A BALLET OF HANDS


ballet2 bilinguism at carlos cano seconary school
Bilinguism at Carlos Cano Secondary School

The happy chatter of families, an occasional shriek from a child, and over it all, the ballet of hands celebrating the occasion.

The California School For the Deaf high school class of 2014 graduated 42 happy young students ready to take on the world. As friends of the family of one young lady, we were privileged to attend the event, where many scholarships and honors were awarded.

The school for deaf and blind was originally in Berkeley, located quite near the campus of the University and was moved to Fremont in 1979. Since then we have become accustomed to seeing blind and hearing-impaired people going about their business throughout town. The school provides home and education for children throughout Northern California from the ages of 3-22.
We talked with the mother of a 20 year old graduate yesterday who has lived at the school for 10 years.

I first became aware of the graceful beauty of sign language while following a car with several non-hearing people conversing, and realized it is like a ballet of hands. In my teaching life, I occasionally had a deaf person, with an interpreter handy to translate my garbled lesson. (grin) At a celebratory party after the graduation, several interpreters were present to help those of us who were limited by our “mono-lingual” condition.

ballet 1  Marc Petrocci   simpl;y sammy
Marc Petrocci “Simply Sammy”

During our meandering through the campus, we came upon a large bronze sculpture by Douglas Tilden, a scion of an early California family. Tilden became deaf at the age of four, and attended CSD in Berkeley where he taught at the school after graduation. He began doing sculpture while attending the school, and then went to France where he studied with another deaf sculptor. His monumental pieces can be seen all over the world.

bear hunt douglas tilden
“Bear Hunt” by Douglas Tilden

Sculpture seems to be an appropriate medium for a deaf person, since their words are expressed with their hands.

“If my hands could speak they would say something profound.”

WHAT WILL YOU DO WHEN IT’S GONE?


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“Talking it Over” watercolor painting by kayti sweetland Rasmussen

Short term memory is the bunk. People stop in the middle of a sentence with a bewildered look on their face while they mumble something which fades away into the ether. What happened to conversation. No one thinks they are as good as they used to be, and their memory extends only as far as the next sentence. It’s a vicious circle, involving the loss of eyeglasses, car keys and whatever else they last had their hands on.

Of course I am discussing everyone else but me. I always know precisely why I went into the bathroom to find the strawberry jam.

EVERY DOG HAS HIS DAY


boxer 2 You know how we all love our pets, coddling them and mostly trying to make them into four-legged humans. A neighbor lady, Mrs Godfrey, was no exception with her charming chubby Chihuahua Cappucino, who was as devoted to Belgian chocolates as his owner. The local vet was a frequent visitor and regularly put Cappucino on a strict diet, but Mrs. Godfrey just couldn’t help herself, a delicious bit of cake or something wonderful off her dinner plate somehow found its way into Cappucino’s mouth as well as her own. The wise veterinarian also prescribed a regular walking schedule, which Mrs. Godfrey followed by having her gardener carry Cappucino around the garden several times a day. It was great exercise for the gardener, but little Cappy gained little from it, except more weight.

When Mrs. Godfrey finally allowed Cappucino to walk on his own, he developed a new ailment she called “flopbot”, which simply meant he sat down wherever he was and refused to walk another step. The dear lady became frantic, positive that the dog was not long for this world, and what on earth would she do without her sweet companion? So the patient vet came again and soothed Mrs. Godfrey while reiterating his advice on caring for the pup. Finally on one visit he suggested she get a companion dog for Cappucino, which would give him more exercise as they ran around her extensive grounds.

A month went by before the vet paid another call on Mrs. Godfrey, and it turned out not to be about Cappucino, but about Cedric, the new dog she had bought to be a companion dog for Cappucino. She had apparently spent most of the month finding just the right friend for Cappy. A perfect pedigree, photos were exchanged, a luncheon date set up, and Cedric filled the bill, so she brought him home. But Cedric had one fault, and it was a big one. It took some time for her to explain the problem, not being one to discuss such embarrassing episodes. Cedric suffered from an excessive amount of flatulence. Poor Mrs. Godfrey was in a state of sobbing distress even mentioning to the vet.

“When does he do this Mrs. Godfrey”, asked the vet. “Only when he gets excited,” she said. “And that’s all the time”.

The vet changed his diet and gave him some digestive pills, and assumed all would be well. however no one estimated the amount of bacterial fermentation going on in Cedric’s body, and each approach by Cedric was accompanied by an aura of unpleasant odor. The vet finally told Mrs. Godfrey that she must get rid of the dog. Thinking he meant sending Cedric back to his Maker, Mrs. Godfrey went into another siege of sobbing. “You could give him to someone else”, the vet suggested. In the meantime Cedric was banished to a garden shed, away from any excitement, until the vet found another home for him.

The following week Mrs. Godfrey was having her annual morning coffee party for the local hospital board, with many prominent people in attendance. It was a lovely morning, and the door to the house was opened to allow people to come and go. Meanwhile, Cedric became bored in the garden shed all alone with nothing to do but tip over pots and tear open bags of compost, so he pushed open the door to see what was going on over at the main house.

Silently Cedric entered the house amid the festivities, and as he moved through the room, happily passing gas as he went, the faces of the guests registered disgust and suspicion as they stepped away from conversations throughout the room. He was soon spotted by Mrs. Godfrey, who shrieked in embarrassment, and threw Cedric out of the house while shouting apologies to her guests.

“Who would want a dog that flatulates all over the place?” she cried to the vet. “Cappucino will be heartbroken, but I cannot keep him”.

When the vet came to collect Cedric, he saw a new part time gardener pruning Mrs. Godfrey’s roses. In answer to his praise of the delightful fragrance, the new gardener said “That may be but I haven’t smelled anything for thirty years!” “You mean you can’t smell ANYTHING?’ asked the vet. “Not a thing”, answered the gardener. ” Say, that’s a real nice dog you got there, always wanted one of them boxers.”

With apologies to James Harriot fo this great story. We are lovers of his wonderful stories “All Creatures Great and Small”.”