I did not feel different back in Beverly, Mass. From Kindergarten to Fourth Grade, my classmates and I grew up together and they knew about my hearing loss and my routine whether it was to meet my teacher of the deaf for one class period or the aide would come to my class to assist me with Math or English during the class.
My family and I had an adventurous road trip from Albany, NY to Phoenix, AZ (we departed from my grandparents’ house in Albany). One of my favorite memories were a stop at Notre Dame University, watching my brother and dad being attacked and chased by the squirrels. My mother and I were laughing hysterically behind the tree watching this scene. Another stop in Missouri, there was a rain storm so we stopped at a hotel with an awesome swimming pool. I was so excited to go swimming after being in the van road tripping! I discovered my mother forgot to pack me a swimsuit. My family laughed at me for wearing my mother’s sports bra and bicycle shorts. I was so embarrassed but had to wear my big girl pants if I wanted to have fun. Then there were other nights we had to sleep in the van at the rest area, I was horrified as I cannot hear when I go to sleep. (I take off my devices when I go to sleep) The parking lot, the horror slaughter scenes rolling in my head, and I did not sleep at all during the night. This trip marked me as “Cooler Girl” forever and to this day, my title is now passed on to my daughter. “Can you get the Iced Tea? Grab me a peach?”, on and on.
My first year in Arizona was dreadful. We started school in August when it was 115 degrees outside. Yuck! What happened to September and cool fall day with dusk sunsets while the leaves slowly fell off the trees? It was all concrete and modern buildings in Arizona. Bright sun light that made our eyes squint. There was another hearing-impaired student in my class, he used ASL and had an interpreter. I did not like the girls at the school, the “popular” group spit on me and other classmates to be “cool”. I begged my mother to transfer me to another school. She found a small charter school in Scottsdale. The 5th/6th grade class was combined and had 14 students in a class. I started to feel accepted for who I was. I loved every day at school. I was excelling in academics because my teacher worked in small groups and worked very well with me. During the first year in Arizona, a teacher of the deaf introduced me to a new hearing impaired girl,”B”, who moved to AZ the same year I did but was at a different school. She did not like her school either. We became best friends instantly. She was hard of hearing, she had much more hearing than I did so you would never guess she was hearing impaired. We went to this charter school together in Scottsdale. We did not have a teacher of deaf or IEP since it was a charter school. We did not want any of the resources. We just wanted to be normal. Or at least I did. This was my favorite year. I had my first boyfriend who asked me out and I said no. Then he asked me out again, I said yes. When this happened at our school, the boys would call the girls and have a phone chat.
He called me, embarrassingly it had to be on the speaker phone so my mother quietly relayed his messages to me.
That was a sting.
School ended. It was time to go to a new school as there were no more grades after 6th grade at school.
My friend B and I were enrolled at a private Christian school. It was new to me. The bible. I knew God. I prayed to him for an hour at our masses while I was growing up. I did not and still cannot hear the masses. I never understood. First day of school, my friend and I walked hurriedly to our first class of the day, I saw a boy walking fast in front of us. He was wearing blue shirt and jeans. Soon, I did not know we would become best friends and keep in touch to this day! Anyways, I did not want the boys in 7th and 8th grade classes to know that I was hearing impaired. I did not want them to judge me. Okay, I was boy crazy too. I wore my hair down to have my hearing loss to be invisible. I barely said any words to the boys just hi or nod and smile and walk away. One day after two weeks of school, the group of girls knew who I liked and the boys liked me. They went ahead and told them I was hearing impaired. I did not know. The last ten minutes of school, our class said a prayer (again, I could not hear the teacher or classmate saying the prayer). We were putting our chairs on the table and putting our backpacks on waiting for the bell to ring. The group of girls were huddled in a group being secretive and looking at me while the boys are the other side talking and looking at me and the group of the girls. I asked a girl what was going on. She felt sad and did not want to tell me.
I begged her.
She told me.
I discovered the group of girls in 7th and 8th grade told the boys about my hearing loss.
My heart sank.
My eyes were watery.
My hands were clammy.
The bell rang.
That was one of the longest moments in my life.
