First, a couple of items of business. Numero uno: I am incredibly honored to have been freshly pressed (that sounds like I was run through a juicer), and I am touched and humbled by the responses I have gotten and those of you who have started following this little blog. Thank you for reading and for all of your comments – some that made me tear up, some that made me laugh, and one that, admittedly, was pretty gross (to be fair, there was a fart reference in the post in question, so I’ll let it slide). Numero dos: I am recovering from a nasty flu-like virus as I write this. So, any errors, let’s chalk it up to the Dayquil, shall we?
Now, let’s talk about the good stuff. No, not the GOOD good stuff. I’ve told you before- my grandma reads this. I want to talk a bit about what it was like growing up with profoundly deaf parents. I’ve never intended for this blog to be about the deaf/hoh experience, but I never thought people would be terribly interested. Apparently, I was wrong, so, when the mood hits, I’ll continue to write about it.
A while back, I had the following conversation with my cousins.
Lily (Age 12): So, I invented this thing called sledbagging.
Me (attempting to hide laughter at name of said invention): What the heck is that?
Maddie (Lily’s sister, age 9): Basically, you get in a sleeping bag and slide down the stairs.
Me: What?! Doesn’t that hurt?
Maddie: Not as much as the laundry basket! That was Lily’s first idea.
Me: Lily, what the heck are you making Maddie do this stuff for?
Lily: Do I LOOK dumb enough to try this stuff first?
I, too, forced my little brother to do a lot of questionable stuff, my favorite of which was tying tomato stakes to his snow boots and making him “ski” down the rocky hill in our backyard (no, it didn’t work). I got away with A LOT because my mother couldn’t hear me plotting and planning. Nor could she hear the screaming that ensued when my plans went awry, as they inevitably did.
My brother is completely hearing and as a child my hearing was not as poor as it is now, so I suppose you could say that we were hearing children raised by deaf parents. I’ll preface this next sentence with a “sorry, mom!” but we cashed in on it in every way, shape and form possible. That’s right- these two innocent looking kids=hellions. I think I was acting out because I was resentful of my damned hair (I hadn’t heard of frizz ease yet). Or maybe I was just a brat.
What, exactly, did we do? We talked back under our breath (I’d be an awesome ventriloquist- you can’t move your lips- deaf parents lip read), we snuck out of our rooms at night and hid behind the couch in back of them watching TV we had no business watching, we hid out in the attic that we were expressly forbidden from entering, snuck out of our rooms while grounded, we would talk to each other from our bedrooms at night, listen to music when we were supposed to be quietly doing our homework or “thinking about what we did,” etc.
I have a really bad microwave track record. The first microwave (yes, I said the FIRST) I ever set a fire in, my mother was downstairs on the computer and Josh and I were upstairs trying to make popcorn. The bag burst into flames and we started screaming like maniacs. I unplugged it and we ran back and forth from the sink to the microwave, putting out the fire. When my mom still didn’t appear, we cleaned it up and I sprayed her perfume ALL OVER THE KITCHEN. It was like a Perfumania detonated their version of the atom(izer) bomb. She came up shortly after we’d repaired the damage, sniffed the air and said, “Have you been playing with my perfume?” That’s right. I set a kitchen fire as a child with my mother in the house, she wasn’t asleep or in any other way unconscious, and I got away with it.
Our house was always super popular on Halloween. It wasn’t because we gave out full-size candy bars or we had fabulously creepy decorations. On the contrary- my mother loathes halloween. It really wasn’t her fault we were inadvertently ready for it 24/7, 365 days a year. Whenever the doorbell rang, the phone rang, or the alarm clock went off, the lights in the house would go on and off, the bed would vibrate (I know, I know- there isn’t a joke on the planet I haven’t heard about THAT one), and an extremely shrill noise went off in short, staccato blasts. Depending on how many times/in what pattern this occurred, my parents could tell what was happening. Essentially, we had several elements of a haunted house without even trying.
Sometimes, it would be a bit of a party trick to show off my parents. It broke the ice. Whenever I had a new friend over, I’d demonstrate the joys of having deaf parents. I remember my dad in the kitchen chopping zucchini when my friend Melissa came over for our first playdate. We ventured to the kitchen and facing his back I said, “I HATE zucchini- that’s all we ever eat!” He kept on chopping, completely oblivious, and her eyes bugged out of her head. I actually LOVE zucchini, but apparently, that was irrelevant.
I wasn’t all evil. I helped a lot. I interpreted endlessly, I made phone calls that no one would expect of a child who hadn’t hit double digits, and I learned tolerance from a very young age. I had my heart broken, too. When you learn about tolerance, you must also learn about intolerance.
In Helen Keller’s time and long before, deaf people were labeled “deaf and dumb.” What we don’t realize, perhaps because many people have not met a deaf or hard of hearing person, is that the attitude persists today. I’m not talking about the people who have lost a little hearing as they age and go to the mall for a Miracle Ear. I’m talking about people like my mother, who didn’t hear a thing until she was two years old and got her first hearing aid. She’s amazing. She underwent years and year of speech therapy and you can hardly tell she’s deaf when she speaks. For a profoundly deaf person- holy crap. I can only hope that if I have children, they will grow up to be tolerant, even if the world itself is full of ignorance. And they better watch out. I know all the damn tricks. And mom, don’t even THINK about encouraging them.