Mothering in a Newly Quiet World

Summarized by Matthew Dehler, staff writer

Over the course of the COVID-19 update, sign language interpreters have become one of the most highly requested aspects of daily life. On average, 1 in 20 Americans are deaf and/or hard of hearing – and they want to know about the pandemic just as badly as anyone else. As a result, ASL interpreters are, these days, often required in big, important meetings regarding COVID-19.

This is fairly standard procedure for any big crisis – however, mother Shoshannah Stern has noted that this is the first time she truly sees her language everywhere, watching interpreters work with their hands and faces to communicate the latest news. Shoshannah regards her childhood friend, a hard of hearing individual who regrettably committed suicide when young, possibly because of constantly living with two parents who did not bother to learn sign language. Shoshannah goes on to say how communication is what makes us human – that’s why solitary is a type of punishment in prison. Without human contact, weeks can feel like years, and for those poor souls living alone during this trying time, it must feel like an eternity is passing. She wonders if the current situation in America mirrors her childhood friend’s situation – a time of isolation to so many deaf people, particularly young ones who lack access to the language, and subsequently, to information.

Stern recalls when she left her home last fall, away for seven weeks for work. Her hearing daughter could only talk to her through facetime, and while sign language was usually their primary means of communication, while on facetime, her daughter requested Stern to use her voice, as she “ needed to hear it.” When it was just the two of them, before school, they would sign all the time – but as her daughter heard teachers and other students, she got more and more used to other peoples’ voices.

In the current crisis, though, the two of them have bonded more thoroughly over sign language – and Shoshannah has realized that now, the world has shrunken. Now, all she needs is her daughter’s signing to feel contented – and as we are alone with each other, we revert to a more natural state, communicating with each other more freely than we could when rushing around. Indeed, separated from each other, only able to see each other through screens, we perhaps grow more fonder, more attached to those few contacts we maintain, and as a result, are understood more thoroughly than ever before.

More information on the original, New York Times article can be found here:

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