Deaf & Coda
People say that it takes a village to raise a child, I say, it take a Deaf Club to raise a CODA. I grew up the hearing child of Deaf parents. When I was born, the Deaf community rejoiced, the neighbors speculated and the extended families worried. “Don’t teach her sign language or else she’ll never learn how to talk”, my Aunt Jane warned again and again. But Mommy and Daddy trusted their instincts and the first sign I learned was milk; my 2 fists rubbing up and down on each other as if milking a cow. Mommy still boasts, “Nobody thinks that Deaf can raise a hearing child. But my daughter could and sign and understand perfectly when she was nine months old. You that know that hearing children don’t talk until they’re two years old. You tell me.”
The New Jersey Silent Club was an old storefront with N.J.S.C. carefully painted on the picture window in gold and black letters. When my parents and their friends pushed open the heavy, wooden doors they were no longer the “Deaf one”. They became Samuel the machinist, Lucy the flirt, Joan the mother of five, Bob the drinker or Flo the club accountant. Deaf club was where Mommy fell in love with Daddy, where Daddy played penny poker most every Friday night, where we celebrated our holidays, watched subtitled movies on a giant sheet tacked to the wall and where I could go to the bar and get a cherry coke for free because I had a tab. It was our union hall, our classroom, our corner tavern. It was the heart and the soul of the Deaf community where I was petted and spoiled by people who didn’t think of themselves as disabled or broken. They believed that they were just another culture with a different language.
Whenever I meet a Deaf person in a Starbucks, or on the El we talk and connect like we are part of the same family, the same tribe. And I always feel like I’m back at Deaf Club.