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In honor of Helen Keller’s birthday, June 27, I have written this post about my 2010 visit to her birthplace, Ivy Green.

entrance to ivy green Helen Keller birthplace
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Brick gates surround either side of the entrance to Ivy Green, birthplace and family home of Helen Keller
ivy green entrance
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At the entrance to Ivy Green, birthplace and family home of Helen Keller

 

I’ve always been a reader.  One book I read as a child that has had a lasting impact was a Helen Keller biography.  I’m not sure if it’s because I also had bad eyesight and therefore felt a small connection or if it was simply the inspirational life that she led, but inspirational it certainly was.  I would close my eyes, pretending to be blind, then try to feel my way around the house.  Difficult without peeking, even already knowing what it all looked like.  My imagination was no match, though, for the added handicap of deafness and the seemingly insurmountable hurdles she faced.

After reading the book, I learned the manual alphabet of sign language and can still form most of the letters today from memory.  I wanted to also learn American Sign Language but never had the opportunity until I started working at DFAS Oakland.  One of my new co-workers was deaf.  Soon after starting work there, I signed up for a class. I wanted to be able to talk to her, at least a little, in sign.  Sadly, I was the only person in the office who had ever made the effort to learn sign.  It was difficult but fun.

Finger-spelling is always the fall back if you don’t know a sign but I have a hard time “seeing” the word that is being spelled so I am slow in understanding but eventually figure it out. It’s like a foreign language.  I have to translate the “foreign” word into English to understand.  When I’m reading finger-spelling, I have to recognize the letter being shown then mentally put that letter into the form of a written alphabet to really recognize it.  Then combine each of those letters to make the word that was spelled.  Definitely not a quick way to communicate as a beginner!

book cover the story of helen keller by Lorena Hickok
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This copy of The Story of Helen Keller has been read by 3 generations. It belonged to my mother and was handed down to me. I read it several times as a child and then gave it to my oldest daughter to read when she was old enough.

 

I re-read the book two weeks ago when I was preparing to write this post.  Reading it again, as an adult, with the additional life experiences and wisdom of the 35 or so years I have l lived since reading it as a kid, made her story even more incredible to me.  If I thought it was hard to imagine as a kid, it’s even harder to imagine as an adult.  All that she was able to overcome and the tenacity she had to live a productive, giving life – so remarkable.  I have always thought of her as a hero, but even more so now I think.  I have downloaded her autobiography, Story of My Life, to Kindle and plan to read that book too and hopefully learn even more about her amazing life.  So many sacrifices made by many, but especially Teacher (Annie Sullivan).  The love, the caring, the partnership.  I’m not giving it all the justice it deserves.  So much to learn from in knowing the Helen Keller story.

 

My Pilgrimage to Ivy Green

While planning one of our annual road trips, I discovered that Helen’s birthplace was in northern Alabama and definitely within reach as a stop along our usual path.  I didn’t make it there that year but a couple years later it worked out.  I saw the water pump and the house and it was SO cool!  I was so excited to be there at the place where it had all happened.

Some pictures of our visit to Ivy Green
ivy green front brick path
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A lovely brick walkway leads to the house
front steps of ivy green
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My girls and Vacation Mouse outside Ivy Green
living room inside Ivy Green
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The living room inside Ivy Green
dining room ivy green
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The dining room of Ivy Green – the scene of one of Helen’s first hard lessons with Teacher
ivy green bedroom
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A bedroom in the main house.
bedroom at ivy green
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Another bedroom upstairs at Ivy Green
ivy green plaque
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A commemorative plaque in the garden at Ivy Green
gardens at ivy green
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Beautiful gardens surround the house and outbuildings at Ivy Green
gardens at ivy green
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More lovely gardens
helen keller garden statue at ivy green
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A statue in the garden at Ivy Green
ivy green outbuilding
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The cook house – an outbuilding at Ivy Green
ivy green cook house kitchen
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Inside the cook house
ivy green cook house
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Inside the cook house
teacher and helen keller stayed in this small cottage
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Side view of the small cottage where Teacher and Helen spent many early days together.
helen keller well hand pump for water
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The hand pump for the well. W-A-T-E-R
helen keller well plaque
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The memorial plaque at the well where Helen and Teacher made their big breakthrough.
helen keller water pump statue at ivy green
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A statue to commemorate the breakthrough at the water pump.
Happy birthday, Helen!
What about you? Are you familiar with her story?  Who was a childhood hero of yours?

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Such a dream to visit Ivy Green and see the water pump at Helen Keller's home.
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A Pilgrimage to Ivy Green via @behindeveryday
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