bunt sign

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

You know me. A little change in routine sends me into a paroxysm of anxiety. (That's a nice word, isn't it? It isn't really the right one, but it sounds good.) So you can probably guess that I obsessed over the class Suzanne and I started tonight at the junior college. Why haven't I taken a class in six or seven semesters? Because every time I sign up I chicken out at the last minute.

The saving grace this time is that we're taking it together. And we're taking it for fun, mostly. That helps, too.

Some day Suzanne hopes to work with deaf children, so she's wanted to learn American Sign Language for a long time. She's a preschool teacher, so there's always a chance that she might need to know a little signing in her job.

And of course we have Dakota in the family now. He does speak, but he's not fluent yet. He's picked up a few signs from somewhere (school, maybe?) and we like to encourage him to communicate by whatever means necessary (other than smacking you on the leg to let you know he's not happy with something you've said or done).

Besides those good reasons, I've always been fascinated with ASL, both as a language and as a beautiful way to express oneself. (I hope that's not insulting to deaf people, because it's their language after all, first and foremost.) I followed a video course in signing on public television many years ago, but most of what I remember from it is the alphabet. How to finger it, not how to read it - so it's not as if I can communicate.

I picked Suzanne up early, an hour before the class's starting time, because of the inevitable parking crunch at the JC the first week of the semester. We're in one of the newer buildings, across the street from the main campus, and we were lucky enough to find a spot where it was only a mild hike to the classroom. Which, by the way, we had the hardest time finding.

We walked all around the huge building, trying to follow the numbers to wherever our classroom was. We looked at every door and made mental maps and saw several rooms more than once. Suddenly we realized that we'd made our way to the wrong end of the building, and we found ourselves backtracking to where we started.

In fact, we went back to the exact place we started, the first room we passed, the only room whose number we hadn't bothered to look at. Because our class couldn't be in the first room you reach as you come in off the parking lot, could it? Well, as a matter of fact, it could.

We had our parking space and we knew where our class was and there was still half an hour left. Rather than standing around in the cold, we wandered across the street to the cafeteria and bought a couple of cups of coffee. Then we went back and waited in the cold, but at least our hands and our insides were now warm.

The class itself is taught by a deaf man (at least, he claims to be deaf most of the time, except when he's pretending he can hear people whispering). He's very animated and very funny. Learning ASL from him is going to be a lot of fun. He spent some time tonight convincing us of just that fact, that we were going to have fun and that learning to sign isn't going to be nearly as hard as we think. Let's hope he's right.

So I have a practice partner in my very own family. (If only we can find time to get together for study sessions.) It's so great to be doing something together like this. The class is also trying out an improved version of the text book, so we don't have to pay for the written material or the video tapes that are required. I'm a lot less anxious now than I was four hours ago when I was trying to get myself out the door. This is going to be cool (a word we learned to sign tonight). Wow. (We learned that one, too.)

13 January 2004

On a cool, gray day, a slight promise of spring.

One thing, though. Tonight we had an interpreter, someone who voiced Joe's (let's call him Joe) signing. She won't be back. We'll be expected to find some way to follow along, and some way to get our questions answered, for the rest of the course, between now and mid May. And we're not permitted to vocalize during class, even to each other. Cool. Wow.

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A few people in the class already know how to communicate in sign language. I'm not sure why they're there, because the last two people on the waiting list didn't get in (unless someone drops out). This is definitely a beginners' class. We're learning our ABC's, just like Dakota is.

Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

One year ago: Check
"The smoke I saw was coming from under my very own hood. And so, now that I realized it, was the smell."

Two years ago: Blanketed
"Nobody asked, but here's a helpful housekeeping tip: Don't wash both sets of sheets on the same day."

Three years ago: Winter Respite
"A day at the ballpark with someone you can stand to spend a day with (which is why I don't go with just anyone) is a day to be tucked away in the memory album and brought out again in leaner times, like during a rainy week in mid January."

Four years ago: Making Copies
"Did you ever have a neighbor who treats your house as if it's an extension of his own? Sometimes I feel as if I live in the west wing of G's house."

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She don't cook mashed potatoes,
She don't cook T-bone steaks,
Don't feed me peanut butter,
She knows that I can't take.