one can hear you scream’.

It somehow came to mind last week in the lead up to the music concert, ‘A Trip to Space’, staged by my daughter Amelia’s school for the deaf.

I hadn’t been paying proper attention to the school newsletter updates about the concert.

I sort of knew it was happening and my husband and I had sold wads of raffle tickets to raise money for the music program, but I had assumed it was only for the older kids at the school.

Phew, I thought. No need to get all stressed out about a new social event with its terror-inducing unknowns for a family that really hates, well, unknowns.

Then it dawned on me a few days from the big rocket launch. Amelia, along with all the other kids from the school’s Early Learning Centre, was expected to attend. And participate. And perform. And we, her fellow rookie astronauts, were to accompany her and watch either a spectacular lunar lift-off or a fiery re-entry to earth.

Regardless, it was to be our maiden voyage into the unchartered world of child pageantry and by Monday I was reaching for my inner sick-bag. I’ve seen Gravity, so I know that space is not for the faint-hearted. There’s a lot of debris out there. And occasionally Sandra Bullock. Who knew if we would make it out alive?

Little notes and pictures started arriving home in Amelia’s kinder bag with instructions about her costume for the night – black clothes from head to toe. Although I was still undecided about whether I would even let her go, I dutifully went out and found the garments she would need. The Right Stuff, as it were.

Then her space training went into over-drive. There was a mid-week rehearsal at the concert venue, a local school hall, and Amelia came home to me pumped to the eyeballs with the mysteries of the world beyond the earth’s atmosphere.

She began humming odd tunes around the house that I’d never heard before. New signs to describe the upcoming event suddenly appeared in her Auslan vocabulary. Her imagination was captured by the importance of her special voyage ahead.

Who was I to stand in her way? When I discovered that all but two of her fellow classmates would be on stage with her, I had to take the plunge. Into that black hole where new experiences lurk with the promise of success and the portent of failure.

I talked it over on the morning of the concert with our family psychologist, JM, who supports us with Amelia’s autism. I confessed my nervousness about the night and she simply asked me: What’s the worst that could happen?

I guess I had visions of my girl struggling to cope and turning on a mighty meltdown within the first two minutes and we – her Dad and I – would tread those familiar boards of embarrassment as we beat a hasty retreat to our car with a screaming banshee in our arms.

People would look at us and judge us to be bad parents of an uncontrollable child. JM reassured me that these negative thoughts were far from the reality of what those families – all with special needs children – would think.

The most important thing was to offer Amelia the chance to be a part of something nurturing and above all, fun.

I am ashamed of my pessimism, of how far I underestimated my daughter, but it is a cold, hard fact of my time as a parent that many family missions are aborted shortly after take-off and there’s no amount of planning you can implement to avoid metaphorical meteor showers.

Pessimism is terribly corrosive because it holds me back from being open to the possibility of change and growth but it is also my friend, ready and on guard to protect me from the risk of heart-break.

But negative feelings are there to be conquered and, like all good colonialists, my husband and I took a collective breath and made the journey anyway. Win or lose, we had to try and we had to hope which is far better than hiding from your own life. Or, far more deplorably, denying your only child a wondrous space adventure.

And it is no exaggeration to say that the concert was close to the best night of our lives. From the moment we stepped out of the car and Amelia ran to join her friends and run with them on the school oval, the planets that had scattered within our orbit suddenly aligned.

The kinder group was scooped up and marshalled expertly by one of their incredible teachers, RS, and before we knew it, our girl was led away from us to get ready and we were free to sit. Just sit. And watch the wonderful performance unfold before us.

We did not need to mitigate or negotiate. I kept waiting for the BAD THING to happen but it never did.

The school had Amelia in its care and, as it has so often this year, it enveloped her in its safe embrace and she was happy to be separate from us. To belong to another group of trusted adults and children. To belong to herself.

Of the 18 numbers performed in Auslan, voice, instrument and dance on the night, Amelia appeared in four magical moments. As debuts go, I put it in the class of say, Barbra Streisand’s captivating introduction to film goers in Funny Girl. Although there’s an outside chance I could be displaying some parental bias.

In any case, my little one took it up to Babs in the show-off stakes and no mistake.

She was a shocking lair up on stage. Whether she was hamming it up with her space walk, her scene-stealing turn on the bongos, or vividly signing the ‘I’ve Got a Grumpy Face’ song, Amelia was lit from within by one sight – her audience. And we couldn’t tear our eyes from her.

After the opening act set to Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra (what else?), she bowed deeply, repeated it with her patented Pimpernel hand flourish, then strutted along the stage line and did a few jazzy hand wiggles at her face before standing at the top of the stairs and offering a sombre salute. A salute.

