The information given was:
c) hearing impaired, smile, charge syndrome
d) suitable for children
dedicated to Anca and Annabell
Tommy is seven years old and today it’s his little sister’s birthday.
All her friends are there. The garden is decorated with balloons, there is cake in the kitchen and confetti on the table.
The girls are playing games in the living room and in the garden. Tommy’s dad and some of the other parents have coffee on the terrace. The girls are loud and Tommy is bored because he doesn’t want to join them in their game. So he goes into the kitchen to see what his mum is doing. She turns around when she hears Tommy enter.
“Hey, my love, what’s the matter? Why are you not playing in the garden?” she asks.
“I don’t want to. The games are boring.” Tommy replies. “Can I stay here with you?”
“Sure you can.” his mums says. “Maybe you’d like to help me with the cake? The candles still need to be placed on top.” She gives the candles to Tommy who is eager to do his best work. Carefully he starts sticking the candles into the cake.
“That looks wonderful, Tommy.” his mum says after he is finished. “Please step away, I’m going to take the cookies out of the oven.” she adds.
Tommy does as he is told and watches his mother taking the colourful cookies out of the oven. “They look delicious.” Tommy says and licks his lips.
“You will have to wait until they have cooled down, my dear.” his mum says with a smile. “Oh hello, darling.” she says when she sees a little girl with golden curls entering the kitchen. The little girl stands in the doorframe and smiles a shy smile.
Tommy’s mum crouches down and talks to the little angel. The little girl points towards the cake and the cookies on the table, then takes her little finger and taps her lips. Tommy’s mum shakes her head and says “No, it’s not ready yet, my dear. The cookies still have to cool down.” She taps the watch on her wrist, then makes a waving hand move that says “later, later.”
The little girl smiles at her and turns around, looks over her shoulder again and gives a shy smile to Tommy, then she runs out of the kitchen to join the other girls again.
“Mum, why did she not speak?” Tommy asks.
His mum sighs and sits down next to Tommy.
“You see, the little girl, that is Annabell. She is hearing impaired, deaf. That means…”
“I know what that means.” Tommy interrupts her. “It means she can’t hear, right?”
“Yes.” his mum answers.
“But why?” Tommy asks.
“You know, there is this syndrome, it is called ‘Charge Syndrome’ and Annabell was born with it. So this syndrome as the doctors call it, is the reason why she can’t hear. It causes different things, sometimes the babies born with this syndrome can’t breath very well because their noses are blocked. Some of them are deaf and others have learning disabilities. That means they need longer to learn something or to understand something, like in school.”
Tommy looks up in the air and thinks about what his mum just said. He frowns.
Then he turns to his mother again and asks “So Annabell was never able to hear?”
“No.” his mum replies.
“Will she ever be able to hear?” Tommy asks. “I mean, I saw it, she has this thing on her head and in her ear. Just like grandpa had. This hearing aid. That helps you to hear, doesn’t it, mum? Grandpa could hear better with it.”
“What a clever boy you are, Tommy.” his mum says and smiles. “Yes, it is a hearing aid. But sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends. You know, there are all these little nerves in our bodies. So when you think ‘I want to lift my right arm right now’, this thought, your brain, gives the signal to the nerves and they send it to your arm and then you lift it. But when the nerve for hearing is damaged, it doesn’t work. Do you understand?”
“Yes, I think I do. But…how does she ‘speak’ then? How does her mum know what she wants? How does Annabell know what her mum wants?”
“How did I understand that Annabell was here to get cookies and cake? Did you see what she did?”
“Yes, she pointed towards the cake and then towards her mouth.”
“And what might that mean, hm?”
Tommy starts smiling and says “It means, I want that cake in my mouth.”
“You see, there are other ways to tell someone what you want, need or think. You don’t need to speak.”
“But, what if she is playing outside and a car is coming and her mum shouts after her, she won’t hear it!” Tommy looks worried and scared.
“Well, of course mums always take care of their children, don’t they? So her mum needs to watch her maybe a little more and make sure that something like that doesn’t happen. On the other hand, you can feel a lot. And for feeling you don’t need hearing either.”