B’s mother picked us up, she always had a beautiful smile and sparkling eyes. She always asked us how our days were in a positive and cheerful manner. B informed her mom what happened to me. She was sad. Her mom was sad. I just nodded and wiped my tears away looking out the window while driving. They dropped me off at my parents. I wanted my parents. At the time, my dad was still living in Vermont (By the way, my parents only separated for a few years and miraculously got back together when I was in 2nd grade!) I needed my mom.
Two hours later....
The sun never dims.. It stays bright till the last hour suddenly.. In August, the sun goes down around 7:45-8:00pm.
I am crying..
Peaking through the tan wood shutters..
I need my mama.. My cheerleader..
She walked through the door of our home in her turquoise scrubs with a dental scent. She held me, wiped my tears and told me to be strong. My best friend, who I called her "remarkable mama" and whispered the words to her before bedtime for years. Meanwhile, my brother came home from Chaparral High School and went directly to me to hold me. He told me not to let it bother me, this is who I am and he loves me for who I am.
(He couldn't and wouldn't get his lunchbox to protect me from others since we were at different schools and he knew that would not be a good solution. The solution was to accept who I am and find my wings to grow stronger )
His green eyes were getting greener from sadness and tears filling up. #FAMILY LOVE
I am four years old. I am sitting in the sunroom which was the playroom in our house in Vermont. My mother’s family are in town. They are helping us to load up the U-Haul to move to Massachusetts. I do not know that we are moving to another state. The voices throughout the house, I cannot hear far but only near while mom and her family are hollering at each other moving heavy furniture. I look out the front door, it swings back and forth fast. I see the driveway is filled with several vehicles, U-Haul truck, Mohawk flooring company truck delivering carpets to our warehouse, and one of dad’s helpers driving the fork lift to load up the warehouse with carpets. I hear the rumbles of the Flooring truck and the fork lift.
My father is saying goodbye to my brother and I because he is not coming to Massachusetts with us. At the time, my parents are being separated while he needs to stay to run the flooring business. (This was the day I realized my parents weren’t together. My heart was heavy while my tears dripped down my cheeks so fast.)
After a few hours’ drive to Massachusetts, we are pulling in our rental house. I am walking in, seeing a duplex house that I have never seen this style before. I am not very keen of the idea to split the house with someone. It is strange, my mind says. The Vermont small town girl in a white cottage style surrounded by flowers and ocean nearby. Wow. I am rubbing my hands on the blue carpet in my bedroom thinking about my dad and comprehending what is going on. I keep hearing the family moving the furniture up and down as this house has four levels. Sometimes an inaudible language when my hearing aids and profound hearing loss could not be reached in a distance that I politely stared and studied the emotions and body languages. My eyes, heart and senses are the tools to grasp this hearing world at this age that I soon develop on my own.
Shortly, my brother and I are at our new school. It is tough being a new kid for my brother being in Fourth grade and not tough for me because I am starting Kindergarten with other new classmates. One morning while we are waiting for the bell to ring to start school, I am playing outside in large open fields with giant trees around the perimeters. I see my brother being in middle of the circle of the boys. I would say the bullies. I am so excited to see my brother being at a same school as me! I am watching him and the bullies realizing the body languages of theirs are very unkind. They are teasing him. He is being distraught. I am feeling angry and wanting to protect my brother, I grab my tin metal lunch box and run up to the bullies whacking them with it! Your welcome. My brother is telling me to stop because he did not want me to get in trouble and it was embarrassing him at the same time. Again, soon after that moment, I hit them with my backpack after school dismissal. My father is visiting us at school to pick us up, he is smiling and sighing thinking “How cute”, “Here we go again” and “No more”. This is an example of sister love and protection. All along, it does not faze me that I need to protect myself because I am very different from others. Not knowing that my life will be difficult ahead.
Eventually, my hearing impairment is becoming visible to the hearing community by wearing this hideous two FM systems (it looks like two Walkman tape players and two cords with a waist band to hold them) Welcome 90s technology! Then I am being diagnosed with a lazy eye leading me to wear purple bluish glasses and eye patch. My favorite uncle from Los Angeles is visiting us at our school after school one day, he looks at me being shocked seeing me wearing the FM system, glasses and eye patch. He is thinking, “What else does she need?!”. He still greets me with unconditional love!
