Mrs. V is Melody’s next-door neighbor, and has essentially become a member of the family. When Melody was two, Mrs. V became her baby sitter. Although Mrs. V is careful with and respectful of Melody, she also treated her like any other baby, picking her up and holding her even when many of Melody’s parents’ friends wouldn’t. Mrs. V was soothing, but she was also no-nonsense. She sees Melody as a child who can learn with the proper guidance, not something fragile or troublesome.
While Melody’s parents are often cautious with her, Mrs. V is an especially important figure because she tests the limits of Melody’s abilities. Mrs. V assumes that introducing Melody to experiences that are potentially challenging is better for her in the long run, which is true. This respect for Melody’s resilience makes Mrs. V an essential member of Melody’s family, even though they are not biologically related.
On her parent’s workdays Melody would go to Mrs. V’s house, and when she got older she would go after school. Mrs. V genuinely cares about Melody and her development. From her first visit, Mrs. V took Melody out of her special chair and put her on the floor. This disturbed Melody at first, but she got used to it. Then Mrs. V put Melody’s favorite toy, a monkey, just out of reach. Melody was initially shocked and upset, but Mrs. V believed in her, and eventually Melody flipped over and crawled to her toy. Because of Mrs. V, Melody learns how to scoot, crawl, flip over, and catch herself when she falls
Unlike Melody’s parents, Mrs. V is willing to challenge her and make her struggle in order to teach her. This makes Melody stronger both physically and mentally. It also underscores the importance of Melody’s extended family, and the ways that each member improves her life in unique ways.
When she first enrolled in school, Melody realized that if she couldn’t talk, then she couldn’t participate. Even though she knew thousands of words, she couldn’t use them. When Melody was six she watched a documentary on Stephen Hawking. She found this inspirational, partly because he is the smartest man in the world and he’s in a wheelchair just like her, but also because he had a better way to communicate with the world: his personal computer. Melody had Mrs. V make her a new communication board, one that included more words, people in her life, and questions. Mrs. V also teaches Melody to read. She makes color-coded flashcards, which Melody quickly memorizes, and when Melody has memorized the flashcards, they lay them out on the floor, and Melody organizes them into sentences with her fists.
Being unable to communicate at school prevented Melody from getting much out of it. Her communication board and her ability to read give her a new portal to the world beyond her mind. Mrs. V demonstrates here that it’s crucial that Melody be respected and held accountable to her potential. Instead of letting Melody’s mind languish (as her doctor wanted to do), Mrs. V sees no reason that Melody should not learn to read just as any able bodied kid would. While some people (who assume that Melody is less capable than she is) might think that this is cruel, Mrs. V is rewarded for risking asking too much of Melody—learning to read is essential to Melody’s happiness and future success.
Melody likes that Mrs. V takes her outside no matter what the weather is. One hot afternoon they sat on the porch together and Mrs. V taught Melody about the clouds. It started to rain, and Melody liked the feeling of a few drops on her head, so Mrs. V took her out into the storm until they were completely soaked. As Melody said, “It was awesome.”
In contrast to Chapter 3, when Melody’s mother bundled her up and her father had her sit with the sun on her face, Mrs. V isn’t afraid to let Melody experience the world in full. Mrs. V doesn’t assume Melody is fragile just because she has a disability, and this gives Melody a newfound sense of freedom and possibility.