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ASL

I wrote about how listening to music from my childhood has helped me remember forgotten memories. So it was a little surprising to have memories pop up because of someone who can’t hear it.

We recently got a cashier who is deaf. As none of us are fluent in ASL and she can’t talk, communication was a bit of a learning curve, but we were able to nail it down through some basic hand signs, voice to text apps, lip reading, and typing on the phone.

Out of the other cashiers, I probably knew the most ASL despite the fact I sign like an uncertain toddler.  

The reason I know any ASL is because I started learning it in my childhood. The doctor thought I was deaf as I wouldn’t react to noise and was making “weird” sounds. I still have scarring in my ears from when the doctor put tubes in them to drain fluid he thought was blocking my hearing. The tubes drained the fluid, but didn’t solve my hearing issues.

A breakthrough in my care occurred during a doctor visit when one of the nurses noticed something about the garbled sounds I was making and decided to record my voice with a device that could slow or speed up the tape. When the tape was slowed down enough, anyone that was listening could clearly hear singing:

 Old Mc-Don-ald had a farm. E-I-E-I-O.

Long story short, I wasn’t deaf. I had autism. I did learn to speak with the help of speech therapy and eventually lost most of ASL signs I learned.

When we got this co-worker, I tried to think if I remembered any full sentences to be able to communicate better with her. Hi, my name is (insert name) and Nice to meet you were useless to me at that point since we were already introduced. I love you was also useless to me in this situation. I remembered a fourth sentence that was also useless, but triggered a childhood memory.  

I don’t actually remember the moment itself because I was really little—only the story of the incident that Kim repeated throughout my childhood. We had found a stray/lost dog. The low-income townhouses I lived in until my pre-teens didn’t allow pets so we couldn’t keep it for more than a night. I got on the bus for pre-school and came back home to find the dog gone, which made me upset. I kept looking for the dog. My parents told me the dog went home so I signed:

I want the dog, please. 

The fact that our new coworker has a sense of humor and has found ways to be funny despite the language barriers brought up more buried childhood memories.

There was a family that was heavily involved with the services at the church I attended regularly on Wednesday nights, particularly with the music. I had a huge crush on their oldest, Amber, who was a couple years older than me.

Our church did this challenge every week where they would ask any willing kids to come up front and the goal was to see who could go the longest without laughing. With Amber’s father leading, the congregation would sing “The Booster Song” repeatedly until there was one kid left or we got tired of it.

Booster, booster, be a boo-ster!

Don’t be grouchy like a roo-ster!

Booster, booster, be a boo-ster!

And boost our Bi-ble school!

The other kids could get each other to laugh by suddenly shouting the words obnoxiously in each other’s ear or making chicken noises. Well, this didn’t work on Amber because she was deaf. I’m fairly certain she volunteered herself every week to be funny because she couldn’t hear anything that was going on. Her mom or dad would say and sign things like, “Cmon! Smile!” and she’d slowly shake her head from side to side with that stone faced pout.

I saw Amber at the county fair and something possessed me to buy a necklace from one of the vendors hawking cheap souvenirs. I think it was a metal arrowhead with a heat sensitive color-changing stone that hung from a black cord. I presented the necklace to her, but I couldn’t communicate my feelings as I forgotten most of the ASL I learned as a toddler and I didn’t have paper to write it down. I think I might have slowly said something along the lines of “This is for you. Bye!” so she could lip read and ran off. I do remember she looked rightfully confused about this bizarre encounter.     

Lately, it has felt like I’ve been opening up a Pandora’s Box of awful shit from my childhood in regards to trying to remember things from my past that I’ve blocked out and processing it. So it was nice to be able to remember some things that weren’t terrible.

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