Tommy turns his head quizzically. “How do you mean?”
“I mean, do you remember when you and me were in the big supermarket and you ran off to the sweets aisle when I was searching for a pumpkin for Halloween?”
“Yes, I remember. I lost you.”
“And how did that make you feel?”
“But you found me, didn’t you?”
“I searched for you.”
“You felt me. Your feelings told you where to find me. And what did I look like?”
“Worried and afraid.”
“Because I was afraid that something had happened to you. Do you remember what happened when we found each other again?”
“You hugged me and told me to never run off again.”
“Can you remember what my body felt like? What did you feel? And do you have an idea what I felt?”
“Hm, easy again. Relieved. It was warm.”
“You see. These are the feelings that we felt. And that is a way of telling someone something as well. Come, I’ll show you something.” His mum rises from her chair and stands in front of Tommy. “Press your hands against your ears as hard as you can until you can’t hear anything anymore.” Tommy does what his mum asked him to do. She hugs him, his face against her chest. She starts sighing and sobbing. Immediately Tommy let his hands fall from his ears and looks at his mum, worried. “What’s the matter, mum?” he asks.
His mum smiles. “Why, what was I doing?”
“You were crying!”
“Why do you think that? Did you see me cry? Did you hear me cry?”
“I felt it.” Tommy says.
“You see. And when I hug you now and I laugh whole-heartedly, you would know as well. And I can even tell you that I love you without words.”
“You still look as if you had questions, my love.”
“Yeah, I wonder… I mean.. there are things that are complicated. Like homework. How does Annabell’s mum explain things like that to her?”
“Good question, Tommy. Of course, you are right, there are things that are more complicated. But therefore, you have sign language. You work with your hands and your face, and a certain sign stands for a certain word. And when you put them in a row, you have a sentence. Do you understand?”
“Like waving your hand for hello and goodbye?”
“Yes, a bit like that. There is a sign for hello, for goodbye, for how are you, for thank you, for I love you.”
“But then, her parents have to learn this language as well?”
“Yes, of course.”
“And all her friends, too!”
“Yes, it’s not easy but if you learn it you can speak with her in a different language than the one we use right now.”
“Like a secret language!” Tommy exclaims.
“Haha, yeah, maybe a bit like that.” his mum laughs.
Suddenly they hear a giggle in the kitchen. Tommy and his mum turn around.
The little angel girl is standing in the doorframe again, watching them. She giggles and laughs.
Tommy smiles. “She laughs with you, mum!”
His mother laughs. “Yeah, maybe she does.”
Tommy waves is hand and whispers “Hi, Annabell.”
The girl with the golden curls looks at him for a while. Then slowly she raises her hand and waves back.
Tommy gets excited, slides from his chair and takes one of the cookies from the plate. By now they have cooled down.
He waves to Annabell as to tell her ‘come over, come’. The girl looks at his mum, who nods, then turns her head towards Tommy again and slowly walks in his direction. He holds the cookie behind his back and waves again.
The shy girl now stands in front of him, her hands folded behind her back, her foot shyly draws circles on the floor.
Tommy raises his finger to get her attention, then takes the cookie from behind is back and holds it in front of her. Immediately Annabell wants to take it, but Tommy withdraws it, takes his pointer finger and puts it in front of his lips, just as to say “shh”, then gives the cookie to Annabell.
The girls eyes widen, she gets excited and smiles. She puts the whole cookie into her little mouth. Then she takes her finger and makes the same “shh” gesture in front of her lips.
Tommy has to laugh, so does Annabell and when the cookie crumbs start spreading all over the floor, even Tommy’s mum has to laugh.
In the evening, when all the cookies and the cake are eaten and the girls are tired from playing and their parents come to pick them up, Tommy, his sister and their parents say goodbye to everyone.
Annabell is also tired, so her mum hugs her and takes her up on her arm.
Tommy waves goodbye to her and whispers a “Bye bye Annabell.”
The little girl turns her head, takes her pointer finger, presses it against her lips to say “shh”, then waves goodbye and laughs again.
Gina Laventura © 2014