My Summers With Nancy
By Ava Lee Holly
$2.99 Kindle Edition
An IFLit Review by Sarah Mankowski
My Summers With Nancy is a small book, a scant 37 pages in print. The story is a simple one. It tells how a teenage girl, herself legally blind, befriends and teaches a younger girl with multiple disabilities. This is a true story.
The story takes place in 1945. World War II is ending. Ava Lee is returning to the school for the blind for a new school year. While waiting in line for dental checkups, she meets and comforts a frightened ten-year-old girl named Nancy. At the end of that school year, Ava Lee accepts the job of companion and tutor to Nancy. She finds simple ways to help the younger girl expand her horizons.
Now I must confess that this is not an impartial review. Ava Lee, now deceased, was my mother. She wrote this book during her final year of life, with the assistance of volunteers at the nursing home.
In 1945, the mother of a multi-handicapped ten-year-old named Nancy engaged Ava Lee Holly as her child’s companion and teacher, a role that Ava Lee would fill each summer over three years. In this poignant story, the effects of Nancy’s delayed education become apparent as Ms. Holly calls upon her innate teaching ability to find ways to expand Nancy’s skills, and to help her explore and understand her surroundings. As Ava Lee tackles these challenges she also becomes acutely aware of the compensatory gifts that Nancy exhibits.
Descriptions of their summer adventures provide insight into a world that most of us do not know. Ms. Holly hopes Nancy’s story will inspire others “to assist the handicapped to develop their potential to its greatest extent starting in infancy and to become as independent as possible.”
Ava Lee Holly, legally blind since birth, graduated from a school for the blind. Limited resources prevented her from fulfilling her dream of going to college and becoming a teacher. She has, however, continued her lifelong love of learning through avid reading. Ms. Holly currently lives at the Santa Fe Care Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where she is an active participant in their creative and dynamic activities program. Ms. Holly is also the author of A Time to Speak a biography of her husband’s early life, her early life, and their lives together. This book was made possible with the assistance of dedicated volunteers at the Care Center.
From The Author: “This book is the realization of a long-held dream to share Nancy’s story with parents of disabled children and others who assist the handicapped or who otherwise are interested in improving their lives. It is my hope that Nancy’s story will inspire others to assist children with disabilities in developing their individual potential to its greatest extent—starting in infancy. While the child with multiple disabilities may not be able to advance using traditional techniques, she will develop a greater appreciation for the world when encouraged to learn about her surroundings from babyhood. Teaching methods may require creative, individualized techniques. These may be suggested by observing the child’s natural interests. Time, patience and creativity are essential tools when helping the multi-handicapped child to realize her capabilities.”