Tasty Treats

My mom and I had decided to go to Dunkin’ Donuts as a treat to ourselves after a long day of errands. I’m nine, so this is the most amazing thing that could happen to me. We look at all of our options, and I’m feeling rabid for sugar. I can smell the sweet dough in the air and my stomach is screaming at me.  

I turn and sign to my mom. “What do you want me to order?” I’m already used to being an interpreter for her and am fully aware that I am her voice in public. 

“You choose anything you want for both of us.” She smiles at me, knowing that this is a dream come true. 

Even though I’m young, I’m very conscious of the eyes on us as we sign to one another. I don’t mind much, but I don’t really understand why everyone feels the need to stare at two people communicating. 

I walk up to the counter with my mom, eyeing the chocolate donuts. The man behind the counter looks at me with sad eyes and greets me.  

“Hi honey, what can I get for you two?” 

I tap my fingers on my chin, not really sure why I am, I just know that I’ve seen people in movies do it while they think.  

“I would like the double chocolate donut and the chocolate donut with sprinkles, please and thank you!” 

He grabs the donuts and hands them to us and my mom pays, while I examine my goodies. 

“Don’t leave yet, give me one second.”  

The man turns around and grabs another donut, while I translate what he said to my mom, both of us standing there, confused.  

He hands us a chocolate glazed long john, which I add to my treasure. 

“I’m sorry your mom can’t hear.” 

“Okay, thank you!” 

My mom and I walk out and she asks me what had just happened. I knew that this situation was weird, but I was too young to understand just how weird this was. Things like this happened fairly often, and it wasn’t until much later that I had understood that I was being pitied for my parents being disabled.

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Learning to communicate pt. 2

So I had written about my experience learning how to speak and sign, but I wanted to talk about the opposite of that. My parents are still learning how to speak to this day, because they often mispronounce a word, so I teach them how to speak. I mostly do this with my mom, but if she can’t say a word correctly, we’ll sit together and I’ll slowly say the word and have her copy me. If that doesn’t work, something that she’ll do is put her hand on my throat while I speak and compare the vibrations from my vocal cords to her own.

However, there’s also another side of learning to communicate. By that, I mean that my hearing friends have to figure out a way to communicate without just relying on me to interpret. I often forget that not everyone understands my parents, so I don’t always interpret for friends until they struggle to understand and it clicks for me. One example I have is of my boyfriend. In the 3.5 years that we’ve been together, he has recently gotten much better at understanding and figuring out other ways to communicate other than just having me be the middle man.

Superpowers

In my personal experience, I’ve always noticed that since my parents were deaf, it was always like their other senses were extremely heightened. I’ve briefly talked about this in another blog post, but they would smell my chocolate the second I opened the wrapper and know I was sneaking candy.

Even now, they both can smell things that I can’t at all. We do have to take the garbage out slightly more than I’d like to, because my parents can smell any garbage even with a scented bag and hiding the garbage can under the sink.

Besides having a super heightened sense of smell, they didn’t have many other superpowers, but they used that superpower extremely well. It was usually to catch me feeding my sugar addiction, but as parents it was the best superpower they could probably ask for.

CODA Habits

There are a lot of things that I’ve noticed I do because of the fact that I’m a CODA. They’re mostly just a bunch of random little habits that I’ve picked up over my 25 years of life and how it’s all influenced me.

One thing I do often is sign to myself. Instead of talking to myself, I’ll subtly sign or finger spell my thoughts or a song that’s on my mind. I’ve already mentioned this in an older blog, but I often finger spell words so that I can visualize how things are spelled. Even as I’m typing this, I actually caught myself signing my thoughts to myself instead of typing and deleting everything.

Another habit that I have because of being a CODA is that I visualize things different than most. What I mean by that is that when talking about a certain place, I’ll point in a direction that may not be the actual direction of where that place is. That’s because of sign language in general and how places are referred to. While signing, you don’t need to point in the exact direction of where you’re talking about, but instead you place it somewhere and visualize it in front of you. After placing it in front of yourself, that’s where it lives. This is fairly hard to explain in just a blog and it can be confusing to people who didn’t grow up like this. It’s actually something I only recently realized that I even do, because I’ll often point in a direction when talking to my boyfriend and every time I do that, he gets extremely confused because it’s not how hearing brains work.

Live Entertainment

So you may think that things like acting onstage may be hard for a deaf person and that they may only be able to get parts as deaf people, but I’m here to tell you the opposite. There is a whole world of deaf theatre that most people would be surprised about.

As a kid, I distinctly remember going to see deaf shows and how much I loved it. How it works is that every character on stage will sign, although they don’t all talk. The cast is also not all deaf, but some were interpreters or coda’s like me. People that didn’t talk had voice actors in the front row speaking for them while they act and dance.

Something that many people have probably seen in their life is that you don’t clap for deaf people. Instead, applause is shown by raising your hands above your head and shaking your hands, almost like you’re trying to get water off of them.

Interpreters

Interpreters have been a huge part of my life and after years of needing them for my parents, you start to become familiar with certain people. There were a few interpreters that essentially saw me grow up, since they always happened to be my parents interpreter for whatever event we needed them for.  We usually would have my school hire an interpreter for things like plays or musicals that I was in.

However, interpreting has actually made its’ way into popular culture now, and it’s a really interesting thing for me to see. I grew up with people saying interpreters were almost too distracting and now, I personally feel like people seek out to watch them as an art form. I think a reason for that is the fact that there are young deaf people in the world and the culture has changed and grown.

An example of that is interpreting with music. I remember growing up and watching interpreters at concerts with my mom, and it was nothing like it is today. ASL wasn’t as popular as it is now and so the sign language was more direct and even though it was beautiful to watch, it wasn’t as passionate as I think it is now.

If you haven’t heard of her, I highly recommend looking up Amber Galloway-Gallego. I personally think that she is one of the main reasons that people are interested in sign language and why it has become such a big part of popular culture. She really is able to show so much emotion when she interprets and I think it’s amazing to watch. I feel like a new video of her interpreting will pop up on my Facebook every week.

It’s also different for me because rap and hip hop is popular now, and watching rap be interpreted is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen. Mostly because it’s something that requires a lot of body language and emotion and also, I know how hard it is. It’s hard to explain to people why this is so funny for me, but it’s just the most hilarious thing I can watch.

Deaf Events

Growing up, I knew a lot of the deaf community in the suburbs, and that’s because of something called the Western Suburban Assosciation of the Deaf, or WSAD. WSAD is a huge community with lots of fun events for deaf people, and it was the only time I ever communicated with other CODA’s.

There were two events that I looked forward to every year. There was a big deaf picnic during the summer that I always liked, and it was how I ended up meeting one of my good friends. The other was candlelight bowling. Every year around Christmas, WSAD would host a Christmas bowling party and it was what I looked forward to every year.

WSAD is how my parents have also met a lot of their friends because there are a lot more deaf events than you may think. There is a deaf bowling league that my dad is involved in, there’s a big deaf day at six flags, and deaf ice cream socials. I haven’t been to a deaf event in many years, but I remember loving them as a child and I remember being really excited to go to everything every year. These events are a great way to immerse yourself in deaf culture, and there’s even a huge deaf expo at Harper College every year that I definitely recommend checking out if you’re interested in this world!