The first time I learned American Sign Language (ASL) it was from the Deaf Community in Pocatello, Idaho. Despite being a Hard Of Hearing (HOH) little kid and young adult I met my first deaf person in college. Tom went to vo-tech while I was a freshman in general studies. We both lived on campus and had mutual friends. I remember how incredibly expressive he was and how no one bothered to learn how to communicate with him.
One day I went to the Chair of the Audiology Department and learned finger spelling. I taught my roommate and practiced for weeks, too shy to use it with Tom lest I be thought lacking. Instead, the first time I waved at him and signed “Hi” he lit up like a Christmas tree and ran across the street – narrowly missing being mowed down by a car.
My introduction to the Deaf Community was both rapid and awesome. Deaf culture emphasizes the needs of the community rather than the individual. Everyone I met was gracious and welcoming, adding to my trove of knowledge. I learned how to help them in return. As a “half-deaf” I had enough hearing to interpret for my newfound extended family .
Tom left for a job Salt Lake City. I left for a different college. In the years between then and now I never found another Deaf Community and gradually lost most of my sign despite teaching my daughter and taking random ASL classes in Anchorage. Even the “baby sign” my two younger grandchildren learned wasn’t enough to get me back on track.
Last night I started my first class in ASL at Deaf Inc. It was like the years peeled away. Signs flooded back unbidden. At the end of the class I was grinning like a madwoman. I’m excited about connecting with the Deaf Community in the area.
I can’t wait for class tomorrow night!