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alifornia School for the Deaf, Riverside was all aflutter with activity. The football field was blindingly lit. Clumps of parents stood around in awful flourescent yellow vests proclaiming “Event Staff” in black letters. A long line of cars waited patiently to pull into the parking lot. I parked by a tree and made my way to the football field in time to see the kickoff, winding my way through a busy avenue of red easy-ups selling food, Riverside t-shirts, and phone services. Kids ran here and there throughout the vast crowd, a sea of sporadic red. Some of them had paws or “go cubs” drawn on their faces in red lipstick as they ran. I took my place awkwardly at the back of the crowd, trying to find a spot where I wouldn’t be in the way, but could still see the football game. As I watched the crowd around me, the cheerleaders trying to excite the crowd and the game happeining on the field, it struck me just how similar and different this event was from the events I had been to at my mainstream high school.
A festival atmosphere surrounded the crowd. It was impossible not to notice how excited everyone was to be there. As I joined them, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet the crowd was in comparison to a hearing crowd of the same size. There was very little talking going on, with everyone signing excitedly to their neighbor. Hearing children would run by me, chattering to their friends as they went, and students stood talking quietly in little groups. People were constantly walking by me on their way for another drink or a funnel cake, and they would inevitably be stopped by someone who was thrilled to see them. It seemed to me as if the whole crowd knew each other.
There was a cheer squad standing on the sidelines in red outfits. They stood in lines, high school aged girls in red and white cheer uniforms and little elementary aged girls in white t-shirts with red pleated skirts. They did several routines clumped together on the sidelines, staying together as well as if there were invisible music playing. At half time when they spread apart onto the field, they weren’t as united as when they had been clumped together, but they were still very good. As the night wore on, the littler girls joined the crowd and the cheerleaders started throwing things into the audience. Suddenly, people were waving their arms and cheering at the girls, just to get a little football thrown their way. It was the first time all night that the crowd seemed interested in what was happeining on the field. The cheerleaders were great, but somehow they didn’t seem to hold my interest like they normally do at a game.
On my way back from the snack booth at half time, I ran into Red from my Deaf Culture class and I realized that she was standing with a whole group of people who I also knew. I joined them, chatted a lot, and tried to keep one eye on the game. For some reason, I had such a hard time paying attention to anything going on out there. Every once in a while I would look up and realize that the score was different, but there had been no fanfare to tell me that things had changed, no collective cheer or groan from the audience about another touchdown being scored.
Overall my experience was great, if a little unusual. It took me a long time to find people I knew in the crowd, and I spent most of my time feeling outside of things. At the same time, people tapping my shoulder to ask me to move or signing “excuse me”, and being otherwise treated politely like a true member of Deaf Culture, made me feel like I belonged. While things were remarkably similar to the Homecoming activities I remembered from my own days in high schoo, the lack of noise and the lack of attention payed to the game really marked this event as different. I think that if I knew more people there I would have loved going to Homecoming. As it was I had a very good time and would certainly go again.
y Deaf Culture teacher asked us to get into groups and adapt a regular hearing children’s story to contain elements of Deaf Culture, including pictures. She would then turn them into a book of short stories for an elementary school classroom at a deaf school. My group picked the Grimm fairy tale The 12 Dancing Princesses, and I’m so proud of how it turned out!! I couldn’t resist posting it here with the pictures. I did all the Illustrations myself. Here it is:
nce upon a time, a hearing king had twelve deaf daughters, each one more beautiful than the last. They all slept together in one large, splendid room. Their beds stood side by side and every night when they went to bed the king locked the door and bolted it so he knew his children were safe. Every morning when he unlocked the door, he saw that their shoes were worn out, with holes in the toes and laces broken. The king ordered an investigation, but after many weeks of trying, no one could find out how the princesses were able to leave the locked and bolted room.
The king was very upset that he had to spend so much royal money on new shoes for his daughters, for princesses could not wear shabby shoes. He proclaimed that whoever could discover where his daughters went at night could choose one of them for his wife and be king after his death. If, however, they could not discover where his daughters went after three days and nights, they should be banished from his kingdom forever.
It was not long before a prince from the next kingdom came and offered to discover where the princesses danced at night. He was welcomed warmly into the palace with a large feast, and in the evening, was led into a bedroom next to the pricesses bedroom. He was to watch and discover where the twelve went, so the princess’s bedroom door was left open. Nevertheless, the prince’s eyelids grew heavy and he fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning, all twelve pairs of shoes had holes in them and he had no idea how this had occured. The same thing happened on the second and third nights, so he was banished forever from the kingdom. Many others came after and undertook the mystery, but none discovered how the shoes got holes in them and were banished as the first prince had been.