It is Friday, my mother is out in the hallway talking to my teacher of the deaf while the kids scurry out to the front door being released. I love my mama being there while I am playing with my brother. However, I see a beautiful Italian girl with short hair and bangs drinking water out of the water fountain. Her hearing aids appears! I am running up to her so fast! Grabbing her hair and dragging her back down to my mother and teacher of the deaf! I am jumping with joy shouting that she has hearing aids just like mine and close to my age! She is a year older. My mother calms me down and comforts this girl, her name is Ally. They all are laughing. I am lucky that she forgives me and opens her heart to me that immediately we are becoming best friends since this day. Our languages are widened that we are chatting away.
Already, we are having play dates every weekend, sleepovers, and play together at our school at every recess. She and I meet each other at our Teacher of the Deaf’s classroom. It is sea green and touches of aqua color walls. There is a large window that you can see our mysterious fields outside. There is a table for us, storage cabinets containing our languages books and games for speech, a desk for our teacher of the deaf and her sister is her aide while there is a sink. I am being fascinated with the sink being in our small classroom! However, we are doing our speech therapy together. My teacher of the deaf is being frustrated at me for not pronouncing it correctly while she is praising Ally for excelling at the pronunciation. I am feeling bad. She takes Ally back to her classroom while I stay in her quiet classroom pondering this moment. I climb up the stool over the sink counter looking at myself and move my mouth pronouncing the words. She returns and catches me practicing, she praises me.
Throughout few years at Cove Elementary school, we continued to match our clothes and bows, met each other in the bathroom during classes to chat and play, attended at our speech therapy lessons together (or even pretend our FM systems wasn’t working just to see each other there- hey!Just a few times! ;) and played outside. We would go swimming at her house at their swimming pool, and at the time, we did not have waterproof hearing aid devices back then. So we played Marco and Polo game- instead of yelling out the words “Marco” and “Polo”, we splashed at each other to signal those words since we cannot hear. Ally and I have secret codes that we still uses to this day!
She got her first cochlear implant a month before me out in Boston when she was a sophomore at high school while I got mine during my freshman year a month after her surgery. We wrote letters and got on AIM- AOL instant messaging telling each other our cochlear implant experiences the things we like and dislike about it.
So fast forward to future, Ally and I remain being best friends since I was four years old even when I moved to Arizona when I was ten years old and she moved out to California during her high school years. I became a mother, soon a single mother to a hearing daughter (she visited and played with Makayla a couple of trips even out in famous 120 degrees swimming with her while I was at cosmetology school during the day!) and she eventually found the love of her life and got married that I went to her wedding in Pasadena, California and at 11 at night, I drove back to Arizona across the desert to go back to my preschool hearing impaired program job in the morning with one hour and half of sleep! Whenever I needed help with questions whether technology, social media, my daughter’s homework, cochlear implants trouble shooting or updates, she texts me right away! Even, she got her second cochlear implant on the other ear last fall, we touch in based with our new upgrades the Cochlear N6 processors and the cool invisible technology devices listening to music and other things.
Welcome to my blog! So, I will write today about my early childhood years. I am hearing impaired. I was born profoundly deaf. My parents did not know until I was almost a year old. I passed a hearing test in a small town in Vermont. I have excellent eye sight! Well, let’s back up here first. I have one lazy eye since I was five. ;) However, my mother told me when she took me to a doctor, the doctor was banging pans next to me to test my hearing. I saw. I did not hear. Actually, what brought my mother's attention was when my brother told her he thought I cannot hear. "She can’t hear". So, my mother still wanted another option, she drove me and my lovely, grandmother Rose to Boston in pouring rain in our 1976 Volvo. (A few years ahead, I tossed my raspberry ice cream up to the tan ceiling in the car.) My mother was nervous and panicking. My grandmother told her to be strong. Boston Children's Hospital, the audiology clinic tested and diagnosed me "Profoundly Deaf". My mother cried while driving, and my grandmother again told her to be strong. In 1980s, the hearing aid system was the look I wore (see the picture above) I was totally trending the style, huh?
