There is a large sign-language training program in Tucson, Arizona. I know this because in the year that I lived in that town, people would practically pee in their pants when they saw my ginormous hearing aids. They'd start to sign furiously. They refused to talk to me unless I was looking directly at them.
It was pretty annoying.
Then when I started my UC Berkeley sojourn, I hit it again. Oh! You're deaf! And then a frenzy of hand motions followed. It reminded me of Chris Rock speaking Chinese while doing "karate", some flurry of something coupled with a lot of mismatched mouth movement.
I'd smile politely...wait.... nod....wait while they hand-flurry-smurried....smile politely a bit more....wait... smiled a bit more tightly, a tad more brightly, raising my eyebrows: all right? You done with that now? Because I don't sign. No, really. I don't. I don't sign. No, stop it. Just stop it already.
And sure, a big fat chunk of that was my being able and willing and ready to be a part of my own culture. Accept my people, claim them. And let them accept me, hopefully claim me back. When the time came and I was ready, I took a class at the local Community College and it was beyond brilliant. I adored it. And swiftly thereafter was unable to continue as I went and got myself pregnant, married and all the rest of it.
Fast forward two years. I had a typically-developing son who at 20 months wasn't doing much more than voicing profound grunts. And I found out that the baby I was carrying, Moxie, would be coming with an extra chromosome. On the heels of that news, I found out that kids with Down syndrome apparently take to signing like ducks to water so I thought, all right. We are going to do it. We, as a family, are going to learn how to sign.
Then and there, 6 months pregnant, I took Micah and waddled on over to the public library. Borrowed every last video on sign language learning they had, watched them and just about passed out from the sheer boredom of it all. It knocked me out faster than an episode of Super Why!. Boooooo-ring does not capture the near-exquisite ache of sheer misery those programs put my woebegone self through.
Wretched, I reached for the last remaining DVD we had to wade through, one rather cheerfully entitled, "Signing Time", "great...just great", I thought, wearily and warily looking at the cover featuring a bright and perky lady in an orange sweater and - what, bandaids on her fingers? - Bleh.
CONTINUED ON BLOG: Signing Time Giveaway at
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