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Talking with our hands

May 13th, 2004 · 3 Comments

My last post described talking with lips, now this one will describe talking with hands…

Our middle daughter, Michaela, liked sign language the first time she saw it. I remember how she started moving her hands along with the interpreter’s. It’s hard for her to sit still: she loves to touch and explore the world around her.

So I started teaching her sign language. Years ago I learned the alphabet, so with the help of a book I bought, I’ve been teaching her letters and a few words. Yesterday I noticed she was trying to spell words, and signing the letters at the same time: there seems to be a connection in her brain.

The other day I posted a note to one of my homeschooling yahoo groups, asking if anyone knew of a sign language instructor, someone who would know how to use ASL. One person wrote back and sent this link to a “cool sign language site”. It is cool indeed: An American Sign Language Browser from Michigan State University. Click on any word, and a QuickTime movie plays, showing someone demonstrating the sign. Very helpful!

I’ve been joking that Ted and I should have our own private sign language. For example at a social event, when I’d like to be able to catch his ear, tell him that the girls are getting tired or we need to think about heading for the ferry. Or maybe to tell him he’s got spinach in his teeth or that he looks cute standing that way. It’d be great to exchange subtle signs without interrupting conversation.

And there are other times when I’d like to be able to communicate with him in a silent secret way. With three little kids in the house, it’s hard for us to find time to talk just the two of us. Sometimes issues emerge during the day, and I don’t like to wait until 9 o’clock at night, until we have time alone to discuss it. Sometimes it’s something private, an aspect of our relationship, an insight or reaction I’ve had, a question to ask. Sometimes I just want to say something passionate to him, have the freedom to tease. And sometimes it’s an issue that we need to discuss but not something the girls should hear. IM and email aren’t appropriate or efficient in certain situations. A few years ago we could talk above our daughters’ heads and it didn’t make a difference. But now these little pitchers have big ears, and like pitcher plants, they are great at catching flies…

which leads me to the baseball analogy. Baseball players communicate via signs and maybe we could learn a thing or two from them. I enjoyed listening to this NPR spot on the history of baseball signals. This list of some signals includes Steal: Right hand to ear.

And this list on Craigs list defines signals from “player” to “hottie” such as coffee sometime?: Hand to ear. Well, Ted and I couldn’t use signs that baseball players use or ones published on the Internet for those hoping to hook up on the morning train. We need our own secrets no one else will understand.

So if you happen to be around Ted and me sometime and you see me pulling on my earlobes or moving my arms in funny motions, I don’t have an itch or a tic. I’m not trying to figure out the next pitch. I’ve only got something to say – for his eyes only.

Tags: marriage

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Bob V // May 14, 2004 at 7:29 am

    In my fourth grade reading class, we got a printout of the sign language alphabet and were told to memorize five letters. On the due date, I found that all of the girls had memorized the entire alphabet as had I. Now that I hear about your daughter, I wonder if there is something girl-like about the knowledge. It is communication-related, which fits one female stereotype, but it is also has a spatial reasoning aspect that should appeal to guys. (You have to figure out how to reflect the image you see in the picture with your hands.)

    I have a friend who says that he wants to teach his kids sign language. (He has no kids as of yet.) Not because he expects them to be deaf, but because he wants everyone else to assume. He has a unique sense of humor.

  • 2 Julie // May 15, 2004 at 1:59 pm

    Bob – Interesting observation from your fourth grade class. I hadn’t thought about the gender dynamic. Thanks.

  • 3 Betsy Devine // May 17, 2004 at 2:15 pm

    My parents taught us kids their secret holding-hands signal. Three squeezes stand for “I love you”, the other responds with two squeezes which stands for “Me too.” We loved sharing their secret and sending those signals.