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.”

LUNCH WITH THE GIRLS


I have lunch with my girlfriends every couple of months.  I guess I should properly say they are my women friends, because none of us have been girls for about 70 years.  But they were my high school girlfriends and it’s nice to fill in the lost years. Only two were my actual friends, one a bridesmaid in my wedding 65 years ago.  The others I knew of course, but we weren’t really friends.

One was interested in girl’s athletics, and my interest was contained in being a cheerleader for the boy’s sports.    Another was a serious looking girl on the honor roll, and I never quite made that either.   My great interest in education had come early and then made a detour in high school and then resumed after some time in college.   Another had no interest in befriending me so I labelled her a snob.   Another was a girl who was also in the ROTC in a competing battalion. This was the only way I ever saw her; when we were marching up and down the field in our very cool uniforms. It’s interesting to see the changes those years have brought.  When we began doing this a few years ago, I had to look at their pictures in the high school year book to recognize them.  I wonder if they did the same?

The first  luncheon we had, a woman sat at our table and I asked my bridesmaid who she was.  She said “Oh, she’s the ballet dancer”.  She has become quite comfortable in the ensuing years, and though we had seen newspaper pictures of her when she danced in the SF Ballet and the New York Ballet, I found it difficult to reconcile the two images.  I always thought she looked like a fairy princess.

I lunched with another group of women the other day and recounted the high school lunch.  Several thought it would be fun to find out what happened to old boyfriends.  One was scornful, and couldn’t understand why anyone would want to connect with people they had known so long ago.  But her husband  recently called  a man he knew as a teenager, telephoned him, and they have had many pleasant conversations.

Dr. Advice never let his friendships get dusty.  He stayed connected through all the years, until the last one passed away a year or so ago.  He is a communicator in the first rate.  It’s all about communication.  We are not meant to be lone wolves.  We need to exchange ideas, to find our place in the world.  We are constantly evolving, learning.

I’ve been so happy to meet with these high school friends often.  I’m sorry for the years we missed, because every one of them is an interesting woman with so much given and so much more to give.