It was fragile, I could feel that at once. I didn't want to accidentally knock against something delicate and have it break when I wasn't expecting it, so I moved my fingers with the utmost care and made sure that it was safe. With one finger I gently strummed the strings.
"It's out of tune," I told Mum, although it wasn't by far. The one advantage of being blind was that my ears were far stronger than perhaps they would have been otherwise; I could hear things that other people couldn't, and it was useful when it came to music. "Can you give me an A?"
"An A?" Here, her musical illiteracy was going to be a problem; I tried not to hold it against her and moved into another position so that I could rest the violin on my knee. I'd heard so much about them. There should be a bow in the case - yes, there it was - but I didn't know how to hold it, so I left it there for a while. I was going to need a couple of proper lessons.
"On the piano." I heard her get up and walk over, before pausing and asking me which one was the A. Was it so much to ask to have a mother that could recognise different notes on a piano? With a slight sigh, I rested my gift back in its case and walked over to her, feeling along the keys until I found the three that surrounded the elusive note. "It's that one," I told her, pressing it so that the clear sound ran out like a bell.
Walking back to my violin, I felt for the adjusters. It was only a tiny bit out, and I didn't dare risk the pegs. For a start, I didn't know which was which, and I would be sure to break something if I tried to use them. It would be better if I stuck to the safe side. Mum was still playing that A, and I soon had the strings in tune.
"A D?" I asked her. She felt up and down the piano ... A, B, C, D. So, she was learning. "You know I won't be able to pick this up on my own?" I asked her. "I don't even know how to hold the bow."
"Yes, I've booked you a lesson for tomorrow evening. If you don't mind, that is. You've got nothing else to be doing." There was a slight sadness in her voice: I realised that I hadn't even said 'thank you'.
I was unwilling to let the fiddle go, but let it go I did. It nestled back into its velvet case and I leaned forward to hug her. "Thanks, Mum. It's the best - the best gift I've ever had." And I meant it. But how much it would come to mean to me later I would never have dreamed; how much of my life it would change never occurred to me.
"You're welcome." I put my hand against her cheek - it was hot, so she must be blushing. "You asked for one, and I couldn't bear the thought of you spending all your time with just the piano for company. You need some prospects in life. Perhaps this will give you the chance to get out and meet people."
"I couldn't join an orchestra," I said. I'd heard about them, too, but I knew it would involve being able to read music on sight and I couldn't do that. "I can't read music. But perhaps a smaller group, with people that would be willing for me to learn it by ear..."
"Perhaps." She sounded wistful, a little bit like how I felt. "Perhaps."