Helen spent the summer and winter after the “Frost King” incident with her family in Alabama. There, she began writing down the story of her life. She was still nervous and “excessively scrupulous” about everything she wrote, and she often confessed to Miss Sullivan that she was second-guessing herself and worried that the things she was writing were not her own ideas. Miss Sullivan consoled her, and the twelve-year-old Helen “timidly, fearfully, but resolutely” persevered in writing a brief account of her life for the Youth’s Companion. Helen was no longer living the “unconscious life of a little child;” she was now self-aware, cautious, and clear-minded.
Though the incident surrounding her accidentally plagiarized story was still fresh in Helen’s mind, she also, surrounded by her loving family, experienced a renewed determination to return to the pleasures of the written word. Though she was still overly cautious and afraid of repeating her past mistakes, Helen pushed forward with the encouragement of her family and her teacher and accomplished a tremendous feat—publishing an article in a magazine. Helen, a lover of books and the world of writing, saw this achievement as the dividing line between her childhood and her adolescence.
In 1893 Helen attended the inauguration of President Cleveland, and also visited Niagara Falls and the World’s Fair. Helen was deeply emotional at the falls, and notes that many people have asked her how she could have had such a strong emotional reaction to the wonder and natural beauty of Niagara when she cannot see or hear the falls or the waves. Helen, however, cannot define what the Falls meant to her any more than she can “love or religion or goodness.”
Helen insists that the joy and comfort she derives not just from the falls but from all nature, despite her inability to see or hear it, is as true and as difficult to parse as love or religion. With this assertion, she pushes back against those who would assume her experience of the world was somehow diminished or not whole.
In the summer of 1893 Helen and Miss Sullivan attended the World’s Fair with Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. Helen’s imagination was enlivened by all she experienced there, and delighted as “marvels of invention [and] treasures of industry” passed beneath her hands. Helen took in all the glory of the fair with her fingertips as she touched and learned about French bronzes, diamond mining, electrical inventions, Egyptian mummies, ancient South American relics. Helen credits this trip to the fair with allowing her to make a leap from childish interests in fairy tales and toys to “the appreciation of the real.”
Helen, already feeling propelled toward adulthood by her literary accomplishments, saw her visit to the World’s Fair as yet another step away from childhood. She engaged with the world and learned much about it from the curious and wonderful exhibits which Dr. Bell showed her, and this allowed her to feel a part of a vast, varied, and endlessly wonderful community.