One day a poor, wounded veteran found himself on the road to the town where the princesses lived. He met a funny old woman on the road who asked him where he was going.
“I really don’t know,” he answered jokingly. “I thought I might discover where the princesses danced holes in their shoes and become the king.”
“That’s not so difficult.” Said the old woman mysteriously. “The secret is that you must pretend to be sound asleep.”
With that, she gave him a little cloak and said, “If you put this on, you will be invisible. Then you can follow the princesses at night.”
When the soldier recieved this good advice, he decided to try his luck. He went to the King and announced that he also wanted to take the challenge. The King welcomed the old soldier, and had his servants dress him in royal garments. At the feat that night, the oldest princess stood up and performed an ABC story in sign language for everyone in the hall. Her signing was beautiful and it made the soldier want to learn more. It also made him want to succeed more than ever before.
Later that evening, he was led into the bedroom next to the twelve princesses. He lay down immediately, and after a while began to snore as if in the deepest sleep.
The twelve princesses felt the vibrations of his snoring, and so they got up. They then opened the wardrobes and brought out pretty dresses and dressed themselves in front of the long mirrors. They sprang about and rejoiced at the thought of going to the dance. Because the girls were deaf, they didn’t realize how noisy they were being while getting dressed and dancing about laughing. But the youngest princess wasn’t feeling joyful and signed to them that she had a bad feeling. Her sisters just thought she was being silly and teased her.
When they were all ready to go, they looked carefully at the soldier, but he had closed his eyes and did not move or stir, so they felt themselves quite secure.
The eldest went to her bed and tapped it. It immediately sank into the ground, revealing a secret pathway. The sisters went down through the opening, the eldest going first. The soldier, who had watched everything, did not wait any longer. He sprang out of bed, put on his invisibility cloak, and went down last behind the youngest princess. Halfway down the stairs he stepped a little on her dress. She was terrified, and she began waving her arms to get her sister’s attention.
She signed, “My dress is stuck. Someone is pulling my dress!”
The eldest signed back, “Don’t be silly, you caught it on a nail.” They then continued down the stairs.
When they reached the bottom of the stairs, they were standing in a wonderful avenue of trees, all the leaves of which were silver shone and glistened. The soldier thought, “I must carry a token away with me.” and broke off a twig from one of the trees. The youngest thought she saw something, but since her sisters had made fun of her before, she decided not to say anything.
As they traveled deeper into the forest, the leaves of the trees turned to gold, and then to diamonds. Again, the soldier broke branches from each of the trees, and each time the youngest princess thought she saw something move, but he was too quick for her to be sure. They went on and came to a great lake where twelve little boats stood, and in each boat sat a handsome deaf prince. Each took one princess with him. The soldier seated himself next to the youngest.
The youngest prince signed to his princess, “I don’t know why the boat is so much heavier today, and I will have to row with all my strength if I am to get across the lake.”
“What could be the cause,” she signed, “but the warm weather? I feel very warm too.”
On the opposite side of the lake stood a splendid, brightly lit pavilion, perfect light for signing and dancing. The princes rowed over and endered a silver and gold ballroom. Each prince danced with the girl he loved most all night long. The dancers could feel the pulsating music and they moved with so much joy. They did not know that the soldier danced with them unseen. They danced until 3 o’clock in the morning, and when they were finished all their shoes had holes. The princes then rowed them back across the lake and this time the soldier seated himself by the eldest, so he could get back to bed without suspicion.
On the shore, the girls took leave of their princes, and promised to return the following night. As they were saying their long goodbyes, the soldier ran out in front and lay down quickly on his bed. When the twelve had come up slowly and wearily from their midnight dance, the soldier was already snoring so strong that they could feel the vibrations. They felt confident that he had slept the whole time they were away. They took off their beautiful dresses, laid them away, put the worn out shoes under the beds, and went to sleep.
The next morning the soldier did not tell the king what he saw. Instead, he went with the twelve princesses again to their wonderful dance, and again the next night. Everything happened has it had before, and each night the princesses danced until their shoes were worn to pieces.
When it came time for the soldier to give his answer to the king, he took the three twigs with him as proof. The sisters stood outside, peeking through the window, trying to read his lips as he spoke to the king. They noticed the tree twigs and wondered, worried, how he got them. The youngest concluded, “He must have followed us.” They knew they had been caught.
When the king asked the soldier, “Where have my twelve daughters danced there shoes to pieces at night?” the soldier answered, “in an underground pavilion with twelve princes.” The soldier then explained how he had found out.
