Speaking Silently by Heather Taranto

I was both nervous and excited. As I walked into the classroom, my excitement growing in my chest much like that of a child on Christmas day, I slowly made my way to my chair choosing the seat closest to the door. While I was sitting in my cold hard chair and waiting with anticipation for my teacher to arrive, I could hardly contain my excitement knowing that in just a few moments I would be learning how to speak silently.

My mind began to drift to my beautiful, energetic and very expressive two-year-old son who lives in a world of silence. I was suddenly jerked back when the door opened and my teacher walked in, with her flowery skirt billowing behind her. She walked quietly to the board and began to slowly write on the board. It was so quiet that you could hear the squeaking of the marker on the board.

I was confused by all of this; the teacher did not speak a word, she just turned around handed out some papers and pointed at them. I assumed that meant I was to read the handout. At this point I was not sure what was happening; my first thought was why is she not speaking? As I started to read the paper, it was as if I was stuck by a bolt of lightning– my teacher was deaf! After that thought had settled into my now racing mind, my mind began to spin in another direction going full throttle because I had a million questions I wanted to ask. Then it hit me like a rock striking my head; I had no way of asking my questions as I did not know American Sign Language.

Sitting in that chair in that moment my mind went back to my beautiful son and sadness came over me like a raging river crashing over a rock. This must be what it is like to live in his world of silence. With no way to communicate, no way to ask for what you want or need; how difficult that world must be to live in!  Then came a KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK that startled me to the point of nearly falling out of my chair. It was the teacher banging on the table to let everyone know that class was about to begin.

We went over the rules for the class which were NO talking, ASL only. Wow, this was going to be a daunting task.  I was going to have to think differently, act differently, train my brain to talk backwards, repeat signs over and over, don’t look at the other person’s hands but look at their face, and always be polite.  Remembering to never forget to pay attention to your hand movements, because you would not want to sign the wrong word and offend someone, or worse make them laugh because you signed something very inappropriate; this was definitely going to be the most difficult thing I was going to learn.

After weeks of learning 60 signs a week, I began to feel the frustration build. Not being able to understand the concepts of the proper way of signing and all the rules that go with it; the proper hand movements, the correct finger placement, the correct motion and most importantly the correct direction in which you sign; my brain was on overload and I wanted to quit. However, I knew that I could not quit because I had a little boy at home that was counting on me to learn these signs so that I could teach him to breech his world of silence.

When I got home I was showing my son the sign for book and he repeated it.  My frustration vanished like a leaf in the wind. I saw the joy and excitement in my beautiful son’s ocean blue eyes and watched as the excitement crept across his face when he realized that he was now leaving the world of silence behind and he could communicate for the first time in two years. I knew in that moment that all my hard work, all the frustration, and all the time spent training my brain to think differently had paid off.  It was the happiest moment of my life to see the smiles on my children’s faces when they realized that they could now talk silently with their hands to their brother who lives in a world of silence.

 

Bio: I first came to Aims so that I could get a degree and make a better life for me and my kiddos. I am currently in my 2nd semester and working towards my associates degree in liberal arts for nursing. What I love about writing literary narratives is that it gives you the freedom to express how you feel in a fun and exciting way. I first was drawn to this form of writing when I took an English class here at Aims and fell in love with this form of expression. As an artist I enjoy causing an emotional reaction from people, whether it be amazement, laughter, tears or a smile and then I feel that I have accomplished my goal. One artist that inspired me was Sherman Alexie. I enjoyed the way he wrote his biography with detail and such expression that you could feel what he was feeling. I hope I can reach people in the same way he reached me.