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American Annals of the Deaf

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The Cry of the Gull
Emmanuelle Laborit

from Chapter Two:
The Cry of the Sea Gull

I let out screams, lots of them, real ones. Not because I was hungry or thirsty, afraid, or in pain, but because I was beginning to want to talk. I wanted to hear myself, but the sounds I was making weren’t rebounding back to me.

I could feel the vibrations. I knew I was screaming but the sounds didn’t mean a thing to my mother and father. To them, they were like the piercing cries of a sea bird, like a gull gliding over the ocean. So they nicknamed me Mouette, which means seagull in French.

The little seagull shrieked above an ocean of noises she couldn’t hear, and no one understood her cries.

“You were a very beautiful baby,” my mother recalls. “It was an easy birth. You weighed 7 pounds 11 ounces. You cried when you were hungry. You laughed and babbled like other babies. You were happy. We didn’t realize right away. We just thought you were well-behaved because, on evenings when we had friends over, you’d sleep soundly even with the music blaring in the living room, which was next to the room where you were sleeping. We were proud to have such a good baby. We thought you were ‘normal’ because you’d turn your head whenever a door slammed. We didn’t know it was because you could feel the vibrations and drafts on the floor where you were playing. And when your father put on a record, you’d dance in your playpen, swaying back and forth, swinging your arms and legs.”

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