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Breath & Shadow

March 2008 - Vol. 5, Issue 1

"Tales of a Magic Fairy (And Her Digital Artist Nephew)"

written by

Ria Strong

What do you see when you look at us? It's all a matter of perception.


My mother thinks I'm her fairy. Her magic fairy. Her memory fairy. Her wonderful can do anything fairy. Bubble wands and fairies. they seem to go together. So maybe my mother's right. Others don't see my fairy–ness; they see other things. The leg brace. The cane. The hand that won't cooperate. The words that stumble when I'm tired. Every so often, the seizures... sudden short circuits in my brain. There's the height, too, of course. And the short hair. The purple clothes. And today, the fairy bubble wand. All part of what makes me me.


Paris, he's my nephew. Just a bubble–chasing, bubble–popping, bubble–blowing kid? It's a matter of perception.


How many 3 year olds know the 7 times table, or that the answer to life is 42? Paris can recite dozens of books, word by word, cover to cover. And he's got his daddy's computer–nerd genes . . . he can turn on my PC, find the program he wants, and use it. My brother says he's a genius. His digital art is amazing.


He can't talk yet, though. at least not to have a conversation. A lot of the time, he echoes like a parrot, or repeats sentences he's memorized. Just like those times tables and books. He doesn't play with toys much either. He's obsessed with Thomas the train. He carries his engines everywhere, and screams if one goes missing.


Mostly, though, his pleasures are simple ones. Running bark or packing pellets through his fingers. Opening and closing the cupboard doors. Flicking light switches on off on off on off on. Watching a torch beam dance around the room. And the bubbles, of course. they dance in light, too.


They say Paris is autistic. Is he gifted, though, or disabled? Or just living his life, playing with his auntie, and having fun?


It's all a matter of perception. Perception, and bubbles. Bubbles of inclusion and exclusion. Sometimes it feels safe, floating in your own little bubble. When bubbles join, though, or expand to let others in, beautiful things can happen.


I should know. After all, I am a magic fairy. Just ask my mum.

Ria Strong lives with an Acquired Brain Injury in Melbourne, Australia. She swims and does artistic things when she's not caring for her mother or trying to change the world. Her writing has been published in a range of places, from anthologies to academic journals and research reports. Her nephew now finds microwave oven doors more interesting than cupboard ones.

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