Let me tell you something about what the holiday season does to me as a deaf person. Sure, there is lots to see -- food, snow, shopping, presents, lights, trees, and more. When I was younger, that was enough. I really liked getting presents, eating unlimited sugar and playing in the snow.
But as I got older, I began hating the holiday season. Seeing the decorations and everybody else's Christmassy spirit made it worse. You see, every year, my father's family always came to our house for Christmas. (This was a little weird because they are Jewish, but that is another story.) Anyway, the whole week of Christmas there are always at least ten people in the house.
Being the only deaf person in the whole family is always hard because I cannot follow a group conversation. I would never understand or know a single thing that was going on in the house just because there were too many people. Everybody would get going with a conversation and forget that they had to communicate a little differently with me. Even on Christmas morning when we open gifts, people are laughing and joking and I can catch only a little bit of what is being said.
Naturally, the holiday includes lots of big meals. Every time we get together at a table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or even dessert, I always felt left out and would get really frustrated and angry inside. It is the same as I mentioned in the earlier blog about being invisible only now it is family. I care about these people and love them, so I do not walk away. I stick it out and stay until everybody is about to leave the table.
When I was younger, I just kind of stared at my plate, ate my food, and felt miserable. To be honest with you, now that I think about how I used to be, I believe I was selfish. I was always complaining about how I never knew what everybody was saying or what was going on. Now that I am older, I realize there is really nothing we can do to make my situation better. I am the only deaf person in the family so I cannot expect everyone what it is like to be me. And I cannot just wave a wand and have every single one of them know sign language. Believe me, if I could do that I would, but there is no sign language fairy. Haha.
So now, when my family and I get together for a feast, I just simply sit there and enjoy the food. But I also watch and observe. You might even say I spy because I pay attention to what others do not see. I watch their faces and I see their personalities. I see who is quiet and who is talkative. I see who is laughing and who is more serious. Even though I cannot be involved in conversations, debates, stories due to being deaf, I enjoy seeing my family being happy together and I feel like I am gradually getting to know them more deeply.
Shopping is another thing where I have had to learn to find my own satisfactions. I used to hate going shopping during the holiday season because I did not feel a part of it. When I was a little kid, I would make whatever the teacher said to and give it to my parents. As a teenager, I would just find any lousy gift so I could get away from the stores as quickly as possible.
In the last few years, I have started thinking about giving more meaningful gifts to the people in my family. My photography helps me because I have been able to capture images that people care about. This year I gave my mother a photo of her family from a family reunion and I gave my grandma an album with photos from a place she loves. When I watched them open their presents from me, seeing the emotion on their faces helped to make up for the face I am deaf.
Deafness makes the holidays different for me. As I have grown and gone through many holiday seasons, the situation has not really changed. It is still painful to feel left out, but I no longer feel so unhappy that I want to ruin the fun for others. These are people I love. I know they love me, and I have gradually found my own ways to enjoy this special time with my hearing family. Happy New Year to all!!! =)