We took the MARC train from Baltimore to Union Station and hopped the Gallaudet shuttle. The shuttle was Jordan's first introduction to ASL. He saw everyone on the shuttle signing, and there was silence.
He looked at me and said, "Does everyone talk like this?" He made some gesture.
I said, "Yes, but the signs are words and that's communication. They're deaf just like you."
We continued our conversation in Italian as everyone else signed.
We got off the bus and a nice Doctorate in Philosophy told me where we needed to go, which was just across the street here.
Paula Tucker had sent me an email a month ago asking me if we wanted to tour Gallaudet, and I said yes. She is absolutely the nicest woman and was extremely helpful and generous with her time. She also gave me the name of a person to contact in Israel and blew Jordan away with videophone technology (I thought of Karen Putz the entire time) and the double screen mega-MAC computer.
My first impression...silence. A university campus in silence. Not many campuses are rocking in the summer, and Gallaudet was in the middle of a summer program called Jumpstart, which provides an intensive ASL course for oral, av students attending as all courses are in ASL, but the silence was thought-provoking.
Everywhere we turned there were deaf empowerment pictures, posters, history, etc. Loved that!
We arranged everything very last minute with Paula, and Julia from the visitor's center was luckily and miraculously able to organize a tour for us. We had Patrick signing, Emily interpreting for me and me interpreting for Jordan.
At the end of the tour, after telling us about Gallaudet, Clerc, the coffin door and the Presidents' house filled with ghosts, Patrick asked me if I had any questions. I said, "I have a personal question, Jordan's going into high school, he's mainstreamed and kind of terrified. Any advice?"
Patrick said, "Totally normal, I was mainstreamed, too. He'll just need to work harder."
Gallaudet is filled with students who have always had to work harder and there's something about the campus that breathes a collective sigh of relief.
After four years, I finally met Sharon, who was the first person to interview my dad and me after the book was released. One of those internet friendships with all of everything called life shared over the years. Beautiful person who loves, loves teaching at Gallaudet.
Before going to bed, Jordan and I had a pow wow. He asked me if he was the only deaf person who could speak. I said absolutely not. I asked him if he realized that for the first time he was sitting in a classroom with all deaf students, instead of sitting in a classroom with hearing students his whole life and being the only deaf student. I think that question surprised him, because he had not realized that, but I could tell he kind of liked the idea. He said he liked hearing and speaking but that he had felt comfortable at Gallaudet.
Then he told me he'd like to learn sign language and to keep blogging because he would like to write a book about the life of a deaf child...him.
Something tells me that despite the fact Jordan's just entering high school, the official hunt for college has already begun...