When Caterina was small what she wanted most of all was a doll. She never got one. Her parents did not have enough money for toys, and Caterina had to make do with caring for rag dolls or the raising of painted stick figures. Some were terribly torn, others too short or awfully skinny; there was always some imperfection.
“When I grow up, I’m going to have a real doll. You’ll see. And it’ll be perfect!” she said. Hardly had she uttered this when – because time has no time for standing still, it rushes ahead – she was already grown up.
One evening in April of 1452, Caterina gave birth to a boy and counted to make sure that he had all his fingers and toes and checked him over carefully from top to bottom. Then she breathed a sigh of relief. Nothing was missing. He had everything that a real doll should have. Moreover, he roared into the warm spring night like a lion. She named him Leonardo.
At that moment neither Caterina nor anyone else could have imagined that Leonardo was in fact quite different from all other newborn babies. He had something extra. Something exceptional that couldn’t be seen then, but would soon appear: talent that would astound people for many centuries to come.
Beneath the hot Tuscany sun, children grow as fast as olives. Leonardo was not yet four years old, but he was already running all over the little town of Vinci. Once he was almost trampled by a horse; another time he climbed up into a pigeon loft chasing a cat. Neither high places nor animals frightened him.
“Last night I dreamt that I flew over the highest mountain with a flock of swans,” he said to his father Piero and pointed at the peak that rose up behind the town. “When we landed at the river, I put my head under one of the swan’s wing and went to sleep.”
Piero laughed. “People aren’t birds. They can’t fly,” he explained to his son. But Leonardo didn‘t give up. He picked up a stick and traced the figure of a flying man in the soft earth around the olive press. The downpour that evening washed the picture away completely, but that didn’t bother Leonardo. His grandfather Antonio gave him some pens and paper on his birthday, and once again he drew the bird-man. This time not a single drop of rain washed it away.
translation: P.O. Lawson