I almost didn’t read Madeleine L’Engle.
I was in the backyard with my brother, who was blowing bubbles made from homemade bubble soap. I didn’t really know what to say, so as usual I echoed someone else, in this case a common sentence-starter combined with a phrase I’d heard on TV. Which came out, “How ’bout mousy-blah hair.”
My brother said, “Have you been reading A Wrinkle In Time?”
Instant terror. I had never read A Wrinkle In Time. I knew nothing about it except that I had a copy of it, a yellow paperback, in a precise location in my room. But I felt weirdly invaded by the whole exchange.
(My brother wasn’t cross with me about the mousy-blah hair comment. He got more cross when I repeated word-for-word in front of our parents what he’d said about the bubbles he was blowing looking like someone blew their nose.)
As such, I tried to avoid even looking at my copy of the book. I certainly didn’t read it. I tried not to touch it.
But eventually I did read it, and found among other things Mrs. Who, a character who found language uncomfortable and had to speak in quotations. I would later quote about Mrs. Who in an attempt to explain my approach to language to someone who has become a lifelong friend.
So Madeleine L’Engle allowed me to see for the first time a representation outside myself of the sort of functional echolalia I tried to use to get by, and in a non-clinical context being used by a strong character at that. And yet I almost never read Madeleine L’Engle because of a response to my echolalia.
She and her books came to mean a great deal more than that to me. But Anne of Existence is Wonderful put it better than I can. Go read her memorial post.