Sunday, May 8, 2016

Signs of A Legacy

Recently, I've really begun to look at ways to improve myself, better my life experiences, enrich my existence, and get the most out of what the world has to offer. I'm hesitant to call it this, but in essence, I've been addressing my "bucket list." There are many things on my list, but certain ones seem to step forward and really take hold of my heart. For this season of my life, it is learning ASL.

Many of my readers may know that I grew up with a basic understanding of the deaf community, and a very basic understanding of American Sign Language. Some may not know that my grandfather was deaf and my grandmother has hearing loss. They met in the deaf community, and although they have eight hearing children, and (nearly) countless hearing grandchildren and great-grandchildren, signing was a part of our family culture.

Some in my family may say that learning ASL now, a full year and a half after my grandfather's death, is too little too late. And I have to say, in some ways I agree. I think back on the last few times I saw him, how I was so busy chasing after a toddler, my sign vocabulary was so out of use, our visits were so short... The list of excuses goes on and on, and it hurts my heart to know I'll not ever be able to have a full conversation with Pap. But I also know he is smiling down on this new chapter in my learning, and I hope he knows that part of learning ASL now is to honor his legacy.

I want my children to grow up with an understanding of deaf community. I want them to seek out those who sign, and help bridge the gap between the hearing world and the deaf world. I want them to be free of the misconceptions that are so rampant in our ignorant hearing world. I want them to be bilingual, and have a useful skill for their future.

I want them to know the joy of meeting a deaf person in a public place and being able to communicate. Baby sign is wonderful, but there's not much call for talking about animals or food using ASL unless you frequent the zoo.

I remember a moment just weeks after Pap died when a man approached me in a fabric store and asked about my pregnancy. He was so delighted with the very limited signing I provided, and proceeded to chatter with me for about ten minutes. Those moments sealed themselves in my heart, and wintered away in the snows of e's infancy, the season of transition we experienced last fall. Then, early this spring, as e's signing vocabulary started to expand, and E's interest in signing again exploded, that little seed started to blossom. I've found myself pouring over ASL distance learning courses, and I've found a wonderful, affordable course that has short lessons, building on the skills I already have. I'm excited about this journey!

"Hi! My name is Kristin. I am learning ASL to communicate with the deaf community and other people who sign. #whyisign #myasljourney"