‘This book is the story of my childhood.’
I first read this book, as a school child, over fifty years ago. I remember reading about the boy who had poliomyelitis as a child and tried to contrast his experience with that of my father, who contracted poliomyelitis around his 21st birthday in 1951. Both learned to live with degrees of disability, both learned to challenge the boundaries. As a child, I did not appreciate the limitations my father had to live within, as an adult I admire his tenacity. And so, after fifty years I revisited ‘I Can Jump Puddles’.
Alan Marshall’s story of his childhood is of a happy world. Change is on the way, early in the 20th century, but Alan’s early childhood is about learning to adapt, of finding ways to do the things that mattered to him and of proving (to himself and to others) that he could.
It is worth reading this book not just for Alan’s story but also for the glimpse it provides into a way of an Australian way of life which is now history. And it reminds me, that I have not yet read the other two books of Alan Marshall’s autobiography.
‘In childhood a useless leg does not bring with it a sense of shame; it is only when one learns to interpret the glance of people unable to hide their feelings that one experiences a desire to avoid them.’