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Small joys - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Zoethe

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Small joys [Oct. 23rd, 2005|04:07 pm]
Zoethe
[Current Mood |hungrysatiated]

We went to brunch with our friends Kat and Eric and their adorable toddler Carolyn this morning, and then off to pick apples. It was a day filled with small joys. The first was that Carolyn now has a sign for me. Kat and Eric decided when she was only a couple months old that they would teach her baby signs - a pronouncement that I sort of smiled and nodded my head at because I had seen it fall by the wayside with several other new parents I knew. I thought it was a silly idea, doomed to failure.

I was wrong.

Carolyn became the best behaved, most socialized baby I've ever met because she had language with which to communicate her wants and needs long before most babies can even say mama and dada. Through signs she could tell you that she was hungry or thirsty, what she wanted to eat or drink, and if she wanted you to read her a story, play music, or take her to the park. She even suggested that the family needed to go to dimsum and invite Uncle Jim. It really is quite remarkable. Because she could communicate her needs, she rarely got frustrated, and that meant very little fussing and frustration - they can take her anywhere, and she fits right in.

After a while, she began making up her own signs, or attributing certain signs to certain people. Uncle Jim's sign was the sign for hair, because he has a bushy beard. Grandpa's sign was "hat" and Grandma's "lady." Ferrett would always make these silly, bouncing-finger signs to her, and right after I bought her two albums of music by John McCutcheon (my own kids' favorite albums when they were little), she began making the bouncing fingers sign in association with them - they were "Uncle Ferrett music." even though Uncle Ferrett had nothing to do with their arrival in her life.

But I had no sign. I lacked a particularly distinctive characteristic that would earn me an immediate sign, and while she was always glad to see me, Carolyn was mute when it came to labelling me in any way.

Today, that clearly changed. The last time we were over at their home, Eric remarked that Carolyn had made the sign for the letter "G" and then pointed at me, but it was still sketchy. Today in the car on the way to apple picking she signed "G" and pointed to me over and over again. It's silly, but it gave me an inordinate thrill to know that I am important enough in her life to merit my own designation.

The other joy of the day happened at the apple farm. We went into the little shop and tasted varieties of apples. In the last 6 years or so, I have been incapable of eating more than one slice of an apple without developing an allergic reaction. But I love good apples so much that I will risk the occasional slice. This time, I tasted an apple variety I had never eaten before, called "Crispin'," that was so delicious that I had to buy a bag, even if I could only eat them with a Benadryl chaser.

But I didn't have a reaction.

Then we went out into the orchard and picked another variety called Ovation. Kat bit into one, thinking it was a Golden Delicious, and asked me to taste it because it seemed too tart to her. I ended up eating that whole apple. Without a reaction.

Maybe it is, after all, the crap that agrobusiness orchards put on and in the apples that causes me the most trouble, not the apples themselves.

I cannot convey how much simple joy there was in the act of eating a crispy, juicy apple right down to the core. It sounds ridiculous, but it felt like a benediction. Obviously I can't eat apples the year 'round, but if I can just enjoy them in the fall, fresh from the tree, without suffering, I will be happy.
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[User Picture]From: theferrett
2005-10-23 08:53 pm (UTC)
It was even better being there.
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From: i_aldarion
2005-10-23 08:52 pm (UTC)
Baby sign language? Interesting, never heard of it! So glad that it's working out for them though, and that is VERY cool. (How did she know the first letter of your name?)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-10-23 09:14 pm (UTC)
The "g" sound, associated with the letter.

There are books and tapes. I am now wholeheartedly recommending it to new parents because I've been so impressed with Carolyn's communication skills.
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[User Picture]From: cathubodva
2005-10-23 09:11 pm (UTC)
I can only imagine how happy you must be, to be able to eat an apple again. I've got so many food allergies that I can definitely sympathize with the pain of not being able to eat something you love - once upon a time, kiwi were my favorite fruit, but now if I even touch a piece to my tongue, I go into the beginnings of anaphylactic shock.

How thrilling for you!
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-10-23 09:20 pm (UTC)
Isn't it just frustrating as hell? I feel like some nutcase hypochondriac, saying to people that I can't eat healthy foods that I love - peaches and nectarines, for example, I can risk only by peeling them and eating one small slice at a time after taking benadryl. It's heartbreaking. The last shocking surprise was eating a hazelnut and feeling that "closing of the throat, gaspy breath" feeling of incipient anaphylactic shock - a triple dose of benadryl abated it, but I felt like, crap! I've never had nut allergies!! so far hazelnut flavorings and such don't bother me, but I have not faced down another actual nut.

In the face of the reaction, I want to scold myself - this isn't happening, you big baby, you're just imagining it. I don't want to be allergic to the world. It breaks my heart.
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[User Picture]From: cyan_blue
2005-10-23 09:15 pm (UTC)
Wow. That's amazing, about Carolyn. Is it ok if I link to this post? Some of my friends have new babies...
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-10-23 09:21 pm (UTC)
Absolutely! It really is quite remarkable. You have to start young, and be willing to talk and sign, talk and sign, for months without a reaction, but when it comes it's astounding.
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[User Picture]From: dweezel
2005-10-23 09:29 pm (UTC)
Now, if only I could get the cats to learn sign language. I can see on their little faces when they are trying to tell me something and then get frustrated because they think I am too stupid to understand. :)

