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Sign Language Studies

American Annals of the Deaf

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The Silents

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“Too bad.”

“Yes,” he sighed. “I lost money, too. In the stock market crash of ’29, the same year you were born.”

I thought if Mama were sitting next to us, she’d say, “why does Sha (she called me ‘Sha’ because ‘Charlotte’ was too hard for her to say) need to know this? Don’t talk to her about dying and money. You fill her head with foolish talk.” She would slap her head with her hand and circle her finger around her ear.

But Mama was still asleep, and Papa was free of her admonitions. “I went to a deaf school,” he said, changing the subject as if he had decided this talk was indeed too sad.

“I know. I saw pictures in your album. You wore a fancy uniform.”

“I didn’t like it there.”

“Why? It must he fun to wear a uniform in school. I wish I could wear one.”

“Silly. The uniform was only for that picture, to send to the family.”

“Which is your family?”

“You don’t remember!?” He asked astonished. “Well, sure, you don’t remember Grandma Herzberg. She’s dead, too. But you know the uncles: Jerry, Sam, Dave, Lou, Jake,” he counted on his fingers.

“That’s right, I forgot. And Flora, too,” I touched a finger.

Sometimes I forgot Papa’s brothers because they lived on the other side of town, so I hardly ever saw them, but I always remembered Aunt Flora because she was a carbon copy of him—blonde, blue-eyed, and deaf. And because he always complained to Mama about something stupid Aunt Flora had done.

“Did Aunt Flora go to deaf school like you?”

“She was still a baby when I went to school. She went to deaf school after I ran away. Flora’s a spoiled brat.”

I nodded my head in acknowledgment that baby sisters could be stupid and troublesome. I understood his running away because sometimes I had the same feelings. “Were you happy you ran away?”

“Oh yes. I got to see exciting things. I got to see America. I had a good life on the road,” he smiled, moving his arms wide to show me that he’d been everywhere.

“Just like a hobo, huh?”

“How do you know about hobos?” he laughed.

“I saw it in the movies. Did you hop boxcars?”

“P-l-e-n-t-y,” he spelled with great exaggeration.

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