Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Signs of the times

We started signing with Sweet Daughter when she was less than a year old in an attempt to cut down on the frustration that comes with being unable to communicate with each other and the resulting “terrible two” tantrums. When she was little more than a year old, we were able to ask did she want milk or water? More cheese? Help with what she was trying to do? It was invaluable when in church or another quiet place to be able to tell her to stop what she was doing (this instant!!), or ask if she needed to use the restroom. When she was about 18 months old, she and I were in the family room and she started wildly signing “Bird! Bird!” I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to tell me until she pointed and I saw the giant wasp which I promptly dispatched to Hymenoptera Heaven. We’ve signed less as she’s gotten older and more verbal, but we still use “wait” a lot, especially when she’s trying to interrupt, and I can answer yes/no questions to her when I’m on the phone with someone else.

So, while we were at Battersea Plantation last Saturday, a deaf/mute gentleman came through camp trying his best to be unobtrusive, with little hand-outs with the sign language alphabet printed on one side, and a couple of sentences on the other saying that he was deaf, trying to support his family, and could we spare a dollar or two?

Dopey me signed “You sign?” His face lit up like Times Square and his fingers and arms started flying. And everything I ever learned fell out of my head except “Milk?” “More cheese?” “Stop”, “Wait”, and “No”. These were not terribly helpful.

We did manage to chat a little bit. He has one daughter and that was plenty for him. No more! He wanted to know if we were staying in the tents (yes), and were we scared?* I told him we weren’t scared. What about snakes? ** Nope, we weren’t scared of those, either. I indicated that we were prepared to shoot anything that needed shooting. But mostly he was just thrilled that someone was interacting with him, and trying to communicate. I’ll have to brush up before we go back next April so I can at least ask how his daughter is doing. Or better yet, try to get one of our members to stay that evening as she’s fluent in ASL and can translate for us.

*Battersea Plantation is not located in the best quadrant of the city. On Friday night one of our group heard 6 shots of .38 caliber (or smaller) being fired a couple of blocks away at about 3:30 in the a.m. He said it sounded like somebody was just wanting to get rid of some extra ammo, not actually aiming at anyone. Some years the calibers have been larger and have been followed up by sirens.

** I also found it really interesting that there are regional accents, for lack of a better word. We learned with some marvelous DVDs (that I believe they came out of Utah) but there were definitely some differences. His sign for “snake” was very close to what I’d learned for “fish” and at first I couldn’t figure out why there’d be fish in the woods, and why we’d be scared of them.


  1. Good on ya, for making his day.

    Apparently I live in that type of neighborhood. Had a lot of cops here last night. Overheard one of them saying "If he'd lunged I would have shot."
    Good times, good times.

  2. No -- your neighborhood looks MUCH nicer than the part of town I drove through. Seriously. However the locals have never caused a problem at this site. I guess they hear musket and cannon fire for a good half hour in the afternoons and decide that we might very well have them out-gunned.

  3. My neighborhood is kinda weird though. Granted, we're in MT, so there's no real "Ghetto" or anything, but it changes block to block, and even house to house. One is nicely upkept, and the next (like the one the cops were at) looks like it's a meth house.

    I know what you are talking about though. Once my family drove cross county to visit family and for a family reunion. In St. Louis we got lost and wound up in an area that was definitely the wrong side of the river. I was probably 12 or so, and I remember being pretty nervous.