The king then had his court guard get his twelve daughters and bring them in. The king yelled at the girls as he always did, thinking that if he shouted loud enough they could hear him. Of course, it was not until the interpreter signed that they understood what their father was saying. He asked if the soldier told the truth. When the princesses saw that they were betrayed, many of them closed their eyes so they could not see the interpreter signing. However, the eldest felt obliged to confess all. Hearing this, the king asked the soldier which one of his daughters he would have for his wife.
The soldier answered, “I am no longer young, so give me the eldest.” But he was also thinking of how beautifully she had signed the ABC story on his first night in the palace.
The engagement was announced by the royal herald and the whole kingdom was invited to the wedding the following month. The sisters were dismayed that their older sister was marrying a hearing man, but eventually he won them over. During that month, the soldier used pen and paper to communicate with his fiance, but he was secretly taking sign language lessons. On his wedding day, the soldier signed his vows to his new bride. He learned as much as he could about the deaf world, and always went with his wife and her sisters to all their social activities. As the soldier’s sign language skills grew, so did the love between him and his princess, and they lived happily ever after. The End,
woke in a pool of conspicuous silence and immediatley felt strange. Then I remembered I was deaf today and I suddenly felt excited. The earplugs I wore didn’t block out the sound completely, but they blocked out enough noise that I couldn’t hear much. The little I did hear was completely distorted, sounds seeming to come from places they shouldn’t, and not sounding anything like they did before. In my 24 hours of ‘deafness’ I learned a lot of things about myself and my relationships. I also understood why deaf people call themselves a linguistic minority, and don’t think of themselves as disabled in any way. My morning, afternoon, and evening seemed to separate themselves in to natural parts of a regular day – alone, out in a hearing world, and a typical evening at home.
My morning was very odd. It struck me immediately what I was missing, and I realized that everything has a sound. It’s not just the things you think about making noise, like a squeaky door or the tick of the clock. As I turn over, the bed sheets make a rustling noise, and even my hand makes a soft thunk as it connects with the hard cover of my book. Missing all these things made me feel quite disoriented.
At the same time, it was an average morning. I typically spend much of my time alone, and you don’t need hearing to appreciate The Sims 3 computer game. Watching TV in closed captioning was different for me, but I found it oddly peaceful not to be bothered with the din of comercials. It was only when I lost my keys and I had a panic attack about being incapable of finding them that I realized how much not being able to hear affected me. When I realized what was happening, I had to sit myself down and give myself a pep talk. I found them quickly after that, but more importantly, I lost the feeling of incapability. I realized fully that there wasn’t anything I usually do that I couldn’t anymore because of being deaf.
My husband, Brian, and I had made plans to go out to lunch together at the college where he works. Usually, I give him a call, he comes out of his electronically keyed office, and we pick a place to eat.
“I’m here” I texted him as soon as I arrived that day, but evidently he felt texting wasn’t hard enough for me. Instead, he insisted I come to the office and write what I wanted to the woman at the front desk before he would come out. My note “I’m deaf today. Is Brian there?” brought him out with a sadistic smile of glee.
“Dining hall OK? It’s buffet style.” He wrote to me, and when I nodded, we set off.
We winked, made silly faces, and shared jokes with pen and paper all of lunch time, but he was definitely treating me differently than normal. He physically stopped me from walking into the dining hall first so he could talk to the woman and pay for us. It felt so unnatural. He also proceeded to take my hand and lead me around to each station so I could see all that they offered. If he couldn’t attract my attention, he would just reach out and grab me. I also noticed that in moments when I didn’t understand his gestures, he would resort to talking to me (which I couldn’t hear, because of the ear plugs). I felt a little bit like a child. We did have a great time anyway. Brian doesn’t really sign, althogh he knows the signs I use most (like ‘keys where?’ ‘ready?’ and ‘your mom’) but he learned a few new ones that day. We laughed and wrote and generally had a wonderful time, just like we normally do at lunch. I went away from the experience thinking that the communication barrier between us wasn’t such a big deal after all.
After lunch, I decided to go to Target and test out being deaf among strangers. By this time, I was feeling confident about navigating in the hearing world. I looked at a million things, tried on a bunch of clothes, and bought a sweater. The only think I noticed that was different from a normal Target experience was that people aren’t very nice to you when you don’t speak to them after they’ve said hello. Otherwise, it was just the same as being hearing.