The spotlight was hers to own and she was loving every second of it.

My husband and I have never laughed so hard or been so proud of a single person or event in our lives. Our hearts were fit to burst from the sight of Amelia’s confidence, her presence in the moment. For a deaf girl with autism that is no mean feat, in space or otherwise.

I’d always watched sappy American sitcom renditions of school concerts with a mixture of cynicism and scorn. But that was before our own journey into that world, where our daughter showed us that she is already light years ahead of where we sometimes imagine she is, emotionally and socially.

Amelia spent an hour and half going on stage and off and staying patiently with her merry band of space cadets. There was no crying or screaming or running away. She knew where we were and felt secure enough not to keep seeking us out.

And when she returned to us she looked different to my eyes and it wasn’t just the addition of the silver jetpack to her shoulders or the bright star now stuck to her chest.

Because when I looked at her this time I saw only possibilities. The dark matter that often weighs heavily on my mind turned to moon dust for an evening and was replaced by a feeling so radiant it would have outshone the sun.

And that was all before Amelia won the raffle prize – a chocolate hamper fit for an overacting astronaut on her first flight into the beyond. (To be strictly accurate, my husband’s name was on the ticket, but who could deny Amelia another victory on such a glorious occasion?)

At night’s end, we walked to the car with the other families calmly exiting the building. Just plain old walking with laughter and excitement as our soundtrack. Our feet were on the ground but for the next few hours my heart remained in space, and my eyes stayed firmly on the stars.

Now, hearing

It's murder on the dance floor.

It’s murder on the dance floor.

Before bedtime last night, my daughter Amelia was doing her usual interpretive dance routine and entertaining us with her best jazz hands followed by the deepest of bows and an enchanting flourish of her hand from brow to floor to signal its choreographic end.

Her avant-garde performance, matched only in its breathtaking awkwardness by Marty, the Dude’s ‘artistic’ landlord in The Big Lebowski, was accompanied by music she had chosen herself. Born Ruffians, if you’re asking.

It’s music she couldn’t really hear as she doesn’t wear her aids at night after her bath. However, like many things in her life, Amelia digs the need for tunes to complete the picture, the context for a show. People dance to music, and so does she, whether she can fully appreciate it or not.

It certainly doesn’t affect her enjoyment of dancing and she knows music, rejoices in it when aided, so her imagination and failsafe memory lend her the rhythms (well, motions) where her hearing cannot.

After about five encores, met with raucous laughter and hearty applause from the couch seats in-the-round, our exhausted tiny dancer opted for a story break to catch her breath.

Amelia picked up her big, interactive book, Peppa Pig on Pirate Island, with its picture buttons to be pressed for character sounds and music that children can play as the story unfolds. You know, Peppa giggles on cue, there’s a jaunty pirate theme and on it goes.

Then something happened that we did not expect, that we had not seen or heard before. After a few seconds of pressing the sound buttons, our girl spoke and signed, “Need hearing aids. Can’t hear it.” She was not annoyed, it was simply a matter of practicality.

We just sat in stunned, wowed silence for a second, because this was the very first time Amelia has ever asked for her aids and explained why. That she needs them to hear.

She knows what they are and doesn’t like to be parted from them but I’ve been waiting to see when she would become aware of just what her aids are for. What they mean beyond mere objects we put in her ears every morning.

Last night was the night for a revelation of that anticipated cognisance of necessity.

Her Dad rushed off to get them as I sat, spellbound by my daughter’s sudden self-realisation – this emerging understanding of being without hearing. Of the connection between her aids and sound. Of being deaf.

As an audience, we could not have been more gripped by the scene playing out before us. She’d trumped herself in the post-dance segment of the evening’s activities.

Amelia nodded approvingly as the aids were finally inserted and switched on. Then she sat down again and pushed another Peppa-related button. Her voice was clear and true as she announced, “Now, hearing!” Yes, my beautiful girl. Now hearing.

What a moment this was for us and for her. I wonder all the time about when Amelia will begin to understand that she is deaf and what this means to her life and her identity.

There are many more layers of this process to come for her and I have a feeling none will be as matter of fact as this one.

So last night represented an important first – the first time Amelia seemed to know that her ears do not operate the way ours do and that she would need something extra to let the world of sound in.

She’s so used to enjoying books, movies, music without the aural reach provided by her aids but this time, it wasn’t enough.

Amelia may have chosen to dance as usual to music mostly lost on her ears but she’d have her Peppa Pig pirate tale with the sound, thanks very much.