After researches on hearing impaired education,(we did not have cell phones/iPad/Computers to google resources and articles back then...) My parents contacted resources and checked with school down the street from our home. They had a plan. I was mainstreamed at preschool while maintaining speech from two therapists- speech therapist and teacher of the deaf. I despised the speech therapist. I do not know why I did not like him. During summer time, my father had to convinced me he was taking me to a farm to get fresh green beans and honey sticks that I loved so much! We drove past the farm and to a familiar building, I knew it was a trick. Speech time. Maybe there were times my father did take me to the farm afterwards. I did love my teacher of the deaf. We continued through the summer, private sessions. She came to our house. I remembered clearly there was camera filming us and we had a VHS tape of my speech session with my mother, Sandy (the teacher) and me. My dirty blonde high pig tails and 1980s clothing style. I was eager to be with them, doing speech and to eat Reese's Pieces candy every time I said the words correctly. I begged my mother to eat them with me. She was sick of the candy. Now, I no longer eat them as I am sick of the candy. My mother would tell me stories how she took me to a grocery store, the customers stared at my large hearing devices and she was furious and heartbroken. They did not know why I had to wear them or what hearing impairment was. She cried during her lunch breaks praying to God and asking him to what to do with my hearing impairment.
I was very shy out in public and at gatherings. I was not shy around my family and friends. I loved to sing my heart out in the drive way. In the fall, I jumped in pile of leaves. I did not hear much of the leaves crunch sounds, I felt the crunch. In the winter time, my brother and I sled down the hill next to our house with our neighbors. I did not hear the snow crunches. I felt it by stepping in it. Crunch..Crunch.. On a calm day,I watched the giant maple trees blowing not knowing it had a sound of wind. I watched with my eyes. During my lovely childhood in Vermont, I did not hear very much. I came to understand the hearing world by seeing that I was the only one who wore hearing aids in our small town. I did not see many kids with hearing aids. When we all went swimming with my brother's friends, I knew I had to take off my hearing aids (back then, waterproof hearing aids were not available for swimming or showering). But again, I could not hear out in the water. It did not bother me because I was having fun and I always floated to look at the shapes of clouds of animals, faces, angels,etc. How calming and peaceful that was. I knew I was different when I was four years old. Especially, when my brother did not have to wear hearing aids and he did not have to do speech therapy like I did. He and his neighborhood friends played, none of them were like me. That was my observation at the age to understand my deafness. I watched people like my family and at the gatherings, their body languages and emotions. I spent time watching and studying the world especially the environmental and everyday sounds. I did not know rain made sounds, but I did feel the thunder during the thunderstorms. It vibrated greatly. My mother told me the angels were bowling during the thunderstorms. At a young age, I started the bridge. A bridge between hearing and hearing impaired worlds.
When I had hearing aids, it was very uncomfortable to wear the old walkman player look and then again, when I was four years old- hearing aids were updated to behind the ear like today but in a large size. The ear molds, I hated with passion. The days of ear waxes, air pressure in ear tubes, hearing aids falling off my ears, and batteries dying. It was worth to hear whatever I could at the time. When I was adventurous, I hid it under the couch fort with my brother. One day, I did and I did not tell my parents I had no hearing aids on. We went to Lake George to go to an amusement park when it was called, Great Escape (now Six Flags owns it). However, we went on a roller coaster. My parents realized I did not have my hearing aids! They spent hours searching and going through garbage. I had no idea what was going on. Later that night or so, when my mother was cleaning our couch fort; my hearing aids appeared.:) OOPS!
My journey started out in Vermont and few years later, my mother moved us to Beverly, Massachusetts for my education. She fought with Vermont to get our rights with my deafness and education. At the time, my district suggested to put me in a boarding school for the deaf. My parents could not face that and wanted to be part of my childhood and education. Quickly, my parents formed a plan. My father stayed in Vermont running a flooring business while my mother moved us to Beverly for my future. Another chapter was already unfolding.
Stay tuned! Stories will be revealed, keep checking on my blog site to be updated:)
Hearing Impaired single mother and teacher aide at a hearing impaired oral preschool program. An author of "Turn The Lights On, I Cant Hear You".