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American Annals of the Deaf

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Far from Home: Memories of World War II and Afterward

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Usually when I traveled, I made friends somewhere along the way. If anyone looked at me and smiled I was quick to smile back. If they spoke, I’d tell them I was deaf. They’d nod and find pa per and pencil to write whatever they wanted to say. Some preferred to talk and make gestures. That was okay too. However, this time I didn’t try to make any friends. I had a lot on my mind. Did I really want this? To leave the South that had always been my home, along with the people I knew and loved? I’d be living and working among strangers, hearing strangers at that. I knew how hurtful some of them could be. Would I be able to work? I’d had no college education. I thought of all the pros and cons. Finally my mind tired of it all, and I decided to let it rest and just keep going until I saw how things would turn out. My adventurous spirit returned, and I felt better.

It had begun to get light outside, and my smelly seatmate had gotten off sometime during the night. I started seeing things I recognized along the way, and I knew we were nearing Washing ton. Preparing to get off, I put on my coat and the new brown felt hat I’d gotten for fall. So here I was arriving in the nation’s capital, ready to set out on a new life and a new adventure. It wasn’t long in coming. Not only was my cousin nowhere to be seen this time, but it was pouring rain and cold.

After making sure I didn’t see anybody even slightly resembling anyone I knew, I sat down to wait and think about what I could do. After no one came through the door looking for me, I decided the only thing I could do was look for them. That meant taking a taxi to the house on N Street. I buttoned up my coat, pulled my hat to what I hoped was a smart angle, and ventured out on New York Avenue, like I’d been doing this for years. Cars and taxis whizzed by, some stopping to pick up or let out passengers. None stopped for me. I held up my fingers like I’d seen others do. They still whizzed by and stopped for someone else, while I got wetter by the minute. I stood my ground wet and frozen. My smart brown hat brim hanging so low all I could see were tires and the bottoms of car doors. Finally I saw tires stop in front of me and a door open. Thank you, Lord! I leaped directly in the back scat and fell smack dab in a haughty-looking white woman’s lap. I was in and not getting back out. “Scuse me, scuse me,” I said, raising myself up enough for her to get out. I think she thought she’d tangled with a nut. No matter, I settled back on those cushions waiting for the cab to start up and deliver me to Cousin Mary’s door. When it didn’t start, I lifted my dripping hat brim to see what was wrong with the driver. He had turned around with his chin propped in his hands looking at me. We stared at each other until it hit me that I hadn’t even told the man where I wanted to go. “Oh my goodness, I’m sorry,” I said, and I gave him the address. He looked a little longer, then kind of smiled, turned around, and started his car. I guess he had decided I wasn’t dangerous. Thus, my big city life began.

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