Calling all radical Deaf Community members to start blasting me, sending me hate mail, telling me I'm anti-this-that-and-the-other! Just make sure you sign your name to the post, because ANONYMOUS comments just don't do it for me. Wait a second! No one has been hateful, disparaging or condescending, so what does that mean? The only vibes I've been getting are acceptance, love, passion, and THE NEED TO ASSERT A LOVE FOR ASL THAT IS A REFLECTION OF AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY. I know what it means to give up a language that is a reflection of your entire being. No one understands my sense of humor in this country, and I can assure you that everyone who knows me thinks I'm crazy.
Only when I spend thirty minutes with my Texan friend Rhonda, do I really feel understood...we speak our own common language. I kind of have truck-driver-like tendencies and in those thirty minutes, I let it all rip! Not only that, but we come from similar backgrounds, we psychologically connect. When we hang up the phone, we say "luv ya!" like I did in high school, college and before getting married and leaving all of my friends and their daily lives.
I have this middle school group of three that kills me. They listen to 50 Cent, so you can imagine the language they throw at me during our lessons. Every other word out of their mouths is "F-this," and "F-that." Once they screamed the "N****r* word -that they learned thanks to 50 Cent and asked me what it meant. How do you explain an entire history of National shame that rests behind one word to a group of twelve year olds? I feel all the negative power behind that word, that they will never be able to perceive... A couple of lessons ago, I taught them, "Talk to the Hand!" (keep in mind, I left the USA during the Rikki Lake years...omg) The other lesson, I was reviewing the present perfect tense of verbs and one of the boys told the other that he was an idiot, so this guy threw up his hand and responded, "Talk My Hand!" I don't even know how he remembered that -Oh gosh, I was on the floor. Then, I corrected him, and he said, "If I write the word "stupid" on my hand and throw it up again, wouldn't it be even more effective?" I thought that was kind of an interesting take on the whole thing. Anyway, there is a point here, although I think I've lost it...Oh yeah, languages, cultures behind the language, emotions and cultures behind the languages...and so on...
I did not let the Italian language barrier stop me from adapting this lifestyle to meet my needs and enrich me. A language barrier is a strong obstacle to overcome because there are so many subtleties in a language as rich as Italian. There is a history behind that language and emotions attached to every word. Luckily, I find myself in Tuscany where their mouths are as foul as mine:) and I have had the opportunity to meet exceptional people, diverse and accepting of my family.
Not being able to adequately express myself in the beginning was very frustrating to me, especially given the fact that my son had urgent needs that needed to be met. I rolled up my sleeves and dove into the language to learn it as quickly as possible. My family could not communicate with my son, because they did not take it upon themselves to learn Italian (although my Mom and stepfather did attend a course for four weeks that they eventually abandoned)- they formed their own communication system of broken English, choppy Italian and gestures.
Do I know ASL? No. Do I need ASL to function in my everyday life? No. Would learning ASL enrich my life? Without a doubt and the fact that it is directly associated to deafness makes it all the more appetizing to me given the fact that my son is deaf...that's why I'm here. Although Jordan doesn't sign, he is deaf. Although I must speak Italian every day, all day, I am American - English is my native language. I understand how a common language can represent a culture, but it should not represent a barrier that limits that culture from growing.
As an aside, I finally had a morning free, so I spent it getting highlights and coloring my hair. I was sitting in the hairdresser's when my cell phone rang. It was Jordan. "Mamma, please come and pick me up from school. I don't feel well." Well, I had the color on my hair and was hardly in a position to leave, so I asked, "What's wrong?" He said, " I don't want to talk about it over the phone, just come and get me." "Jordan," I said, "unless you are vomitting or have a high fever, I can not come and get you. What is the problem?" His voice then got really small, sad and pathetic and I'm thinking, oh shit, what is the problem..."Mom, they had the class representative elections again and I didn't win. MY HEART IS CRYING." Drama. Feeling rejected...another heart-wrenching mom moment where you have to let him suffer to help him grow. "Jordan," I explained, "you were already elected class representative for four months, it's someone else's turn. This doesn't mean that your classmates don't love you, it just means that someone else has to have a turn." How do you talk to a crying heart by phone? I told him to pass me the phone to the custodian who understood what was happening and reassured me that she would let him stay there a little bit to help him pull himself together. The good news: my son can talk on a cell phone to me and cry his heart out sincerely. The bad news: I am a Mamma, hear me suffer. The best news: when I came home from my hair appointment (lookin' hot)I found Jordan calmly eating lunch with Luca, and now he's on his way to his guitar lesson...