Having got bogged down on my blog again, I start reflecting on why it’s been so hard to sit down and write this memoir. A light bulb goes off. It’s not just mine, it’s my son’s. Where’s his side of the story? I dash off an email to him.
“Dear Ray, As I struggle along with my/your memoir I realize I’m missing the most important part. You. Your memories. I have an idea. How about writing sections from your point of view and perspective. Some are already written. We could combine, read and critique each other.
I’m reading Salman Rushdie’s memoir Joseph Anton, written in 3rd person to be less personal, more honest? You should read it. Made me think of this idea when he told how he was bullied in school and never told his parents. Sound familiar? He says, “when he’d become a writer his gossip mother said “I’m going to stop telling you things because you put them in your books and then I get in trouble.” But she couldn’t stop telling anymore than he could stop writing. Love you, Mom”
Rushdie’s sent away from home – India – to an English boarding school. Thrown into a new school and uprooted from his family and culture in Bombay, he’s not only an immigrant, but he’s not interested in sports and is a geek before his time. He never mentions the pain to his parents. It would just cause more trouble. He just swallows it.
I get a reply:
You have good timing, was going to email you soon. Love your idea about a collaboration. I’ve written some tidbits whenever I reflected upon my past, mostly parts that needed to be healed. I’ll share what I have below, but take note it’s just reflecting and healing on past hurts, the majority of my life was a lot of joy. :)”
So here is the first installation from my son Scooter, now called Ray:
First grade was where it really all started, an accordion of events unfolding one after the other in compressed time.
It was the first time I would be mainstreamed into school as a deaf child. Thinking back on it, it was a hell of an adjustment because in pre-school and kindergarten, I was in a school specially for the oral deaf to teach us how to talk and read lips rather than sign language. It was a sheltered environment where everyone was accepted for who they were in the most natural way and it was also a great deal of fun.
I remember in the middle of the year we all put on a circus to friends and family where we’d dress up as different animals and pretend to be like them. I was an elephant walking a tight rope and we still have a video reel of that somewhere. As children we love circuses and when we think of them we feel joy and happiness. That’s what school felt like; a fun circus where I was learning a lot and having fun amongst fellow deaf children and caring, compassionate staff.
Then first grade came along. Not only was I plucked out of a sheltered environment; I was plunked into a foreign one when we moved from Florida to Colorado. So here I was, totally green, totally new, and totally deaf in a brave new hearing world for the first time in my short life.
I was naive at first (then again, aren’t we all allowed to be at that age?) and welcomed the change with open arms — I loved adventure and trying new things.
I knew something was up and different when I strolled through the cafeteria for the first time to get in line and all these kids stared at me. In reality, I couldn’t blame them for that — back then I had to wear these huge body hearing aids. It was like wearing a novel strapped to the front of my chest with wires coming out of it to my ears. It was a hell of a way to broadcast my handicap. I knew I was different, but I still clearly remember that feeling of uneasiness as I walked through and seeing all those eyes following me, with that look of “What’s wrong with him?” I felt like a circus freak who made the mistake of escaping from the circus I so loved.
I remember feeling very quiet inside and wanting to shrivel up so I wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. But I had to keep walking through all those stares, what else could I do?