Sunday, October 21, 2007

Wouldn't You Like To Be A CODA, Too?

(Interpreting for Mom and Dad at my older brother's graduation from Junior High, 1983)

I mentioned before that I am a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). I was born a CODA, I'll die a CODA, and the life I've lived in between has been largely defined by the fact that I am a CODA.

And I LOVE it!

Most CODAs fall into one of two categories:
1) You love Deaf culture, enjoy being a "helper" for your parents and other Deaf people, embrace the language of ASL (American Sign Language) and keep the culture in your heart throughout your life - often becoming a sign language interpreter.
2) You can't stand having to be around Deaf people all the time, resent your parents for asking you to interpret at/for anything, escape the culture as soon as you can and blame all future problems on your parents.

I definitely fit into category 1. I have such fond memories of interpreting for my parents in the most interesting of situations before the ADA law came into effect and businesses and public organizations were not required to provide interpreters for those who were Deaf or hard-of-hearing. Hospital visits, Deaf clubs, church; what a diverse world I was able to experience as a young interpreter! My favorites, though, have to be situations of interpreting at my high school.

My brother Chip and I had the amazing opportunity to interpret for each other's Parent-Teacher Conferences. So we always....well, let's say we looked out for each other. Soon after I graduated, Chip helped lead a student walk-out in support of teachers who were in a salary dispute with the district. My parents were immediately called into the office to discuss Chip's rebelliousness and negative use of leadership ability. They asked me to come interpret.

The principal thanked my parents for coming, thanked me for coming to "help your parents understand the gravity of the situation", and proceeded to tell them in biased detail about what Chip had done and why it was wrong. Well, Chip and I had been talking about his plan for a couple days, so I knew what he did. So instead of interpreting what Mr. Principal was saying, I proceeded to "interpret" for my parents Chip's reasoning and logic behind what he did. When the principal was finished talking, I concluded as well. When he asked my parents what should be done with Chip, they told him how proud they were of him for standing up for what he thought was right and that they backed him up 100%. The principal, flustered, did not know how to respond. He thought he had made himself clear...and I'm sure he did... but my parents got a different story.

Of course, now - as a professional interpreter - I would never do such a thing. The fun thing about being an interpreter is the variety of situations you get to work in. If you like consistency, you can choose to work somewhere like an elementary or secondary school. If you enjoy variety, you can work freelance - through an agency or on your own - and you never know what you'll experience from day to day. I have some incredible stories I could tell, but it's kind of like working for the FBI: I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. Confidentiality is important.

Back to life as a CODA: most CODAs I know fit into category 1 like myself. We love to share stories of our childhoods, and I think we all like to be the center of attention. I personally started out quiet and shy and then discovered a love for becoming an entirely different person on stage in drama classes - then there was no stopping me. In fact, most CODAs who embrace the language and culture seem to be outgoing and precocious.

My kind of people.


Rebecca said...

I love Deaf Culture for making you the way you are!

Cami said...

Ditto! You are awesome, and you have great stories to tell. Bonus!

Rebecca said...

And to think I knew you when... That picture of you interpreting at Toby's graduation is exactly how I remember you all of those years ago. That would have been about the time I was heading home from my mission and my 18 month immersion into the Deaf culture. What a life-changing experience. And to think that you and your family played such a big part! Time flies, but memories last a life time! Thanks for being a part of such sweet memories.
Rebecca J.

Shellie said...

So fun! It is exactly because of children like you that people are now given impartial adult interpreters! I would have done the same- who could resist? It's like twins switching places. Take advantage of your position. :)

superboy said...

I didn't know deaf people were considered a CODA!

Chip (Gerb's brother) said...

I finally signed up to make a comment and it never shows up. I wrote some funny stories. Ask me about it sometime.