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-10-23 09:40 pm (UTC)
If you could, you would be able to make your fortune selling the book.
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[User Picture]From: momlady
2005-10-23 09:33 pm (UTC)
Without going too far back into your journal, I'm assuming that Carolyn is deaf. I have a deaf/legally blind friend that I met at work. We became really good friends and he taught me how to sign. Sometimes, when we were out shopping or something, we would run into a few others who knew some sign language (or at least finger-spelling). It was fun to watch him sign with other people, even if I didn't know what they were saying...they always signed faster than I could read. And Tim, he was a very patient teacher as well as friend when it came to signing/spelling. Then there times when I ran into other people myself without Tim who were deaf, and it was such a neat feeling to be able to communicate with them. Tim gave me my own sign too: the letter K on his head/hair. Since he was deaf from birth, he never learned to speak, but while we spent time together, I taught him how to say my name, to say "I love you" in French (Je t'aime!), and I taught him about music. His blindess wasn't complete...Usher's Syndrome (called "tunnelvision") was due in part to his deafness. He's the only one in his family to be deaf/blind. But he could still see, so when we went places, I always took the time to show him "the little things"; the things people forgot he couldn't see very well. It was a very learning experience for both of us.

Thanks for sharing that. I enjoyed that story and the memories it brought back for me.
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[User Picture]From: cathubodva
2005-10-23 09:36 pm (UTC)
I don't believe Carolyn is deaf.
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[User Picture]From: ba1126
2005-10-23 09:33 pm (UTC)
Thank you for a lovely post and sharing such nice experiences. Sometimes I really need a break from the mountains of angst.

We used to do some signing in the infant room where I worked- We just combined them, as you say, with the regular words, i.e. "Are you finished?" "Do you want more?" and most of the kids (ages 6 mo. to 13 mo,)would respond with sign.

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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-10-23 09:44 pm (UTC)
It's astounding isn't it? When she was barely walking she could ask to you to please open the door because she wanted to go outside and play on her slide.
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[User Picture]From: momlady
2005-10-23 09:35 pm (UTC)
Also, he's the one that I wrote about in theferrett's journal about the comic book collection....
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[User Picture]From: anansay
2005-10-23 09:53 pm (UTC)
Wow... on the entire post.

I'd heard of teaching babies signs as communication and am teary eyed to hear that it's worked so well with Carolyn.

And the apple thing... teary eyed, too, because it's like another nail in the coffin of big-buck businesses that think they can pull yet another wool cap over our heads when they tell us that even though the sprays kill insects, it can have NO effect on us, providing we wash it off first, forgetting that it gets INTO the food.

GOOD for you to able to eat an apple, a simple thing really, without having to reach for yet another big-buck-company pill to fool your body into accepting it.

:D
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-10-23 11:27 pm (UTC)
Funny how a simple sense memory can touch so many hearts.
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[User Picture]From: kythsharrie
2005-10-23 10:20 pm (UTC)
As a CODA (Child(ren) of Deaf Adult(s)), my first word was a sign, not a vocal word. My mother told me that babies pick up signs faster than words and that it seems somewhat silly how so many people view sign language as something terrible, vulgar even, when it could be viewed as poetry in motion. I love sign language--it's perfect to use if one needs to talk across a noisy room, for example.

Cheers for your friends teaching their child sign language so they can communicate. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-10-23 10:30 pm (UTC)
One of our most amusing evenings was spent at a small fondue restaurant where the only other party in the room was a group of 12 or so deaf people. It was a very quiet evening, save for the occasional pounding on the table to get attention, but the best part was watching them interrupt each other by literally leaning in and signing in front of the other person.
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[User Picture]From: lea724
2005-10-23 11:50 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful post. :)

I'm currently taking sign language (and loving it) with a deaf teacher. I remember a lesson earlier in the year where he was telling (signing to) us how much easier it is to teach babies sign than it is to wait for them to learn to speak. The frustration of babies when they can't communicate is enormous, so you can avoid so much by teaching them a language where they *can* communicate.

I'm not married, nor do I have children, but if (when?) I have children, I am a strong proponent of teaching them sign.
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[User Picture]From: lilitufire
2005-10-24 02:53 am (UTC)
Yay for apples! It does sound like you might be allergic to the crap that goes in standard apples.

And baby signs sound very cool.
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From: (Anonymous)
2005-10-24 06:22 am (UTC)
Prompted by your post, I put up one of my own. Just in case anyone is interested in hearing more:

http://meyerweb.com/eric/thoughts/2005/10/24/reading-the-signs/

-1em
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-10-24 08:59 am (UTC)
How much will switching to ASL change the signs that you'll be using? We will have to work on keeping up!
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[User Picture]From: kimmaline
2005-10-24 09:01 am (UTC)
I get that whole "special to a kid" thing. I think that the joy in it, especially from little kids, comes from the fact that kids don't fake it. If they love you...if they crack a huge smile when they see you or they just plain love you...it's because that's what they are truly feeling. There is no social pressure to pretend you like someone when you're a little kid.

I got a "feel better soon" card from kid_lit_fan's eight year old the other day...after a couple of REALLY crummy days. I'd called Beth to have her keep me company while I was flat on my back waiting for meds to kick in. But, in the card, there was this little eight-year-old-scrawl note inside...and I STILL tear up every time I walk past it on my mantle. :)
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2005-10-24 09:02 am (UTC)
Aw, that's so sweet!
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[User Picture]From: dandelion_diva
2005-10-24 09:48 am (UTC)
Oh, those are both such marvelous things! Yay!:)

Gessi
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