In The Story of My Life, what does Helen Keller mean by "If we have once seen, 'the day is ours and what the day has shown?'"

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Although Helen was blind and deaf, that had not always been the case. Until she became very sick with a fever at age two, she could see and hear. Even after she was plunged into darkness, she retained dim memories of sight and sound. In the quote she cites, she means to communicate that the memory of what it was to see and hear could not be totally erased. She had some concept of what things looked like, and what sight and sound were like, and she appreciated the difference that made from being born deaf and blind, which would have made her journey harder. She is acknowledging that she had a tiny bit of an advantage over what could have been.

It's hard for most of us to imagine remembering back as far as she did, but her sensory impressions left their lasting imprint. These fleeting memories helped her later in life, especially after Anne Sullivan came and began to teach her. As she says, right before the quote:

during the first nineteen months of my life I had caught glimpses of broad, green fields, a luminous sky, trees and flowers which the darkness that followed could not wholly blot out.

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Helen said these words after describing her illness in her autobiography, The Story of My Life.  When Helen was almost two, she became seriously ill.  She survived, but lost her hearing and sight.  Helen had been very aware and eager during the first nineteen months of her life.  She was beginning to learn how to talk before she fell ill.  For years, Helen had vague memories of her young life before she lost her sight and her hearing.  During that period of almost two years, she experienced nature and light, and the "darkness that followed could not wholly blot out" these memories (Chapter I).  Following this recollection of life before becoming deaf and blind, she wrote of the empowerment that her memories left her with.  She then wrote the following quote:  

If we have once seen, "the day is ours, and what the day has shown."

Helen noted that because she had seen the world around her when she was very young, she she always kept those memories with her.  She remembered what she had seen when she had her sight.

 

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