Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Chaplin on Halloween

About 9 years ago......

So it was Halloween just before my son's third birthday. We had been fighting the school district for ASL based services and although they offered some of what we wanted is was mostly weak interpretations of the desired service. The big needs were not met. So we had fashioned our own little world to try and fix some of it.

By now we had many deaf friends from all walks of life and deaf babysitters. We also had friends who were teachers in a bi/bi setting. We tried to expose our son to these friends often. Many of our hearing friends had been able to learn some sign.

We had the idea to throw a huge Halloween party for all of our friends. This was brave because it meant inviting (but not limited to) hearing, deaf, young, old, teachers, film workers, old college friends, right wing republicans, far left democrats, Mormons,atheists, Texas cheerleaders, every race and a hair stylist. We wanted everyone to enjoy themselves and feel comfortable. We bought tons of food and decorated. It was so much fun getting ready then my husband decided to voice an opinion on our decor.

I had a fear my son would be delayed in reading so I was constantly exposing him to written English. Grocery lists were labeled with little pictures next to the words, we read every day and pointed to writing on every object we encountered. One day I decided to label the entire house. I made handwritten cards to paste all over, chair, table, sink etc. No object in our cozy home escaped my obsession. Had I thought of it I am sure I would have made two more labels for mom and dad.

So as we were decorating for the party my husband suggested perhaps we could remove the labels. I actually resisted. I was so scared that he wouldn't learn to read I had become a bit over zealous. My husband won that with the agreement that they would all go back up first thing in the morning.

It was a costume party. My son wanted to be charlie Chaplin and he wanted me to be Chaplin also. The day of the party we got dressed and waited for our guests. We were nervous because although we had a rainbow tribe many had never met.

This is what I learned

Deaf people tend to be late. I had been told about deaf standard time but this was a very clear example of where the term came from.

Hearing people form little groups on one side of the room deaf on the other. A few nervous hearing people gather outside.

The deaf community is small even in a big city. We found out many of our friends knew each other. They were shocked in some cases we knew someone they didn't like. Just because you are part of the community it doesn't mean you are friends.

Deaf and hearing people like my spinach dip but not so much my roasted veggies.

Hearing and deaf Mormons don't drink wine.

The status of your guests hearing does not determine who will end up with a lampshade on their head.

Deaf people tend to take a long time to say good-bye which by the way is one of my own characteristics.

All of our friends regardless of their unique characteristics love my son.

Everyone had a good time. My son was in heaven.

Today or a few days ago.......

Again my son was Chaplin for Halloween. He is a bit of a method actor so the costume had to be head to toe perfect down to the socks. He even studied the walk. When he arrived at school he texted his friends,
" You will not recognize me but I will give you a hint, I am a tramp. The first one to find me wins"
For those of you who don't know Chaplin, his character in silent films was the little tramp. He was playing with English and that killed me.

Halloween night he invited his best friend who is a CODA to come over. His parents were coming for dinner and we do this every year. My son asked if he could invite some friends from school. Well sure I told him, thinking maybe one or two. Well to my surprise the ASL club showed up and my house was full of signing hearing kids. It was so comfortable because the kids and deaf adult could chat with ease. Wow times have changed.


  1. You described an idyllic environment for a Deaf child! It must have taken superhuman effort and a world of creativity to make and you have my total admiration! Nay, my worship! A loud and visible cheer for you folks.

  2. How interesting about your son's wanting to be
    Charlie Chaplin AND you to be one too, because in the real life, Charlie Chaplin was so fascinatd with deaf people and their sign language he decided to learn SL. I wish I could remember the source. Gallaudet Archives or Google may have the information.

  3. *Mel is blushing* Dianrez, thank you so much fo your kind words. Trust me I have made many mistakes, hee hee

    Jean I did a quick google search and look what I found! Thanks so much for the tip,

    "Charlie Chaplin (1889-1977) English Film actor, director, producer and composer. The clown from Lambeth was influenced by many Deaf actors he worked with in his silent films. In this era Deaf and hearing audiences enjoyed the same level of participation and Chaplin would enthrall his entire audience with his facial expression, posture, touch and movement. Granville Redmond who became a successful landscape artist was born on March 9, 1871 in Philadelphia. Granville was totally deaf from infancy. Some people said that he became deaf at the age of two and a half years from scarlet fever. He never learned to speak. Granville attended the California School for the Deaf at Berkeley where he was a pupil of deaf art instructor. In 1894 Charlie Chaplin met Granville and became a collector of Granville’s artwork. They became friends. Charlie learned sign language and fingerspelling. Albert Ballins, the director of silent films, gave Granville credit for influencing Chaplin’s acting. Chaplin did not move his lips in his silent films. He used gestures and expressions resembling those used by deaf persons. Granville took some minor roles in a few of Chaplin’s films, according to Ballin. “The Gold Rush” and “The Dog’s Life” were two of these."

    This came from Fookem and Bug