I took a very peaceful car ride home to make dinner. Out of habit, I turned on the oven and then went to check my e-mail until I hear the beep tell me it was pre-heated, without thinking about the fact that I couldn’t hear the beep. A half-hour later, I realized that the oven had been pre-heated for a while, and that I was going to be making dinner without the aid of timers. No reading fiction and cooking at the same time for me. When Brian came home from work, we ate dinner without communication. Without the notebook between us, things felt stinted and strange. We stared off into space awkwardly. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I went and grabbed a piece of computer paper and a pencil and placed it on the table between us. Brian started writing right away.
“Isn’t it odd that we have to have a paper and pencil to communicate even the simplest thing?” he asked me.
I nodded. “I wonder if we would still like each other after a while if one of us was deaf and the other wasn’t.” I wrote back.
“I was thinking that too.” He wrote. “There’s a lot I wanted to tell you today that I didn’t because I didn’t want to write a novel.”
I realized right then that although we had joked around and been silly at lunch, I really had no idea how his day had gone. We didn’t talk about office drama or how school had been for me the day before. We hadn’t talked about anything that really mattered to us. I imediately felt so disconnected. Superficially, things were just the same as always, but under the surface there was a definitive communication barrier that we couldn’t cross.
When I took stock of my day, things were surprisingly normal I had to make a few adjustments to my regular life for not being able to hear, but otherwise I acted and functioned just as I always do. Certainly, I lived a more solitary existence than usual that day, but my morning alone, time out with others, and typical evening home were much like they always are. It was only when I tried to connect with Brian on a non-superficial level that I ran into problems. I realized that if I became deaf tomorrow I wouldn’t really miss hearing things, but my relationships with those I care about would change in immesurable ways if we suddenly didn’t speak the same language. And change is always scary.
want to set the record straight a little about why hearing people stare at those who sign. Don’t get me wrong… it’s still considered rude to stare at anyone no matter what the reason, and I’m not making excuses. I just don’t think that Deaf people always realize how much hearing people admire ASL.
I’ll admit it, before I learned better I was one of those people staring at signers, trying to look like I was minding my own buisness and doing a really bad job of it. As I looked at the signers, I always thought ‘what a beautiful language. I wish I could do that.’ Feelings of envy and longing washed through me as I watched others do something I thought I would never learn to do myself. I’m sure the look on my face wasn’t always so friendly, but inside I was filled with nothing but admiration. Every other hearing person I’ve talked to has told me that they feel the same, whether they plan to learn ASL or not.
My teacher said something the other day that made me think Deaf people didn’t always realize this. She implied that she always felt like people were judging her for not speaking, that ASL was somehow a taboo to hearing people. While I still think staring is rude and people shouldn’t be doing it, I also thought that deaf people should know that it isn’t usually judgement that you see on their faces, it’s usually envy. Hearing people think ASL is as beautiful as Deaf people think it is, we just get fewer chances to experience it.
inda Bove was born on 1945, to two Deaf parents. She grew up learning to speak ASL, and attended the New Jersey school for the Deaf. After graduating, she attended Gallaudet University where she studied Library Science and performed in plays for fun. One summer, she attended a program set up by the National Theater for the Deaf, and decided to join their company after graduating from Gallaudet instead of becoming a librarian as she had previously planned to. She met a man named Ed Waterstreet who was also a member of the National Theater for the Deaf company and they were married in 1970.
When the National Theater for the Deaf was asked to do some work for Sesame Street, Linda was excited to join them, and when Sesame Street decided they wanted to create a position for her, she was thrilled. Linda became Linda the Librarian to millions of children around the United States. She was able to show hearing people a positive portrayal of a proud Deaf woman who was capable of anything. She also taught American Sign Language to children through the show, and published several books designed for teaching ASL to kids. Her role as Linda the Librarian lasted from 1971 – 2003, and brought Linda the distinction of holding the longest roll of any Deaf person in the entertainment industry.
In between her work on Sesame Street, Linda also appeared on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow, and on Happy Days. She also understudied the roll of Sarah Norman in Children of a Lesser God. In 1991, Linda and her husband founded Deaf West Theater in Los Angeles. Deaf West puts on plays and musicals, performed simultaneously in ASL and spoken English. They won several awards for their adaption of Big River, and premiered the first revival of Pippin since the 1970’s at the Mark Taper Forum in 2008.
Today Linda continues to perform on the stage, sometimes with her husband Ed. She is also a big supporter of an organization called the Non Traditional Casting Project, which encourages the casting of minorities and people with perceived disabilities. Through her work in spreading the knowledge of sign into mainstream communities, and also by providing a positive roll for deaf children everywhere, Linda has been a great ambassador for Deaf Culture.